Churchmen

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1. Overview
2. Law Codes
3. Texts
4. Comparison

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Holy Cross Abbey Sligo

Overview

The Churchmen in early medieval Ireland were the monks, bishops and other higher members of the Catholic Church. Churchmen were considered part of the nemed class.

Law Codes

The people of the church are mentioned heavily throughout the law codes of early medieval Ireland. The Uraicecht Becc lists the seven grades of the church as lector, usher, exorcist, subdeacon, deacon, priest, and bishop. A lector received seven chattels of díre and three-days protection, an usher received ten chattels and five-days protection, an exorcist received fifteen chattels and ten-days protection, a subdeacon received twenty chattels and fifteen-days protection, a deacon received thirty chattels and a month's protection, a priest received half of seven cumals and a month's protection, and a bishop received one-and-a-half of seven cumals and one-and-a-half month's protection. In addition to the díre for each churchman, penance was also due for a churchman.[2]

The Cáin Adomnán (the Law of the Innocents) was the law code that dealt with penalties if a person harmed or killed a woman, child, or cleric. This law was passed by the churches themselves, which explains why they included clerics in it.[3] The law also states that if a person wounds or kills a clerical student, then the cost of the crime is eight cumals and eight years of penance; it also says that the penalty is the same for a person who witnesses the crime and does not attempt to stop it. Even simply threatening a cleric would result in the penalty of half of the díre.[4] For non-mortal wounds inflicted, different prices would be set; for example, if blood was spilled, the cost was five séts, plus the cost of the doctor's fee.[5]

In addition to the Cáin Adomnán, the Hibernensis, or Irish Canon, was also written by the Church. The Hibernensis mostly talks about the different kinds of unions, divorce, and what constitutes adultery. For instance, if a woman is forced into sleeping with another man by threats of harm to herself or her family, then she has not committed adultery. The Hibernensis quotes the Bible and other religious sources to explain their laws.[6]

Similarly to the Cáin Adomnán, the Bretha Crólige says that any man who injures a churchman to the point of being nursed must pay the díre, the nurse's fee and penance.[7]

According to the Divorce laws, if a person's spouse decided to become a churchman or churchwoman, that person would legally be allowed to divorce said spouse.[8] More information on divorce laws can be found here.

Texts

Churchmen are not often found in the stories and myths of early medieval Ireland. This may be due to the fact that the Catholic Church did not arrive in Ireland until after most of the myths and sagas had already been created.

Comparison

Due to the fact that the Hibernensis and the Cáin Adomnán were both written by the church, they tend to favor the Church and the Bible in some of their laws, such as the penalty for the death of a churchman, which was higher than the penalty for killing a woman. The Hibernensis also relies heavily on religious texts and the Bible to explain its laws.

In addition, the Uraicecht Becc was written after the Catholic Church already had a stronghold in Ireland, which explains some of the protection lengths and the díre for each rank of churchmen. The díre and protection for each grade of churchman is the same as its corresponding grade of noble. For more information on the nobles of early medieval Ireland, click here.

For more information on the influence of Christianity refer to this page.
  1. ^ http://www.flickr.com/photos/feargal/4796813991/ Image attributed to "Fergal OP", Flickr.
  2. ^ Eoin MacNeill, "Ancient Irish Law: The Law of Status or Franchise." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 36C, pp. 273-275.
  3. ^ "Cáin Adomnán (The Law of Adomnán) (697)." The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Angela Bourke, et al. Vol. IV. Cork: Cork University Press, n.d. 18-19. Print.
  4. ^ "Cáin Adomnán (The Law of Adomnán) (697)." The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Angela Bourke, et al. Vol. IV. Cork: Cork University Press, n.d. 20. Print.
  5. ^ "Cáin Adomnán (The Law of Adomnán) (697)." The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Angela Bourke, et al. Vol. IV. Cork: Cork University Press, n.d. 21. Print
  6. ^ "The Hibernensis (Irish Canons) (c. 716-25)." The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Angela Bourke, et al. Vol. IV. Cork: Cork University Press, n.d. 12-17. Print
  7. ^ "Bretha Crólige." 1934-1938. Ériu: Founded as the Journal of the School of Irish Learning Devoted to Irish Philology and Literature. Ed. Osborn Bergin and Eleanor Knott. Vol. XII. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1977. 17-19. Print.
  8. ^ "Divorce (c. 700)." The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Angela Bourke, et al. Vol. IV. Cork: Cork University Press, n.d. 28. Print