Theme and variations: Christianity and regional landscapes in early medieval Ireland

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Boazman, Gillian Madeleine
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores the impact of Christianity on the landscape in Ireland from the conversion period to the coming of the Anglo-Normans. The premise is that ecclesiastical and secular settlement formed a cohesive whole which characterised the societal organisation of early medieval Ireland. The matter of the thesis is to isolate some of the agents of cohesion to see was this homogenous or did it vary in different areas. One of these agents was the ownership of land and the thesis undertakes to identify ecclesiastical landholding and examine the manner of settlement on it. A corollary is to explore the contribution of the genealogical link between kin-group, founding saint and territory to the construction of local identities. This necessitated a narrow focus; thus small study areas were chosen, which approximated to early medieval kingdoms in North Louth, Rathdown, Co Dublin and Ross, Co Cork. A multidisciplinary approach was taken using both archaeological and documentary evidence. The thesis found ecclesiastical sites were at the same density through the study areas, but there were considerable regional variations in related secular settlement. Ecclesiastical estates were identified in the three study areas and common settlement patterns were found in two of them. Settlement in all areas indicated the foundation of minor churches by local groups. Ecclesiastical sites were found to be integral to kin-group identity and status, but the manner in which each group negotiated this, was very different. Finally the thesis examined material evidence for a change from diffused to concentrated power in the political organisation of Irish society, a process entwined with developments of the Viking Age. This centralisation of power and associated re-formation of identity was still often mediated through the ecclesiastical sphere but the thesis demonstrates diversity in the materialising of the mediation.
Early medieval Ireland , Settlement patterns , Ecclesiastical estates , Regional variations
Boazman, G. M. 2014. Theme and variations: Christianity and regional landscapes in early medieval Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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