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The Letters of Pope Innocent III to Ireland

  • P.J. Dunning (a1)


The purpose of this short communication is to call attention to an attempt to establish a definitive calendar of Pope Innocent III’s letters to Ireland, and also to indicate very briefly the value of those letters. The two chief ways in which papal letters have been transmitted are through originals or through copies. Copies of letters have survived in a variety of ways: in monastic or episcopal cartularies, in the rolls of royal chancery, in collections of canon law, but for this period mainly in the official papal registers.

The dispersal of monastic archives during the Reformation period, together with the deliberate destruction of papal letters after 1536, partly explains why comparatively few original papal letters of medieval popes to the British Isles have survived. For Ireland, only five original letters of Innocent III are at present known to exist. Two of these are confirmations of property: one to the monastery of St Andrew of Stokes of its possessions in Ireland; and the other to the convent of Graney. The three remaining letters are connected with the peace settlement between Pope Innocent III and King John.



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Page 154 of note 1 Eton College, Stogursey Charters, ed., Tremlett, T. D. and Blakiston, N., Somerset Record Society, LXI (1949 for 1946), No. 151 .

Page 154 of note 2 B.M. Add. MS 4792, ff. 114-15.

Page 154 of note 3 P.R.O. Papal bulls, 19(18).

Page 154 of note 4 B.M. Cotton MS Cleopatra E.I, f. 149.

Page 154 of note 5 B.M. Cotton Charter, VIII, 24.

Page 155 of note 1 The copy which Queinsert made is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris: Moreau collection 101, ff. 3-4. The letter has been printed by A. Gosse, Histoire de l’abbaye et l’ancienne congrégation des chanoines réguliers d’Arrouaise, Lille 1786, 430, and PL, CCXVII, 67.

Page 155 of note 2 Reg. Vat. 8A also lists two letters from the third year of the pontificate which have survived in the defective register for that year (Reg. Vat. 5).

Page 155 of note 3 The text of the letter to Archbishop Henry of Dublin, confirming the union of the see of Glendaloch with Dublin, is contained in Archbishop Alen’s Register; the text of the pope’s exhortation to the king of Connacht to implement the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council is contained in a thirteenth-century collection of law formularies and papal letters preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the text of the solemn privilegium to Archbishop Henry of Dublin, dated 18 May 1216, has been preserved in the Dublin register known as the Crede Mihi. Cf.Dunning, P. J., ‘The Letters of Pope Innocent III to Ireland,’ Traditio, XVIII (1962), 246-7, nos. 63, 67 and 71.

Page 156 of note 1 The text of the original letter had been published in Dugdale, W., Monasticon Anglicanum, edd. Caley, J., etc, London 1817-30, VI, 2, 1125 .

Page 156 of note 2 The text of the original had been published by both Wilkins, D., Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae, London 1737, 1, 541 and Rymer, J., Foedera (1816 ed.), 1, 1, 119 .

Page 156 of note 3 A copy of this letter is preserved in Archbishop Alen’s register, and in the register of the priory of All Hallows, Dublin. The Rev. Richard Butler published the text in his edition of Registrum Prioratus Omnium Sanctorum, Dublin 1844.

Page 156 of note 4 In this Calendar the confirmation to the prior and monks of St Andrew at Ards (No. 30) is wrongly described as an original; the original letter is the confirmation of properties, including those in Ireland, granted to the prior and monks of St Andrew of Stokes (Calendar No. 31), and preserved among the Stogursey Charters at Eton College. The priory of St Andrew in Ards was a dependency of St Andrew of Stokes, founded in the late-twelfth century by John de Courci. An earlier, and now outdated, calendar of additions to Potthast and Bliss was published in 1947: Dunning, ‘Letters of Pope Innocent III to Ireland,’ Archivium Hibernicum, XIII (1947), 27-44.

Page 157 of note 1 C. R. Cheney and W. H. Semple, edd., Selected Letters of Pope Innocent III concerning England, Nelson’s Medieval Texts, 1953, xix.

Page 157 of note 2 Cf. McNeill, ed., Registrum de Kilmainham (Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1932), 139.

Page 157 of note 3 Text and translation in Cheney and Semple, ed. cit. 68-78.

Page 157 of note 4 C. Sept.-Oct. 1200. Reg. Vat. 5, f. 2 υ ; Reg. Vat. 8A, f.6 γ ; PL. CCXIV, 875.

Page 157 of note 5 C. March, 1198. Reg. Vat. 4, f. 16 υ ; PL. CCXIV, 55.

Page 157 of note 6 C.Sept. 1202. Reg. Vat. 5, ff. 47 υ -48 υ ; PL. CCXIV, 1066.

Page 157 of note 7 On the dangers involved in using such letters as sources, sec Cheney, , ‘The Letters of Pope Innocent III,’ Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, XXXV (1952), 2343 ; Dunning, , ‘The letters of Pope Innocent III as a source for Irish history,’ Proceedings of the Irish Catholic Historical Committee 1958, Dublin 1959, 110 .

Page 158 of note 1 Dunning, , ‘Pope Innocent III and the Ross election controversy,’ Irish Theological Quarterly, XXVI (1959), 346-59, and ‘Pope Innocent III and the Waterford-Lismore controversy, 1198-1216,’ ibid, XXVIII (1961), 215-32; idem., ‘Irish representatives and Irish ecclesiastical affairs at the Fourth Lateran Council,’ Medieval Studies presented to Aubrey Gwynn, S.J., Dublin 1961, 90-113; idem, ‘Sidelights on the Bishop of Raphoe from the register of Innocent III,’ Foster John Colgan, O.F.M., 1592-1658: Essays in commemoration of the third centenary of his death, Dublin 1959, 50-60.

Page 158 of note 2 Idem, ‘Pope Innocent III and the Irish kings,’ JEH, VIII (1957), 17-32.

Page 159 of note 1 In the published articles already referred to, and in particular in an unpublished doctoral dissertation presented to the National University of Ireland in 1960 (from which I hope to publish further material in the near future). In October 1962, the Rev. M. P. Sheehy published a critical edition of the letters of Innocent III to Ireland in his Pontificia Hibernica: medieval papal chancery documents concerning Ireland, 640-1261, Dublin, 1, 93-181. Fr. Sheehy includes one letter (a confirmation to the prior and canons of Holy Trinity, Dublin, c.March 1216) which was unaccountably omitted by me in my revised calendar in Traditio, XVIII (1962), 229-53. This publication had not been advertised and it came to my notice after the text of this article had been written.

The Letters of Pope Innocent III to Ireland

  • P.J. Dunning (a1)


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