Episcopal visitations of the Diocese of Meath 1622–1799
Dr Michael O’Neill editor
This is the eighth volume in the texts and calendars series published by Four Courts Press in association with the Representative Church Body Library. The series seeks to provide critical editions of significant Church of Ireland archives and manuscripts with substantial interpretative and explanatory apparatus.
This volume breaks new ground for, while the earlier volumes in the series have dealt solely with different aspects of the life of the parish, this volume is focused on the larger administrative unit of the diocese, seen through the prism of episcopal visitations, and, in particular, those of the diocese of Meath. But while visitation records have much to say about diocesan administration and the effectiveness and fidelity of bishops, they also contain considerable detail about parish life, and when used in conjunction with parish registers and vestry records can be invaluable sources for re–creating how the faithful, and not so faithful, lived out their lives in the shadow of the Church of Ireland.
The survival of visitation records is patchy, due in part to inherent administrative weaknesses in the Church of Ireland, the periodically unsettled state of the country, and the substantial losses caused by the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922. Fortunately there is a sufficient combination of original records and transcriptions to permit a reasonable overview of church life in Meath from the late 17th century to the eve of the 19th century. And so there is much to be learned about finance and administration, church buildings and furnishings, clergy and parish officers, and about how the faithful were ministered to in one of the more important dioceses of the Church of Ireland. To quote the diocesan historian, Canon John Healy, in his iconic two volume History of the diocese of Meath, published in 1908, ‘To trace the history of the Diocese of Meath is … in a great measure, to tell the story of the rise and progress of the Irish Church’.
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Four Courts Press
24.5cm x 16.5cm