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Church of Ireland

This owes its origin to Patrick,* who was loyal to the church order of his times and particularly to the customs of the church in Gaul where he had been trained and ordained. The latter included a preference for the monastic system, which at first was concerned with the education of men and boys of high social rank and later developed a zeal for evangelism. In the century after Patrick's death, Brigid introduced a convent system at Kildare with a special concern for the poor.

The Church of Ireland retained her independence from the see of Rome, though surrendering her practice in favor of the Roman observance of Easter in 704. Roman influence was seen in the Irish Prayer Book at the end of the seventh century. Extreme sufferings were endured during the Viking invasions from 795 to 1014. Monasteries and churches were plundered and ruined, the people and their pastors were led captive or put to death, and standards of culture and of religion inevitably suffered. The defeat of the invaders brought quieter times, and in the twelfth century the constitution of the church was reformed.

The period from 1200 to 1500 saw the transfer of authority to English government, the building of some fine cathedrals, and the development of a distinctive spiritual character. The breach with Rome in the sixteenth century heralded a return to a measure of independence, and while the Reformation was inadequate in origin, the Irish Articles* were strongly Calvinistic, her bishops were commendable for their soundness and piety, and the founding of the university in Dublin in 1591 was a mark of progress.

The Church of Ireland bridged the gap between the people of the land and the ruling classes. She survived the tragedy of the 1641 rebellion, the pressures of Cromwell-and there was no gap in the succession of her bishops. The progress of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was steady, but the census of 1861 showed that the church had claim on only one-eighth of the total population. The Church of Ireland (disestablished in 1869-70) has made an outstanding contribution to culture and government and is well geared today for work especially in education and in the industrial areas of the country.

See Ireland for bibliography.