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Friday, 1 April 2016


1‭ ‬April‭ ‬1129 AD:‭ ‬The death of Cellach mac Aeda on this day.‭ ‬This famed and holy man was the Bishop of Armagh.‭ ‬His status as head of the Irish Church had been recognised at the Synod of Rathbressail/Ráth Breasail  in the year‭ ‬1111.‭ ‬It marked an important step in the transition of the Irish Church from a monastic to a diocesan and parish based church. Many Irish present day dioceses trace their boundaries to decisions made at the synod. Cellach was born in the year‭ ‬1080‭ ‬and was an advocate of reform in the Irish Church to put it on a more formal and set lines that matched similar moves on the Continent.‭

While on a visit to Munster‭ (‬Mumu‭) ‬he took ill and died at the religious settlement of Ard Patrick near Limerick.‭ ‬He was buried at his own request at Lismore.‭ ‬Shortly before he died he designated the future Saint Malachy as his successor.‭ ‬However his protégé was to be frustrated in his attempts to secure the see of Armagh by Muirchertach mac Domnall who installed himself at Armagh before Malachy could get there.‭ ‬The situation was only resolved in‭ ‬1134‭ ‬after much political and ecclesiastical power politics had been played out.

We see in his ‘Obituary’ in the Annals of Ulster [sample above] an eulogy that sets out the kind of person a great ecclesiastic was expected to be:

Cellach,‭ ‬successor of Patrick,‭ ‬a virgin and the chief bishop of western Europe,‭ ‬and the only head whom Irish and foreigners,‭ ‬lay and clergy,‭ ‬obeyed,‭ ‬having ordained bishops and priests and all kinds of cleric also,‭ ‬and having consecrated many churches and churchyards,‭ ‬having bestowed goods and valuables,‭ ‬having exhorted all,‭ ‬both laity and clergy,‭ ‬to uprightness and good conduct,‭ ‬after a life of saying the hours,‭ ‬saying mass,‭ ‬fasting,‭ ‬prayer,‭ ‬after being anointed and having made excellent repentance,‭ ‬sent forth his soul to the bosom of angels and archangels in Ard Pátraic in Mumu on Monday,‭ ‬the Kalends‭ ‬1st of April,‭ ‬the twenty-fourth year of his abbacy and the fiftieth year of his age.‭

His body was brought on the third of the Nones‭ ‬3rd of April to Lis Mór of Mo-Chutu in accordance with his own testament,‭ ‬and was waked with psalms and hymns and canticles,‭ ‬and buried with honour in the burial-ground of the bishops,‭ ‬on the day before the nones‭ ‬4th of April,‭ ‬that is,‭ ‬Thursday.‭ ‬Muirchertach son of Domnall was appointed to the successorship of Patrick on the Nones‭ ‬5th of April.

Annals of Ulster‭