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A Brief History - Reformation(1536) - Disestablishment(1871)

A Brief History - Reformation(1536) - Disestablishment(1871)


A Brief History Part II: Reformation (1536) - Disestablishment (1871):

All pre-Reformation archbishops were English with the sole exception of the Anglo-Irishman, Walter Fitzsimons (1484-1511), who crowned Lambert Simnel, King Edward VI at Christ Church, a direct (and ultimately unsuccessful) challenge to King Henry VII of England. The event did little for the prospects of future Irish-born archbishops!

King Henry VIII’s desire to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the Pope’s refusal to grant it resulted in breaking the link between the Church of England and the Papacy. By 1534, the English Parliament had declared Henry VIII head of the Church of England. Two years later, the Irish Parliament declared him head of the Church of Ireland. Initially the dispute was a jurisdictional one and while Henry desired independence from the Papacy, he was a theological conservative. His reign saw the socially and architecturally traumatic dissolution of the monasteries which was met with much resistance, not least from the chapters of the two Dublin cathedrals. Henry VIII’s successors, Edward VI (1547-1553) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603) were more reform-minded and their reigns marked the introduction of Protestantism. This was not consolidated until 1603-25, under James I, when the Counter-Reformation was gaining strength.

The reformation split the Irish church. The established Church of Ireland was protestant, state approved and supported. The Roman Catholic church was regarded with hostility and suspicion by the authorities but nevertheless supported by the majority of the people, particularly outside Dublin, where the crown’s authority was weakest. Each church maintained it was the authentic successor of the pre-Reformation Irish church. The plantations of Ulster in 1610 saw the introduction of Presbyterianism to Ireland. The fourth major Christian church in Ireland today, the Methodist church, dates from the first visit to Ireland by John Wesley in 1747.

The expansion of Dublin in the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) and into the early eighteenth century saw the subdivision of a number of parishes and the consequent building of new churches, particularly under Archbishop William King. Following the act of union in 1800, a Board of First Fruits was established which allowed the building of many new churches, often to the detriment of the medieval fabric. A metropolitan chapel of St Mary’s later to become the Pro-Cathedral was completed in 1825 as part of a rising tide of Roman Catholic empowerment further evidenced by Daniel O’Connell’s successful campaign for Catholic Emancipation.

In 1833, a Church Temporalities Act was passed to address the fact that the Church of Ireland, despite being a minority church, had an improbable 22 bishoprics, many with tiny congregations. The act confiscated much of the property of the church and amalgamated several dioceses to leave 2 archbishops and 10 bishops (reducing two archbishoprics, Cashel and Tuam, to bishoprics in the process). The act also united the diocese of Kildare on the death of its bishop, with that of Dublin and Glendalough. The deaneries of the two cathedrals were also amalgamated. Charles Lindsay was both bishop of Kildare and dean of Christ Church, a position which had been jointly held since 1681, and these changes took place on his death in 1846.

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Early Years (c.520) - Reformation (1536)
Disestablishment (1871) – Modern Times
Bibliography