chapter  6
33 Pages

The Church

The historical background It is important to give a brief outline of the history of the early medieval Irish Church in order to illuminate the archaeological evidence. It may also serve to highlight some of the questions which archaeology should try to answer. The written sources are of great variety. They include the moving testimony of Patrick himself; ascetic rules and penitentials for early monks and converts; ecclesiastical legislation which helped to secure the position of the Church in early Irish society; early lives of saints written to enhance their growing cults; hymns, prayers and poetry; and the terse documentation of events recorded in the annals.1 Other forms of evidence may also be used, such as the study of place-names or Latin Christian loanwords in Old Irish.