glossary
CELTIC CHRISTIANITY

GLOSSARY

Anamchara
lit. 'soulfriend', confessor.

Annal
Record of events in a given year.

Baile
Settlement, town.

Benefit of Clergy
Exemption from trial in the civil court in certain cases, principally in cases of felony, Granted to all in orders, minor as well as major, of clergy and nuns.

Brehon Law
The Gaelic law as interpreted by legal experts.

Cáin
Edict or ordinance; usually denotes enacted law as opposed to traditional or customary law.

Cele
Originally meant client of a lord; used generally with the meaning 'companion'.

Celi De
Clients of God, anglicized as 'Culdees'; an ascetic or anchoritic movement of the 8th and 9th century Irish church.

Clan, clann
Family, sept.

Coarb (Gaelic: comharba=heir, successor)
The successor of the founder of a church or monastery, who as such enjoyed high personal prestige. The office was d anchorite movement of the 8th and 9th centuries.

Derbfine
Literally, "certain kindred" or agnatic (male line) descendants of a common great-grandfather; the normal family unit for legal purposes in early Irish law.

Dísert
Hermitage.

Domnach
Church building.

Eclais
A church.

Eraic
'Wergild': the fixed penalty for homicide.

Erenagh (Gaelic: airchinneach=superior)
An hereditary tenant of church lands. Enjoyed quasi-clerical status. In early Irish Church usage, an abbot or administrator of monastic properties. As with the coarb, the word and the institution kept its vitality because of the continuing connexion with the administration of church property. But if similar in function, the erenagh was of lower status than the coarb, as the usage of the term 'chief erenagh' to describe a coarb testifies. In the later middle ages, the term airchinneach, in the southern half of Ireland, was also used to mean 'archdeacon'.

Familia
Family, monastic community.

Feis
The ritual "mating" of a king with his tuath (q.v.).

Fili
Poet.

Fine
An agnatic kindred group, the basic social unit of early Irish society.

Fosterage
Custom of placing children of aristocratic families into care of other families in order to form political alliances.

Hibernenses
A party of faction within the early Irish church which favoured adaptation to native Irish practices and social customs.

Laudabiliter
Bull granted by Pope Adrian IV to king Henry II of England, authorizing the invasion of Ireland.

Legate
(Papal). A personal representative of the pope, exercising his authority. Three types of representative may be identified in medieval Ireland: (i) the office as held for a number of years by the bishop of an Irish see; (ii) the office exercised by cardinals sent on major missions for a limited period; and (iii) the nuntius, generally a fiscal officer, responsible for the collection of papal taxes.

Liberty of the Church
Signified specific immunities of ecclesiastical persons and possessions from lay jurisdiction.

Metropolitan
The title of a bishop exercising provincial as well as diocesan jurisdiction. Their chief powers were the holding of provincial synods, visitation of dioceses, care of vacant sees in spiritualities, confirmation of bishops-elect, and hearing of people's appeals from lower courts.

Paruchia
Confederation of monastic houses under the overall control of the founder's monastery.

Pelagianism
Doctrine attributed to Pelagius (c.360-420 CE) that salvation could be achieved by man's own efforts and God's grace,not by grace alone.

Peregrinus
A wandering scholar or cleric.

Polygamy
Having a plurality of marriage partners.

Prebend, Prebendary
A cathedral benefice and its holder. The prebend furnished a living to its holder.

Provision
Nomination to an ecclesiastical benefice by the pope or other appropriate authority.

Rector
One who had charge of a parish church and was entitled to the whole tithes of the parish.


A king; any ruler of a small kingdom.

Romani
A party or faction within the early Irish church which favoured sdoption of Roman/orthodox practices in church administration and liturgy.

Temporalities of bishops
The revenues, lands etc which a bishop in his baronial capacity received from the king and which reverted to the king during the vacancy of sees. When a new bishop had been elected and confirmed, the king issued a writ for the restoration of temporalities, for which the bishop swore an oath of fealty or fidelity.

Termon lands (Gaelic: tearmonn)
Territory of a church or monastery, enjoying certain immunities. The sanctuary lands attached to a church (though not all church land was termon land). Enjoyed privileges of sanctuary and protection. The tenants of termon land were called termoners which is thus a generic name for coarbs and erenaghs.

Tithes
The dues paid to maintain the clergy. In the medieval period they were assessed in kind: the tenth part of the fruits of the earth and of a man's labour was owed to the clergy.

Tuath
Literally, "people" whose common bond is rule by a king; or the primary political unit of early Ireland; a small local kingdom ruled by the lowest grade of king.

Vicar
When the tithes of a parish were appropriated or annexed to a religious house or other institution or person, as became common, the appropriator would find a substitute for the rector, paying him a portion of the tithes.