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20 August 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Ireland before the Plantation
 
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The religious system
- Professor Maire Herbert

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I think the church had to assimilate with the society: it didnít come accompanied by Roman invasion as you know, so therefore it had to fit in with society rather than attempt to change society initially.

The way it was organised then turned out to be quite different to the Roman model in so far as it followed the pattern of rural settlement: monasteries were set up throughout the countryside, they needed little more than a grant of land from the local ruler, and they were in a sense holistic - they fitted in with the kind of economy and settlement patterns and so on of the society.

Initially the idealism was at its height: people flocked to monasteries - we have this feeling from looking at the Early religious texts, but of course because they were part of society and part of the fabric of society, they also assimilated into the power structures of society and you found pretty soon a close association between the great families who gave lands for monasteries, and the monastic rulers. So then you found eventually the pattern where a king might place one of his relations as abbot of the monastery, and this close association certainly benefited the church materially but ultimately didnít benefit the church spiritually.

And so over time the large monasteries became rich corporations, if you will, with large tracts of land and then, of course, the possession of these large tracts of land tended to be confined within particular families, or the families tended to confine it within their members: and you found in the centuries just before the Vikings and certainly thereafter, a hereditary succession - that is, families maintained church offices within their own kin and passed it on from father to son. Again of course that is the antithesis of the religious fervour and the celibacy and so on of the Early church.
 

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