Library Dissertation Showcase

The Geographical Origins of Medieval Parishes in Ireland; A Study of the Parish of Clontibret

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2019

In this dissertation I set out to demonstrate how the borders of the Medieval Irish parish of Clontibret were formed. After the Synod of Rathbresail in 1111, the twelfth-century reforms established a vague system of parishes across Ireland, superimposing the western-European parochial system onto the medieval territorial framework of the Gaelic lordships. Co. Monaghan – in which Clontibret lies – avoided any major penetration from the English during the medieval period, and consequentially the pre-existing territorial borders persisted throughout this period. These boundaries can be seen to have still existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, when the landholding system in Ireland was extensively surveyed in order to redistribute Catholic land, and to impose new taxes.

This dissertation will use the retrogressive approach, and will use these maps and surveys from the early modern period to analyse the medieval origins of Clontibret’s borders. From this analysis, I will demonstrate that the borders were gradually altered throughout the medieval and early modern period via a process of subdivision and land-grants – mostly as a result of kin-group politics and private Plantation. I will subsequently demonstrate how the topography of Clontibret directly impacted the shape of its borders, as well as affecting the shape of the smaller townland units – of which the parish is comprised. As there is limited research into this field, many of the assumptions and conclusions in this dissertation will be based of the work of Patrick Duffy, Otway-Ruthven, Thomas McErlean, and Sinéad Ni Ghabhláin.

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