The 'Second Synod of St Patrick' and the 'Romans' of the early Irish Church

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Abstract

It is usually thought that during the seventh century, a formal split in the Irish Church had resulted in the creation of two rival factions: a “Roman party” of reform-minded ecclesiastics, and an “Irish party” intent instead on maintaining current practices. A partial record of their decades-long schism is thought to be preserved in the Irish canonical compilation, the "Collectio canonum Hibernensis", which attributes a substantial number of canons either to “Roman synods” or to “Irish synods,” and we have understood this to reflect a period in which the two groups had sought to advance their cause by holding separate synods from which their opponents were excluded. The foundations for this interpretation of the “Roman” and “Irish” canons of the "Hibernensis" were laid more than a century ago, and this article argues that more recent scholarship provides reasons for rethinking the hypothesis. The article focuses especially on one of the texts which the compilers of the "Hibernensis" understood to be the work of the “Romans” — a short text which has come to be known as the “Second Synod of St Patrick” — and argues that certain details within the text suggest an association with documents produced on the Continent, in the network of monasteries founded by the Irish "peregrinus" Columbanus. I suggest a new context for the creation of the “Second Synod of St Patrick,” and argue that this in turn offers a new way of thinking about the meaning of the “Roman synods” and “Irish synods” attested in the "Hibernensis".
Original languageEnglish
JournalTraditio
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 May 2022

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