The Synod of Rathbrassil (year 1111) was celebrated in November at a conference in UCC and Thurles. The Synod was the first attempt to fix the diocesan boundaries of the Irish Church. It is notable that this and the later Synod of Kells, which completed the arrangements begun at Rathbrassil, belong to the era before the arrival in Ireland of the Anglo-Normans. They do belong, however, to the great era of reform in the Church which we associate with the founding of the Cistercians. Those Gothic cathedrals were beginning to dot the skyline of Europe, universities were beginning to appear and the medieval papacy was breaking free of the control of the monarchies to soon exert a European authority that they could only dream about.
The Anglo-Normans would bring the French language to Ireland, and it remained the language of administration for centuries. When the future Earl of Desmond (earl 1329-1356) wrote to the King Edward II in July 1315, during the war of Edward Bruce in Ireland, the language he used was French. He explained to the King that he would shortly join the war effort, but until now he had to deal with a rising of the Irish in Desmond.
Edward III’s mother was French (the wife of Edward II), and he claimed to be king of France as well as England from the point when the first of the Valois family claimed the French throne. So Edward invaded France and started the Hundred Years War.
Edward III was still alive (but the Earl of Desmond dead) when the Statutes of Kilkenny (1366) tried to curb the use of the Irish language among the Anglo-Norman colony in Ireland. Edward’s rule extended only to the Anglo-Norman colony. There was to be no more intermarriage with the Irish, no fosterage of children among them; saddles were to be use, and English dress worn, and “the game which men call hurling” was to be discouraged among the common people.
But the Irish language made steady inroads among the Anglo-Normans. The fourth Earl of Desmond (d. 1398) wrote poetry in Irish which has survived to our day.
A later Earl of Desmond was overthrown because he broke the Statutes of Kilkenny. This was Thomas, 6th Earl. He married McCormack’s daughter, a poor Irish girl. The Earl’s uncle used the marriage as an excuse to usurp the earldom and exile Thomas to France, which happened about the time the English re-invaded France. Thomas died in Rouen.
In Rouen I seem to recall a statue of Joan of Arc, who liberated France. Her birth in 1412 will be commemorated next year. The London Times has already advertised the revival of an opera on her life. It was this peasant girl from Lorraine who rallied the French against the Anglo-Burgundian alliance . She inspired the expulsion of the English, which brought an end to the Hundred Years War. She paid with her life, being burned at the stake by the enemy.
The usurper Earl of Desmond profited from the fact that England was tied down in France; in the Irish annals he is known as the great Earl.