History of the Diocese of Clogher

By Ryan, Salvador | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2006 | Go to article overview

History of the Diocese of Clogher


Ryan, Salvador, The Catholic Historical Review


History of the Diocese of Clogher. Edited by Henry A. Jefferies. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. Distributed in the United States by ISBS, Portland, Oregon. 2005. Pp. 249. $65.00.)

The Irish diocese of Clogher, which incorporates County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh, and portions of counties Cavan, Donegal, Louth, and Tyrone, has the good fortune of possessing many rich and important historical records. The Clogher Historical Society, which has produced the weErespected journal Clogher Record since 1953, has ensured that a lively interest in ecclesiastical history continues in the diocese to this day. This volume builds upon this strong tradition of historical scholarship by making available npotpourri of important articles which cast light not just on Clogher but also on significant national historical questions.

The editor, Henry A. Jefferies, admits that the volume does not pretend to be exhaustive, and this is borne out by the lack of treatment given to the early modern period: nevertheless, there is much to recommend this collection. Charles Doherty begins with a study of the early cult of St. Molaisse, arguing that the ecclesiastical site of Devenish was an important and powerful force from the early seventh century, with wide jurisdiction, and that the status of Armagh, with the support of the Airgialla dynasty, only increased considerably around the year 640. Cormac Bourke traces a number of significant metalwork survivals from the early medieval period and in particular saints' beEs. Katharine Walsh, in a substantial and comprehensive article, examines evidence for the popularity of St. Patrick's Purgatory (Lough Derg) among late medieval continental pilgrims and provides much that is new and original. Brendan Smith explores diocesan relations in the late medieval period, with particular reference to papal interventions and the relationship between the bishop of Clogher and the archbishop of Armagh, which varied from collaborative to hostile. Henry A. Jefferies, in a ground-breaking study of the papal registers referring to Clogher, challenges the view that the late medieval Irish church was on the verge of "total breakdown." His systematic examination of the registers reveals some significant statistics, which call into question previous generalizations. A second article by Jefferies, which assesses the career of Dr. Hugh MacMahon, vicar general and later bishop of Clogher from 1707 to 1715, also constitutes a fascinating yet accessible study of the practicalities of living under the penal laws in one Irish diocese.

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