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Welsh outlook


Vol. 14, No. 2 Feb. 1927

Ecclesiastical relations between Ireland and Wales : In the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

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of Clonard spent many years under
the tuition of St. David. St. Rioc, a Welshman,
was the companion of Finnian at the monastery
of Rosuah. Later he became abbot of Innis-
bofrin, an island in the Shannon. It was not
unusual to see Irish pilgrims passing through
Wales in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Giraldus saw a poor pilgrim in Wales with a
bronze-bound horn slung round his neck as a relic
which had belonged once to Patrick. For awe
of the Irish saint, no one had ever dared to blow
it. Bernard, a Welsh priest, snatched the relic
and blew a blast upon it. The consequences of
this rash act were terrible according to the
chronicler. Bernard was struck with palsy,
and his mouth was twisted right up to his ear;
and he who had been once eloquent was bereft
of speech. The afflicted priest crossed over to
Ireland, and prayed to St. Patrick to heal him.
He was partially restored, but was never the
same as before.
The Irish and Welsh Churches bore a
striking resemblance in architecture. We
have already referred to their resemblance in con-
stitution and practice. The Celtic clergy were
not above taking part in secular pursuits they
did not believe in the celibacy of the Roman
Catholic Church. Both countries had their
anchorites and revered bells, wells, croziers, and
other relics. Such was the regard of the Irish
for these things that Giraldus called them idol-
worshippers. I should not omit to state also
that portable bells, and the crooks of holy men of
former times, curved at the upper end and
wrought with gold, silver, or bronze, are held in
deep reverence by both clergy and laity in
Ireland and Scotland, as thev are in Wales."8
The clergy of both nations were expert in
theology and the legendary lore of the Celtic
Church was such that all countries could draw
from it without stint. Ariosto called Ireland
Hibernia Fabulosa," and the title held good
during the period which is under our consider-
ation. Ireland was honoured in Wales as the
home of Patrick, whose theory of purgatory cast
a spell over the minds of the people. His
doctrine affected the theology and literature of
Christendom. The adventures of Knight
Owain in the realm of shades was known in
many lands. Dante enshrined the theory in
imperishable fame, for there can be no doubt that
the Italian poet was influenced by the Irish saint.
One writer went so far as to claim the master-
piece as of Irish origin.9 Pilgrims resorted to
8 Tonog. of Ireland." Dis. III.. Cap. 33.
9 In all probability Dante borrowed much material
from the British monk. Fursey. Henrv of Salt-
ery, whose Latin version of Patrick's Purga-
tory" bears the date of 1152, was also known
most likely to him.
[Contributions in prose or poetry are invited from readers. These should be addressed to the Editor,
WELSH OUTLOOK, Newtown, and in every instance accompanied by a stamped addressed
Piinhni Padrig from Wales, and all parts of
Europe. Giraldus gives an interesting account
of the spot. There is a lake in Ulster contain-
ing an island divided into two parts. In one of
these stands a church of especial sanctity, and it
is most agreeable and delightful the other
part, covered with rugged crags, is reported to
be the resort of devils only, and to be almost
always the theatre on which crowds of evil spirits
visibly perform their rites. This part of the
island contains nine pits. and it is said that
the one who has submitted to the torments there
as a penance, will not afterwards undergo the
p;uns of he!I." Giraldus speaks of the place as
being divided into paradise and purgatory.10
Two pilgrimages to St. David were considered
equal to one pilgrimage to Rome, hence the popu-
larity of the Welsh shtine in Ireland. The well-
cultus was popular in both lands. Several Irish
wells according to Giraldus had wonderful powers.
A well in Munster could change the colour of the
hair. He, himself, saw a man who had bathed
in its water, a part of his beard turned white,
while the other part retained its dark natural
colour. In Ulster there was a well which pre-
vented those who washed in it from becoming
grey. In Connaught, at the top of a mountain
lie saw a spring of water which ebbs and flows
twice a day like the tide, and like a well near the
Castle of Dincfor in South Wales.11 Pilgrims
from Ireland visited St. Winifred's Well and the
well of St. the Welsh goddess of love.
Hydromancy was common to both peoples. The
following is an example of the prayer offered at
a holy well
■: Water, water, tell me truly
Is the man that I love duly
On the earth, or under the sod
Sick or well, in the name of God."
Ireland, like Wales, had wells of cursing as
well as of blessing. The importance of pilgrim-
ages in both countries cannot be over-rated, for
they exercised a good influence upon religion,
literature and commerce.
Ireland and Wales never ceased to protest
against the crime of the Norman settlers who sub-
jected the national Church to the power of the
State. After long centuries of abuse the Irish
Church was disestablished by Gladstone, and
Wales in 1920 was declared free from the tram-
mels of State. Thus religion in both countries
has recovered the freedom it enjoyed before the
advent of the invader.
10 « Topog. of Ireland." Dis. II., Ch. V.
11 Topog. of Ireland." Dis. II., Ch. VII.
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