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landed property was the Church in this country maintained in the earliest ages, before the establishment of the tithe system under AngloNorman influence. The native princes and lords of Ireland gave in the most ancient times after the introduction of Christianity, to particular saints, various territories and plots of ground, on which to build churches and monastic schools, to be held by them and their successors for ever ; to which others were added by donation or purchase from time to time, until at length foundations and endowments of the kind were to be found in almost every parish. The lands chosen by the austere and retiring piety of the ancient saints were generally in the most retired spots; for they loved the desert and seclusion, as affording more hope of peace and security in troublous times, and better opportunity for the kind of life they had selected for themselves. And where the bounty of secular princes would have bestowed the gift in a rich and fertile soil, they preferred what was less attractive to covetousness, contenting themselves with wild and barren spots, which might by unwearied labour become productive and valuable. And in fact, by their persevering toils, those very spots became in after times the richest and most fertile in the country: so that while, from the lives and habits of the lay proprietors, their estates exhibited comparatively little or no improvement, the monastic lands attained to the highest degree of culture and productiveness.
To represent the lands here mentioned as in- For whom tended by the donors of them for the benefit of the interest the Church of Rome, can be the result only of ignorance or perversity; she having had no jurisdiction in Ireland for so many centuries after the time when those grants began to be made. They were bestowed by the temporal rulers of the island on those ancient holy men, simply "for celebrating divine service, and prayinge for their soule's healthes,” and that they, dedicating themselves to the worship of God, and the ministry of His Church, might have sufficiency for their competent maintenance in this world. They were given to the clergy of the Church of Ireland, during their primitive independence of all foreign supremacy:
The rapacious hand of the plunderer began at First rise of an early period to make aggression on the en- liation in dowments consecrated by the pious munificence Ireland. of the old Irish Christians to the service of religion ;—a work in which foreign foes co-operated with enemies of native blood. On this subject, the following historical statement from the able pen of the late Mr. Phelan* appears from its
• See The Case of the Church of Ireland stated, in a Letter to the Marquess Wellesley, in reply to J. K. L. (i. e. J[ames Doyle, titular
adaptation to the object in view in the present article, to be worth transcribing for the reader's benefit:
Statement “The ravages of the Danes commenced with the ninth of Mr. Phe century, and for three hundred years we lose all distinct
notices of things, in one sanguinary chaos of rapine and effects of the revenge. When men began to recover from this dreadDanish wars ful visitation, it was felt that religion had suffered grievon Church property.
ously. The horrors of intestine warfare, favourable perhaps in single instances, to an austere and unsocial piety, are fatal to the milder virtues, and three centuries of invasion might suffice for the corruption of the finest people; nor could the clergy escape the general degeneracy. There was abundant time for the decay of discipline, of learning, and of manners; and the succession of a priesthood, supplied altogether from domestic sources, must have experienced no inconsiderable interruption.
“The temporal condition of the Church was reduced equally. During the incursions of the barbarians, the retreats of religion had been the chief objects of their fury, and amidst the thousand necessities and tempta tions of such a time, the natives were gradually led to join in the spoliation.” [Freed from other warfare, the chieftains turned their arms against the ministers of peace; and a favorite exploit with them was the burning of churches and colleges, or the fitting out of an expedition against some religious house, suspected of re
taining a wreck of its former possessions.] Condition of
So continued matters until Gille of Limerick century. began his Romanizing improvements. Mean
matters in the 12th
bishop of] K[ildare and] L[eighlin]) by Declan. Millikens, Dublin, 1824. pp. 14 seqq.
while the Church lands had become in great part alienated from their proper object, and seized upon by lay impropriators; occupied perhaps in some cases by secular usurpers destitute of any kind of title to them ; resumed in other instances by the representatives of the original donors, or chieftains belonging to the same sept; or again, as appears to have been very common, taken possession of by the corbes and erenachs, who had been appointed as the trustees of them for the Church's benefit, and by them turned to the private enriching of themselves and their families.
“Of the see lands," says Mr. Phelan,* “the greater statement part was seized by the chieftains, and the remainder sub- of Mr. Phejected to heavy imposts for the support of their numerous and disorderly followers. The better to secure the temporalities of the prelates, they intruded even upon their spiritual functions. The princes of the territory in which Armagh was situated, usurped the title, as well as the demesnes of the Successor of St. Patrick," so that it should be held always by one of their own family and none other ; and so elsewhere.
“Such a state of things threatened the total extinction of a clerical order; the Irish prelates awoke to the necessity of devising some new means for the revival of religion, and at length despairing of domestic relief, began to turn their eyes to the see of Rome.”
When the bishops of Ireland in the twelfth
. Ut sup.
First crea century became possessed of territorial jurisdiction of epis- tion over certain assigned dioceses, it appears perty in Ire- that care was taken at the same time to create a land.
certain property for the maintenance of each in his new independence of monastic associations. And an arrangement was made by which the corbes and erenachs in possession of church lands should give “each unto the bushopp within whose diocess his lands were, a yerely pension more or less, according to his proportion, out of his entire erenachie.” This exaction the corbes and erenachs consented to, it would seem, not less on account of their voluntary compliance with the new order of ecclesiastical affairs, than from a desire to secure the bishops' countenance and protection in their territorial acquisitions. In Derry and Raphoe, it is stated, that a third part of the ecclesiastical property in the erenach's lands was assigned to the bishop for his support, the other two-thirds being allotted to church repairs, keeping of hospitality, and erenach's maintenance.
As to what lands were held by the corbes and erenachs, of this very little is now known, scarcely any documents remaining, except in some few cases, to shew what their precise boundaries were. Some of them are probably
• Vid. Reeves's Ant. of Doun, &c., p. 161, and the notes and suthorities there appended.