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The Norman Invasion and its impact on the Church.

In the same year as the Synod of Kells, Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster abducted Devorgilla, wife of Tigernain O'Rourke of Breffni, and kept her for a year at Ferns. When in 1166, O'Rourke sought revenge, Dermot fled to France to seek help from King Henry II, in a bid to recover his position in Leinster. Henry gave him permission to recruit help from the Welsh Earls, thus sparking the Norman Invasion.

In 1170, Richard de Clare (Strongbow), Earl of Pembroke landed at Waterford and married Aoife, daughter of Dermot, in Reginalds Tower. He then proceeded to Dublin and when Dermot died the following year he took control of Leinster. Subsequently other Norman families settled in various parts of Ireland. In the Cork/Kerry region the prominent Norman settlers were the Fitzgeralds (East Cork, North Kerry and Limerick), the Barrys and Roches (Mallow - Fermoy and Carrigtoohill area), de Cogan and Barretts in mid-Cork and the Fitzmaurice, Stack and de Valles in County Kerry.

There were no Norman settlers in the region of West Muskerry. This was due to the fact that Finghin McCarthy of Desmond won a decisive victory over the Norman invaders at the Battle of Callan, near Kilgarvan, in 1261. His clan then established their lordship over wide areas of Cork (Muskerry and Carberry) and Kerry (Magunihy and Loch Lein) and retained it for approximately 400 years. The famed Blarney Castle became the stronghold of the McCarthys of Muskerry, who built many Tower Houses throughout the Barony. It was not until the mid 15th Century, when the castles of Kilmeedy, Drishane and Dooneen were built, that their influence extended to the Millstreet area.

The legacy of the Norman Invasion.

One of the legacies of the Normans was the introduction of several new religious orders to the diocese - the Cistercians, Canons Regulars of St Augustine and the mendicant friars viz. Dominican and Franciscan. There is no evidence of any early monastic foundation in thisjarea, although Smith, in his 'History of Cork' (1756), and Gwynn/ Hadcock in 'Medieval Religious Houses' (1970), attribute an early nunnery to Cullen. Smith writes: "Near the church are some ruins said to have been an ancient nunnery not mentioned in any record." (p. 272). The nearest religious houses would have been a community of


Canons Regular at Clonmeen (Banteer) and on Inisfallen Island, in the Lakes of Killarney and the Franciscan Friary at Mucross, founded by Donal McCarthy in 1440, which is a famous tourist resort today. The early community of nuns founded by St Gobnait at Ballyvourney survived into medieval times and the shrine continues to be a place of pilgrimage to the present day.

Another consequence of the invasion was the divide between the old Gaelic clans and the new Norman lords. The divide is reflected in the two Arch-deaconries of the Diocese of Ardfert; the one at Ardfert, serving the Norman interest and the other in Aghadoe, serving Gaelic interest.

Various attempts were made by the English authorities to prevent the assimilation of Norman families into Irish Society. The Statutes of Kilkenny (1366) forbade Norman families to speak Irish, to intermarry or to foster their children with Irish families. The attempt proved ineffectual for, as we learned in our school history, many became more Irish than the Irish themselves.

One such instance was the cordial relations between the great Norman family of the Fitzmaurices in Kerry and the native Irish. Maurice Fitzthomas, the first Earl of Desmond and Justiciary of Ireland, was one of the patrons of Geoffrey Fionn O'Dalaigh, the famed bardic poet who lived in Nohoval and whom the Annals referred to as "the arch professor of poetry in Ireland". He wrote a long poem in support of Maurice Og, son of the first Earl, who died in 1358, just two years after his father. In it he expresses the ambivalence of paying court to this great Norman family as well as to the McCarthy More's of Castlelough, who were his chief patrons: "In the poetry for the English we promise that the Gaels shall be banished from Ireland; in the poetry for the Gaels we promise that the English shall be routed across the sea" (Bergin, 1971, p. 73). He addressed another poem to his younger brother Gerald, who was known as Gearoid Iarla and who died in 1398. Gearoid wrote in French and Irish and his Gaelic verses are witty and playful. We recognise him as an Anglo-Norman who was completely absorbed in Gaelic culture, a typical figure of the axiom "ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores" - more Irish than the Irish themselves.

A further consequence was the civil divisions into counties and baronies, which reflects a post-Norman administrative arrangement for secular society. These gradually replaced the older divisions of tuatha or petty kingdoms. M. Richter in his history of Medieval Ireland (1999 p. 147) gives the following dates for the start of the counties - Dublin 1199: Cork and Waterford 1207: Tipperary


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