contributor.author: Katherine L. French

title.none: FitzPatrick and Gillespie, eds., Parish in Medieval Ireland (Katherine L. French )

identifier.other: baj9928.0804.021 08.04.21

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Katherine L. French , SUNY-New Paltz, frenchk@newpaltz.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: FitzPatrick, Elizabeth and Raymond Gillespie, eds. The Parish in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland: Community, Territory, and Building. Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006. Pp. 352. $55.00 1-85182-947-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.04.21

FitzPatrick, Elizabeth and Raymond Gillespie, eds. The Parish in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland: Community, Territory, and Building. Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006. Pp. 352. $55.00 1-85182-947-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Katherine L. French
SUNY-New Paltz
frenchk@newpaltz.edu

This collection of sixteen articles, which grew out of a conference organized by the Group for the Study of Irish Historic Settlement in 2003, aims to be the first comprehensive overview of the development of the Irish parish from about the eighth century to the eighteenth century. To handle such a large sweep of time, the editors have divided the collection into three sections. The first section helps set the context, with each of the three essays in turn addressing the historical development of the parish in Europe, the major issues about the parish Ireland, and the surviving material culture of the Irish parish. The second section focuses on the medieval parish and the third section on the reformed parish. Although the reader is sometimes overwhelmed with details, the collection successfully situates the Irish parish within the larger issues of Irish historiography and makes useful comparisons to English parochial development and organizations. Questions about how Ireland developed relative to England are reasonable given England's long history of colonization in Ireland. Thus one of the central issues running throughout this collection, although not necessarily addressed in each essay, is a comparison of how parishes developed and operated in Gaelic Ireland with those in Anglo-Norman Ireland and then Northern Ireland.

Until well into the sixteenth century, Ireland lacks the kinds of written sources, such as wills and churchwardens' accounts, that inform most parish scholarship in England. As a result, Irish scholars have turned to settlement patterns and archaeological finds for much of their analysis of the medieval parish. The essays in the second section particularly try to understand how the parish evolved from an archaeological and geographical perspective. With the increasing survival of parish records in the early modern period, the essays in the third section combine them with analysis of the surviving buildings, as well as issues of settlement patterns. Within these shared methods and sources, however, the variety of topics and places covered reveal the lively debates surrounding Irish parochial development.

The working definition of a parish that informs these essays is that a parish is a unit of pastoral care and taxation. How early a system of pastoral care developed in Ireland is still an open question as is the origins and purpose of taxation. From its earliest times, Irish parishes seem to be associated with not only religious organizations, such as monasteries, but also manors or tribal lands. Colmán Etchingham argues in his article that in the eighth century, pastoral care was initially limited to members of a paramonastic Christian elite, who lived under a regime of perpetual repentance and penance. As a result, he believes the parish was more a monastic unit of taxation or tribute than spiritual sustenance for the majority of the laity. Tomás Ó Carragáin questions the limits of early pastoral care by looking at the placement of surviving pre-Romanesque churches in the context of Continental liturgical developments. He argues that the variety of structures and changes to these eighth- and ninth-century churches precludes simple categorization of religious sites as either entirely monastic or lay, but rather implies a more complicated situation.

The next two articles by Tadhg O'Keeffe and Sinéad Ní Ghabhláin look at the impact of the Gregorian Reforms on Irish pastoral care, particularly as it may or may not have been represented in the surviving architecture. Both of these articles are also concerned with whether the evolving parish boundaries were a result of the reforms, or older administrative units co-opted by the church or local landlords as they created a pastoral care system. Focusing on the Anglo-Norman section of Ireland, O'Keeffe believes that there was a pastoral care system in place by the 1200s, but that the pre-1100 churches were not a part of it. Rather, the development of a parish system coincided with the introduction of Romanesque architectural features. Ghabhláin argues that parish formation was well under way by the late twelfth century, but argues that in Gaelic Ireland the parish boundaries coincided with pre-existing secular units within Gaelic lordships. Both ultimately see the hierarchical church as formalized by the Gregorian Reforms as the impetus for these developments. The final two articles in this section try to assess the kinds of community dynamics present in medieval parishes. Helen Bermingham looks at the archaeology of priest houses and finds there were four types, but that while the relative wealth of a benefice might be inferred from these differences, the quality of priestly activities cannot. Working with papal and ecclesiastical records, Patrick Nugent looks at the formation of the parish structure in Clare. He argues that parish organization had its roots in tribal holdings, rather than being the result of the Cistercians' promotion of the Gregorian Reforms.

The third section of the book draws less on archaeology and relies more on documentary evidence. In particular vestry minutes and churchwardens' accounts begin to survive making it possible to reconstruct the local administration and financial structure of parishes. For scholars dealing with the Reformation period, the central historiographical issues that emerge are the co-optation of the parish by civic authorities and the large number of Catholics who avoided or abandoned the parish once it became Protestant. These issues are reflected in both the architecture and the documentary sources. Henry Jefferies looks at pastoral care in the early Tudor period, finding that the Anglicized portions of Ireland had a late- medieval parish structure much like what was found in England in the same period. In the Gaelic portions of Ireland, however, lay organization was less structured, and that the friars had probably played an important role in revitalizing parish religion. Three articles, one by Raymond Gillespie, one by Rolf Loeber and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, and one by Rowena Dudley all look at Dublin. Both Gillespie's study of sixteenth-century Dublin and Dudley's study of seventeenth-century Dublin both show that the city increasingly relied on the parish to administer civic concerns such as street cleaning. Drawing on the more abundant civic and parish records, they show that while Catholics were officially excluded from parish life in the early stages of the Reformation, in reality they were not. The onset of the Reformation, however, did drive many Catholics out of their now Protestant parishes and to chapels and mass houses run by new orders such as the Jesuits. Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber reconstruct the architectural plan of Kildare Hall, the Jesuit house in Dublin, with an eye towards understanding the way the liturgy was performed in this extra parochial context. Eamonn Cotter's article looks at the changes that Protestants made to Catholic churches, some of which reflected their different liturgical needs. Because pre-Reformation churches all followed the same general plan, there was an architectural similarity among Protestant churches that Cotter found lacking in the new Mass Houses built by Catholic recusants. Although they had come from a homogenous architectural tradition, Catholics did not adhere to it when forced to build secret churches. Toby Barnard addresses the expansion in the duties of parish officers and increased regulation coming from the parish the rest of Ireland. The last article by William Roulston looks at how Anglican parishes rebuilt themselves in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Using churchwardens' accounts and vestry minutes, he reconstructs fund- raising schemes and construction chronologies. As with England, the laity were by-and-large involved in the process and did not leave it up to a few wealthy elite.

This is a large collection of essays, and invariably some are stronger than others. The chronological order helps situate the more narrowly focused articles in a larger historical and historiographical context. Abundant maps, illustrations, and photographs further the arguments especially in the first section where settlement patterns and architectural features are so central to the analysis. As with many archaeological studies, it is often difficult to move beyond the carefully delineated observations to the larger historical meaning and significance. For those using this collection to gain a general understanding of Irish parish history, some basic familiarity with Irish geography and history is helpful, as none of the three contextual articles provide a basic outline of England's involvement with Ireland or the progression of the Reformation in Ireland.