Religion and literature

The Law of Adomnan was, as we have seen, in Irish, and thus exemplifies the extent to which a literacy which came to Ireland with Latin now embraced the native language of the Irish. Similarly among the Britons, although there is much less surviving evidence, the same transition from Latin to the vernacular occurred by the seventh century. Vernacular written literature first flourished in the British Isles for the understandable reason that Latin was, except vestigially among the Britons, a language learnt at school. By the time that Aidan preached Christianity to the Northumbrians in a land of which many inhabitants would still have been speakers of a Brittonic dialect, both Irish and the Brittonic dialects had made the transition: it is most unlikely that on the part of the Irish missionaries there was any resistance to the use of the vernacular among the English.

The imprint of Christianity on Irish and Welsh literature is perhaps at its most profound when a text betrays no trace of Christianity or, indeed, any other religion. Two general principles lie behind both early Irish and early Welsh literature: the first is that narrative was in prose not verse; the second is that, within the broad category of narrative, hagiography and saga were two genres which did not, at this period, explicitly interact. Thus the early British poem, Y Gododdin, was occasioned by an event, but does not narrate it; instead it is a series of laments for warriors who were recruited by the ruler of the British people called the Gododdin (Votadini) to his fortress at Edinburgh - warriors who then died in battle against the Deirans at Catraeth. These two principles were not universal and absolute: a significant exception to the first is that verse was sometimes used to tell stories derived from the Bible or the Apocrypha, as in the work of the late eighth-century Irish poet Blathmac.34 As for the second principle, explicit interaction is already seen in a particular genre, that of the Immram or "voyage" tale, as in the ninth-century Immram Curaig Maíle Duin.35 It would become widespread in the tenth century, especially in texts probably associated with Clonmacnois. Until then, however, the two genres of saga and hagiography normally formed separate spheres.

This separation of spheres stems from early British and Irish attitudes to violence. A feature which distinguishes much early Irish hagiography is the open hostility to a lay life characterized by violence.36 For the Briton Gildas in the sixth century or the Irishman Adomnan at the end of the seventh, for someone who has taken vows of non-combatancy as a cleric to return to the violent world of the layman was a spiritual catastrophe.37 The deaths of kings were divided between natural death and death by violence; the former was a special blessing, the latter the common fate of kings. But death by violence was not just a misfortune but also an indication of the bad spiritual state of the slain. The Iona annals lying behind the existing Irish annals for the period from 590 up to 650 gave the title of king of Tara to those who died in their beds, but not to those who died in battle or, even worse, by an individual killing.38

34 Poems of Blathmac.

35 Immram Curaig Maíle Duin.

36 Sharpe, "Hiberno-Latin Laicus."

37 Gildas, Ruin of Britain, § 34, on Maelgwn; Adomnan, Vita Sancti Columbae, I.36, on Aed Dub.

38 Charles-Edwards, Early Christian Ireland, 503-5.

This standpoint appears behind the early British and Irish penitentials. If a cleric committed a particularly grave sin, he was degraded and lost the status he held as a cleric; but if a layman committed grave sin and underwent penance, he had to live like a cleric, abjuring violence and abstaining from sex.39 Part of his penance also involved fasting and abstaining from meat and alcoholic drink. Meat-eating was believed to make the passions of anger and sexual desire stronger, while alcoholic drink made such grave sins more likely.40 Violence and unregulated sex characterized a this-worldly manner of life, dominated by death and reproduction; the life of the penitent should remain apart, looking toward heaven.

When early Irish and British literature kept Christianity and saga apart, this was not because its Christianity was purely for clerics but because it maintained a radical critique of the life of a lay aristocrat. When Adomnan's Life of Columba included a passage in which the dead saint appeared in a dream to King Oswald and promised him his protection in battle against the British king Cadwallon, that was exceptional and, in the terms of early Irish hagiog-raphy, startling.41 Much early Irish literature placed its characters in a remote pre-Patrician past (by the eighth century, Irish Christianity was held to begin with Patrick) and there was thus no difficulty in portraying heroes whose values were utterly remote from those espoused by the penitentials. But even a saga about a Christian king of Leinster of the seventh century, Fingal Ronain, kept Christianity and, indeed, all religion out of the narrative.42 When the characters make verse-speeches, and so reveal their motivations, the same rule of separation continued to apply: the nearest Fingal Ronan came to admitting Christianity was a reference to burial in a shroud and a coffin. The chasm between the values of the aristocratic lay world and those of the pre-Viking church was only rarely bridgeable. Irish clerics may have enjoyed listening to stories about Cu Chulainn, the Achilles of early Irish saga, but they long kept him at arm's length.

This separation of spheres did not mean that the laity were abandoned to the Devil. The vernacular laws betray considerable evidence of the moral demands made by the church, even in the sexual domain, where the behavior of most kings appears to have been, at best, one of serial monogamy.43 On the other side, the laity made demands on churches - that they should pray for

39 Penitential of Finnian, §§ 8, 12 (clergy), 35-37 (laity), in Irish Penitentials, 76, 86.

41 Adomnan, VitaSancti Columbae, I.i.

42 FingalRonain, 3-11, or translation Ni Dhonnchadha, Celtic Heroic Age, 274-82.

43 For example Crith Gablach, §§ 15 (lines 199-202), 24 (lines 341-47); UraicechtnaRiar, § 6, i04.

the dead, that mass should be offered, that people should be baptized.44 The converse is that by the tenth century the gap between lay aristocratic values and those of the Irish Church was much less acute than it had been. That was what explained the extensive cultivation of saga and the interpenetration of saga and hagiography in such a leading monastery as Clonmacnois.

Some early Irish and Welsh narrative texts introduce the former pagan gods as characters, but they normally keep them in the pre-Christian past. The Welsh Four Branches of the Mabinogi is later than our period but had a long prehistory.45 If it is fair to see the early Welsh sense of their past as divided into three eras -pre-Roman (and also pre-Christian), Roman, and post-Roman - the former gods of The Four Branches were firmly placed in the first era. Similarly, the gods of one of the principal tales of the Irish "Mythological Cycle," The Battle of Mag Tuired, fought their great battle against the Fomorians centuries before Christ, even though this late ninth-century saga was told in such a way as to make the Fomorians evident forerunners of the Vikings, while the gods represented the Irish.46 It is arguable that early Irish narrative came to be written in such profusion because it could be taken for history.47 The pagan gods were thus safely placed in an early period of the history of Ireland, a history which would culminate in conversion: that the whole history of Ireland would end in a Christian present took the sting from that remote pagan past.

Monasteries, bishops, and scholars

Most of the great monastic churches of the Britons and the Irish were already founded before 600. The age of monastic foundation was not entirely over, however: Lismore in Munster was founded in 636, after the founder, Mo Chutu, had been expelled from his previous church at Rahan in Co. Meath.48 It would become a notably distinguished center of theological studies almost immediately after its foundation: the anonymous De Mirabilibus Sacrae Scripturae was written there in 655.49 During the seventh century the major Irish monastic churches were extending their influence and increasing their wealth. Lesser churches became subject to them; and they also acquired numerous manaig, "monks" in the secondary sense of lay and usually married tenants of a church

44 Corpus Iuris Hibernici, 529.20-22; 2211.27-28 = First Third of BrethaNemedToisech, § 6,10.

See also Monastery ofTallaght, § 18.

45 As shown by the poem Echrys ynys; see also Carey "British Myth of Origins?"

46 Cath Maige Tuired, esp. §§ 50-51; Mac Cana, "Influence of the Vikings," 94-95.

47 Toner, "Ulster Cycle."

48 Annals of Ulster, s.a. 636.

49 Grosjean, "Sur quelques exegetesirlandais"; Kenney Sources for the Early History, no. 104.

who were considered to be members of the monastic community. As such, they were subject to the rule ofthe abbot and were, unlike the majority ofthe laity, expected to be buried in the monastic cemetery.

Scholars are still not agreed on the relationship between the leading monasteries and an ecclesiastical organization in which, according to such sources as the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis and the vernacular laws, bishops retained a central role. In the central decades of the twentieth century, the standard view (still supported by some historians) maintained that an episcopally governed church was only characteristic ofthe fifth and early-sixth centuries, even though this organization left a lasting imprint on prescriptive sources.50 In the late-sixth and seventh centuries, it was largely replaced by the power of the abbots of the major monasteries. As we have seen already, Ireland inherited from Britain a situation in which there might be several bishops in a major kingdom (roughly equivalent to a Gallo-Roman or Romano-British civitas). Such a major kingdom was, however, divided into smaller kingdoms, often called tuatha (sg. tuath); and it was considered proper that a tuath should have a bishop as well as a king.51 According to the traditional argument, the head of a major monastery enjoyed a power extended into several tuatha and thus came to overshadow the bishop of a single tuath. The latter retained his sacramental functions, but in the government of the church he was of little account beside the abbot of an important monastery. To take one example, Clonmac-nois, founded by Ciaran mac int Shair, was among the most powerful of Irish monasteries. It was situated in a minor kingdom, Delbnae Bethra, on the east bank of the River Shannon. Already by the late seventh century, however, it had dependent churches in Connaught, the province on the west side of the Shannon, and by 900 it was the leading church of the entire province, even though Delbnae Bethra was not merely a minor kingdom, but was part ofthe province of Mide, to the east of the Shannon.52 The power of Clonmacnois transcended, therefore, the boundaries of Delbnae Bethra (a tuath), and also the boundaries of the province of Mide; it came to predominate in a province, Connaught, to which it did not itselfbelong. "The heir of Ciaran mac int Shair" was a far more considerable figure in the Irish Church than any mere bishop of Delbnae Bethra (just as the abbot of Cluny in the eleventh century was a more imposing figure than the bishop of Macon). While the annals regularly

50 Kenney, Sources for the Early History, 291-93; Hughes, Church in Early Irish Society, 57-90;

O Corrain, "Early Irish Churches"; O Croinin, Early Medieval Ireland, 147-68.

51 Corpus Iuris Hibernici, 1123.32-33.

52 Tirechan, Collectanea, § 25.

record the obits of abbots of Clonmacnois, they never mention a bishop of Delbnae Bethra.

It has not been denied that such extensive monastic overlordships grew up by the end of the seventh century.53 What has been questioned is, first, whether the term parochia (sometimes spelt paruchia by Irish writers), as used by Tirechan for Armagh, by Cogitosus for Kildare, and by the annals for Clonard, normally meant a federation of monasteries of the kind described by Bede for Iona, or rather "a sphere of jurisdiction" including an episcopal diocese in the modern sense and also a larger territory. Tirechan and Cogitosus used it for the island-wide authority claimed by Armagh and Kildare.54 Secondly, it has rightly been observed that some bishops were not confined to a single tuath: there were higher levels of bishop approximately corresponding to the metropolitan bishop and even the archbishop found elsewhere in the western church by the end of the seventh century. The contrast between the mere bishop of a tuath and the abbot of a great monastery is unfair. A more appropriate comparison would be between a bishop of a tuath and the abbot of a minor local monastery, or between a bishop of such a church as Kildare, a "bishop of bishops," and the abbot of Clonmacnois or Glendalough.

It has also been noted that the authority of a leading abbot over a distant church might be more akin to late-medieval "appropriation of churches," namely, essentially economic lordship. If its function was to ensure that some of the revenue of the subordinate church passed to the major monastery, it could leave the pastoral authority of the bishop intact. Moreover, the forms of ecclesiastical overlordship were every bit as varied as their lay counterparts. Some references to the overlordship enjoyed by the great monastic churches do indeed indicate an overriding interest in revenue. On the other hand, when a church had dependent ecclesiastical tenants, manaig, its subordination to another church might entail the consequence that its manaig became dependent on the abbot of the leading monastery; and for the spiritual welfare of a monastery's manaig, the abbot of that monastery was indeed responsible. Ecclesiastical lordship and pastoral responsibility were not entirely separate issues.

The Collectio Canonum Hibernensis opens with a book devoted to the office of bishop. It is, so it declares in words taken from Isidore of Seville, an onus not an honor, a burdensome job not a rank; and yet it is plain from other parts

53 For the new view: Sharpe, "Some Problems"; Etchingham, Church OrganizationinIreland.

54 Tirechan, Collectanea, § 18; Cogitosus, VitaS. Brigitae, Prologue, 135.

of the laws, both canon and native Irish, that the episcopal office was indeed a rank in seventh-century Ireland. As the king was the head of the ordinary lay hierarchy, so the bishop headed the ordinary hierarchy of the church, the ollam the hierarchy of poets, and the sui litre, "scholar of the written word," the hierarchy of Latin learning. Ireland was a thoroughly hierarchical society, and the church had to be given its place. One can see this necessity encompassing the most unlikely figures: the peregrinus pro amore Dei, "exile for the love of God," might abandon his native land, following the lead of Abraham, in order to separate himself from those entanglements of social obligation and privilege that were inescapable as long as he remained at home; yet the deorad Di, "exile of God," had a status equivalent to that of a bishop.55

Another figure who had to be included was the abbot of a major monastery. To take one example, Columba was a priest, not a bishop, and thus, as we learn from Bede, his successors were also priests. As priests they were inferior in rank to any local bishop. The difficulty was solved by a two-way relationship between the rank of the person and the rank of a church. A church was of higher rank if it was episcopal, understood as meaning that it either currently had or had had in the past a bishop and was thus fit to have one in the future. This was on the analogy of the branch of a kindred, which was of higher rank if a king or kings were members. On the other hand, an eighth-century legal tract declared that the head of a great church was of a rank equivalent to that of a "noble bishop," namely, to judge by the context, the chief bishop of Munster: he was "the supreme head of a great church," ollam morchathrach, and the tract cites the abbots of Emly and Cork, major Munster monasteries, as examples.56 Some heads of great churches were themselves bishops: as Patrick was a bishop so his heirs were bishops of Armagh until the Viking period. Yet it is striking that, when the guarantor-list of CainAdamnain (697) is examined, the ecclesiastical section is dominated by the abbots of great monasteries. When Cummian (c. 632) consulted some major figures of the contemporary Irish Church, he specified the abbots of Emly (episcopal), Clonmacnois, Mungret, Clonfertmulloe, and either Birr or Clonfert.57 The highest rank in ecclesiastical society indeed had its episcopal members, but it would have been outnumbered by those who owed their standing to that of their churches. This mattered, since they would all have attended the synods which governed the different provinces of the Irish Church.58 Yet, if this allows us to perceive the early Irish

55 Charles-Edwards, "Social Background," 54, 57-58.

56 Corpus luris Hibernici, 1618.7-8; 2282.27.

57 Cummian, De controversia Paschali, 90.

58 For provinces, see Annals of Ulster, s.aa. 851.5, 859.3.

Church as unusually monastic, it should also allow us to see it as unusually respectful toward the authority of scholars. They, too, were numbered among the guarantors of the Law of Adomnan, and they, too, were normal members of synods. It seems that all those whose rank was at least equivalent to that of an ordinary king - ordinary bishop, leading scholar, and abbot - were entitled to attend a synod; and it was the synod which we can see exercising power over laymen by taking pledges from representatives of their kindreds.59 The composition of the synod appears to be directly related to the unusually hierarchical nature of early Irish society: the synod was a meeting among the heads of different ecclesiastical hierarchies.

This poses a problem in understanding the British Church. As we have seen, its synods were also attended by scholars and abbots as well as bishops. Yet we have no good evidence that this accorded with the nature of British society in the way we have seen it fitted the different hierarchies of Irish society. Admittedly, this is partly because nothing survives on the scale of the early Irish evidence, and even the few scraps are often later than 900. The archbishops of St. Davids and of Gwynedd mentioned by Asser and the Annales Cambriae probably correspond to the "noble bishop" of the Irish law-tract Uraicecht Becc, who was the chief bishop of Munster.60 The territory over which St. Davids had primacy is likely to have included all of southwest Wales; if so, it would have included Llandeilo Fawr in Carmarthenshire, which undoubtedly had a bishop at one point in the ninth century.61 The area to which Llandeilo Fawr belonged, Ystrad Tywi, "The Vale ofthe Tywi," is likely to have belonged to the Romano-British civitas of the Demetae, if we are right in taking Carmarthen (Moridunum) to have been its capital. This may still have been true when Aldhelm referred to the bishops of Dyfed. Even the narrower limits of what was called Dyfed in the post-Viking period may still have had more than one bishop. The short text entitled "The Seven Bishop-Houses of Dyfed," preserved in the Welsh laws, has been dated to the ninth or tenth century.62 It seems to have one "bishop-house" for each of what became the seven cantrefi of Dyfed. As in Ireland, these were probably not always sees of bishops, but rather churches where previous bishops lay buried and might have living bishops again. They were churches of episcopal standing. More than one church in Cornwall had, in this sense, episcopal status.63 At roughly the same period,

60 Annales Cambriae, s.a. 809; Asser's Life of King Alfred, chap. 79; see above note 53.

61 Text of the Book ofLlan Dav, xlvi.

62 Charles-Edwards, "Seven Bishop Houses."

63 Olson, Early Monasteries, 51-56, 62-63, 70, 73-74.

Glamorgan had three principal monastic churches: the abbots of Llantwit Major, Llancarfan, and Llandough were of a higher rank than other heads of monastic communities.64 Now that the continuing importance of bishops in the early Irish Church has been established, the contrast between the Welsh and Irish churches, which used to be drawn, no longer stands.65

The ninth century saw Brittany first incorporated into the Carolingian Empire under Louis the Pious and then attain a political unity within it. The Breton Church was brought into closer relation with the Frankish Church, especially in its higher institutions - bishoprics and monasteries.66 The Caro-lingian reforms therefore affected Brittany as they did not affect the other Celtic countries, other than in offering numerous opportunities for insular scholars in the schools ofFrancia. But in other ways the broad development of the Churches of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales was similar to those of western Europe as a whole.

After the Vikings

The impact of the Vikings on the church was highly variable in both time and space. In Ireland and in Wales, the church survived remarkably well. The important monastery of Lusk, within the territory which came to be ruled by the Dublin Vikings, appears to have survived largely untouched. On the other hand, Finglas, an important monastery in the eighth and early-ninth centuries, and even closer to Dublin, is not mentioned in the main annals after 867, although it did survive to become a parish church in the later Middle Ages. For most churches the Viking impact was only spasmodically severe; and, by the tenth century, churches within the Viking domain sometimes suffered disastrously from the Irish.67

On the other hand, the effect on the wider Gaelic and Pictish world was more profound: the Northern Isles were transformed into outposts of Scandinavia, but further south the impact became more patchy. A vivid portrait of the change is given by the Irish scholar Dicuil, writing a geographical treatise for Emperor Louis the Pious in 825.68 He recalled the year 795, when he himself was in the Hebrides, a year of Viking raids which soon transformed the northern seas. Instead of Irish monks seeking "a desert in the ocean," an enterprise

64 The Text of the Book ofLlan Dav, nos. 175, 176b (charters are cited by the page on which they occur, using a, b, etc. if there is more than one).

65 An example of such a contrast is W. Davies, Early Welsh Microcosm, 146-47.

66 Smith, Province and Empire.

67 Etchingham, VikingRaids.

68 Dicuili Liber deMensura Orbis Terras, vii.11-15.

still recorded by inscribed crosses all the way to Iceland, the sea-routes from Orkney through the Hebrides and the North Channel, and so into the Irish Sea, became a Scandinavian domain.69 The kingdom of the Picts and its successor, the kingdom of Alba, came under more sustained pressure than Ireland was ever to suffer. The northern British kingdom centered on Dumbarton became, after the sack of the fortress in 870 by Olaf and Ivar from Dublin, a kingdom of Strathclyde under strong Viking influence. After the Vikings were expelled from Dublin from 902 to 917, their settlements were scattered all round the Irish Sea - in Cumbria, in the Wirral, on Anglesey, on the Isle of Man, and perhaps also in Galloway. Yet Strathclyde was no less Christian for being under Viking influence, and the pagan phase on the Isle of Man appears to have lasted only about thirty years, up to c. 930.70 Although the leading churches in the Columban federation were now Kells and Dunkeld, Iona survived several raids to become the chief church of Innsi Gall, "the Islands of the Foreigners." It was to Iona that Olaf Cuaran, king of Dublin, went in pilgrimage after his great defeat at Tara in 980 at the hands of Mael Sechnaill, king of Mide and now king of Tara. Yet the subsequent attack on Dublin itself, yielding a liberation of its Irish slaves, was portrayed by the Clonmacnois chronicler as "the harrying of the Babylon of Ireland, to be compared with the Harrowing of Hell."71 Scandinavian settlement around the Irish Sea would spread the cults of Irish saints into what is now northwestern England and southern Scotland.

Welsh links with Ireland survived through the Viking period: Kells, founded in the early ninth century as a new center of the Columban federation, contained the "House of the Britons." The cult of Coemgen (Kevin) of Glen-dalough took root in North Wales, where the church of Diserth Cwyfien both carries the name of the patron saint of Glendalough and uses a vernacular version of Latin desertum, something that came into fashion in Ireland in the ninth century. 72

A major change in the Celtic countries, as elsewhere, was the shift to burial in a churchyard. In the early eighth-century Collectio Canonum Hibernensis, it is assumed that monks and monastic tenants will be buried in the monastic cemetery; but ordinary laymen were likely to be buried in "paternal cemeteries" not attached to a church. Even at that date, some kings were granted burial in a church cemetery, and the Hibernensis appears to be favorable to a spread of

69 Fisher, Early Medieval Sculpture; Ahronson, "Further Evidence."

70 Graham-Campbell, "Early Viking Age," 116-20.

71 Chronicum Scotorum, s.a. 978 = 980.

72 Martyrology of Oengus, Notes, 26 October, 228; Mac Shamhrain, Church and Polity, 124-25;

Boneddy Saint, ed. Bartrum, § 50; Edwards, "Early Medieval Inscribed Stones," 36.

this practice. Later annals reveal the spread of church burial when they claim that it happened to early kings, who were most unlikely to have been buried in an ecclesiastical cemetery. Thus the tenth-century Clonmacnois chronicle claimed that the mid-sixth-century king of Tara, Diarmait mac Cerbaill was killed and decapitated in Ulster, that his body rested in the church of Connor in that province, but that the head had been taken to Clonmacnois. The reason for the claim is apparent from the statement in the Hibernensis that someone would rise again at the Last Judgment where his head lay and from Diarmait's position as ancestor of the rulers of the midlands.73

In Wales the shift to burial in a churchyard may be associated with the spread of the word llan as the normal word for a church settlement. It is occasionally found in the names of churches in Ireland, alongside older words such as domnach (from Latin dominicum) and newer terms, especially cell. In Wales and Ireland, an earlier variety in the fifth and sixth centuries gave way to domination by one word, cell in Ireland and llan in Wales, both of them being used for the church complex rather than being restricted to what we would call a church. The documents in the Book of Llandaff show that by the eleventh century it was the norm for a church to lie within a cemetery, and also within a sanctuary, noddfa.74 The same source also shows that in some parts of Wales, at least, the density of churches was high, as it was in parts of Brittany, Cornwall, and Ireland.75 Sculptural evidence from the Gwaun valley in southwest Wales (Dyfed) suggests that in that area this density goes back to the seventh century and that there was an earlier link between church and cemetery there than in North Wales.76

At a local level, then, there were important similarities between developments in Ireland, Brittany, and Wales, but there was one major difference. Among the Celtic countries, only Brittany participated in the Benedictine reform sponsored by Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, a reform which spread to parts of England in the tenth century. Carolingian policy introduced a clear contrast between monks and canons and sharpened the contrast between monks and secular clergy. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, however, this contrast was growing less sharp in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. For the larger churches, those that sustained a community rather than an individual priest, the norm was something akin to the Anglo-Saxon minster rather than the

73 O'Brien, Post-Roman Britain, 54.

74 On churchyard burial in Wales, see Pryce, "Pastoral Care," 43-46.

75 Text of the Book ofLlanDav, 275-78 (Ergyng); O'Brien, "Churches of South-East County Dublin"; Olson and Padel, "Tenth-Century List"; W. Davies, "Priests and Rural Communities."

76 Edwards, "Early Medieval Inscribed Stones," 30-31.

Carolingian monastery.77 In the ninth century the documents written into the Lichfield Gospels when they were at Llandeilo Fawr in South Wales exemplify such a church. In one witness-list there is a bishop of St. Teilo, a sacerdos of St. Teilo, and a scholasticus, who wrote the text in good insular minuscule.78 The sacerdos appears to have been the priest in charge of the sacramental life of the church, while the scholasticus was the teacher. With the bishop they were the principal figures in the familia Teliaui, the community of St. Teilo. The obits of Armagh clergy in the Annals of Ulster in the tenth and eleventh century reveal a more elaborate range of officers: because the abbot of Armagh was often on circuit, there was a fosairchinnech, "resident superior," as well as a secnap, "second abbot," a bishop, a teacher, a "head of the poor" (an almoner), and, in earlier obits, a steward. Many of these offices became the perquisites of particular powerful kindreds or became the spoils of competition by two or more kindreds. The hold of Clann Sinaig, "the kindred of Sinach," on the abbacy of Armagh in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries was notorious.79 Some clerical families were learned as well as pious: an outstanding example is the family of Sulien, bishop of St. Davids.80 Yet, it was easy for reformers from the late eleventh and twelfth centuries to tar them all with the same brush.

That is not to say that there was no movement of monastic reform in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The so-called "clients of God," the cili De or "culdees," emerged as a group in Ireland in the eighth century and spread to Scotland, and, probably, to Wales between 800 and 1100.81 The principal ninth-century texts associated with one oftheir leading churches, Tallaght (southwest of Dublin), reveal them as looking to the sources of monasticism in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, and to the heroic age of Irish and Welsh monasticism in the sixth century, rather than to Carolingian Benedictinism. Yet, by the twelfth century, the ceili Die normally formed a community within the broader clerical community of a particular church - a community with particular property interests and sometimes particular kinship connections. They were not, by ii00, demonstrably different from other clerical communities.

This chapter has been about the forms of Christianity found in countries speaking a Celtic language between 600 and 1100. As events turned out, this scope matches real similarities - which, even in ii00, still remained among

77 Pryce, "Pastoral Care," 51-55.

78 Text of the Book ofLlan Dav, xlvi.

79 O Fiaich, "Church of Armagh."

80 Lapidge, "Welsh-Latin Poetry."

81 O'Dwyer, Cili Do; Reeves, Culdees.

the churches of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales (and to a lesser extent Cornwall and Brittany). They stemmed from the conversion of Ireland in the fifth century and from the close and enduring links between Ireland, Scotland, and Wales throughout the period. In the eleventh century they were sustained by continuing links across the Irish Sea, between Ireland and Scotland, where a shared vernacular, Gaelic, was important, between Ireland and Wales, where there was no medieval knowledge of any linguistic connection, and between Cumbria and Wales, where shared language was of diminishing significance. They do not, however, justify talk of a Celtic Church - these were separate churches - nor, even, Celtic churches or Celtic Christianity, since the Celti-city of the languages spoken by the Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Bretons was unknown at the time and had no intrinsic relationship with ecclesiastical contacts. The latter were primarily in Latin, the universal language of the western church: the Christianity of Iona was not debarred from spreading among English-speaking Northumbrians in the middle of the seventh century. In 1100 it was possible for Cumbria to pride itself both on its native saints and on its capacity to include people of different languages, English, Scandinavian, and Gaelic as well as Cumbrians. It is also characteristic of most of these churches that, from the ninth to the late-eleventh century, they experienced no great Benedictine reform of monasticism, such as prevailed in the Carolingian Empire and in southern and eastern England. Events elsewhere could make Celtic-speaking countries look more alike; and yet Brittany was an exception in participating in the reform, while, on the other hand, much of England was, like Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, beyond the reach of the reformers.

Although the origins of the connection lay in the deep influence of postRoman British Christianity on its neighboring island, Ireland soon became and remained the main center. Her many rich churches were influential on the Continent as well as in the lands around the Irish Sea, in countries where a Celtic language was spoken, and in countries where it was not. What is illuminating is to think, not of Celtic Christianity, but of a Christianity centered around the Irish Sea in a period when Ireland was the richest country and home to the most vigorous culture in the region.

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