Kingdom of Ossory
|Kingdom of Ossory
(Irish) Osraige or Osraighe
Ireland circa 900
|-||c.150 AD||Óengus Osrithe|
|-||d. 1176 or 1185 AD||Domnall Mac Giolla Phádraig|
|-||Kingdom of Ossory||c.150 AD|
|Dál Birn Osraige|
|Parent house||Ulaid / Érainn|
Kingdom of Ireland titles:
The kingdom of Ossory (Old Irish: Osraige, or Osraighe, Irish: Osraí) was an ancient tribal kingdom of Ireland dating from the second century after Christ, and continued to exist as a functioning kingdom through the beginning of the Norman Invasion of Ireland, after which it apparently splintered into warring regions and collapsed. The northern third of the former kingdom, known to history as Upper Ossory remained independent until the Tudor period, when eventually it was formally incorporated into a barony by the same name under English rule.
The ancient Osraige inhabited the fertile land around the River Nore valley, occupying nearly all of what is modern County Kilkenny and the western half of neighbouring County Laois. To the west and south, Osraige was bounded by the River Suir and what is now Waterford Harbour; to the east, the watershed of the River Barrow marked the boundary with Leinster; to the north it extended into and beyond the Slieve Bloom Mountains. Their tribal name thus became the name of the territory they occupied. The kingdom's most significant neighbours were the Loígsi, Uí Ceinnselaig and Uí Bairrche of Leinster to the north and east and the Déisi, Eóganacht Chaisil and Éile of Munster to the south and west.
Politically, Osraige was once considered the easternmost kingdom within the province or over-kingdom (Irish: Rí ruirech) of Munster until the middle of the ninth century, after which it formally seceded and later unofficially merged into greater Leinster. While seen as a buffer state between these two provinces, Ossory eventually proved powerful enough in the high medieval period to rise almost to provincial status in its own right, although its kings never vied for the high kingship. Amongst the Osraighe, the ruling lineage was known as the Dál Birn. There are several sources which indicate that after several centuries, the throne of Osraige was usurped by allied foreign kings from southwest Munster towards the beginning of the historical period; by a once-powerful tribe called the Corcu Loígde or Dáirine. The Corcu Loígde kings ruled the greater portion of southern Osraige around the Nore valley for more than a century before the rise of the Eóganachta by the seventh century. The gens is said to have provided a number of pre-historic kings of Munster under the alliance. The new political configuration, probably the result of an Uí Néill-Eóganachta alliance against the Corcu Loígde, caused a reduction in Ossory's relative status. Yet as a result, the Osraige were able to cast off the Corcu Loígde and the Dál Birn returned to power by the end of sixth century.
Origins and History
The name tribal name Osraige means "people of the deer", and is traditionally claimed to be taken from name of ruling dynasty's semi-legendary pre-Christian founder, Óengus Osrithe. The Osraige were probably either a southern branch of the Ulaid or Dál Fiatach of Ulster, and/or quite possibly close kin to their former Corcu Loígde allies. In either case it would appear they should properly be counted among the Érainn. Scholars believe that the Laigin pedigree of the Osraige is a fabrication, invented to help them achieve their goals in Leinster. Francis John Byrne suggests that it may date from the time of Cearbhaill mac Dúnlainge.
Ptolemy's 2nd century map of Ireland places a tribe he called the "Usdaie" roughly in the same area that the Osraige occupied. The territory indicated by Ptolemy likely included the major late Iron Age hill-fort at Freestone Hill and a Roman burial site at Stonyford, both in County Kilkenny and dates to the 1st century AD. The Osraighe themselves claimed to be descended from the Érainn people, although scholars propose that the Ivernic groups included the Osraige.
Surviving hagiographic works, especially those relating to St. Ciaran of Saighir attest that Osraige was the first Irish kingdom to receive a Christian episcopacy even before the arrival of St. Patrick; however most modern scholars dispute this.
In historic times the territory was first ruled by the Dál Birn lineage, but they were displaced for a period by the Corcu Loígde of south Munster. According to the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland, by 583 AD the Dál Birn (also known therein as Clann Connla) had reclaimed their old patrimony. Originally granted semi-independent status within the province of Mumu, the war-like and victorious rule of king Cerball mac Dúnlainge birthed a dramatic rise in Ossory's power and prestige, and he successfully forced his brother-in-law Ard Ri Máel Sechnaill mac Máele Ruanaid to grant Ossory fully independent status, thereby officially severing it from Munster in 859. By the late tenth century, the hereditary ruling descendants of Ossory after Cerbhall had adopted the surname Mac Giolla Phádraig. During this period, one king Donnchadh Mac Giolla Phádraig, successfully conquered neighboring Leinster in 1033 and ruled it until his death in 1039. By the mid-twelfth century, in-fighting had erupted within the dynasty and temporarily split the kingdom into three warring territories. After the Norman Invasion of Ireland, William Marshal was largely responsible for routing the Mac Giolla Phádraigs from their southern powerbase around the River Nore, leaving them the remaining northern third of their patrimony, ever-after known as "Upper Ossory". The Butler dynasty later inherited most of southern Ossory and administrated it from Kilkenny city as part of the Earls of Ossory, from which County Kilkenny was shired. It is believed by some that a Mac Giolla Phádraig fort first stood on the site of the present Kilkenny Castle. Brian Mac Giolla Phádraig was the first Irish noble to acquiesce under the Tudor policy of surrender and regrant, and subsequently his clan's name was anglicised as Fitzpatrick upon his formal submission to Henry VIII of England in 1537. In 1541 The Mac Giolla Phádraig was ennobled as Baron Upper Ossory. Other members of the family were subsequently created Earl of Upper Ossory and Baron Castletown, the last of whom, Bernard FitzPatrick, 2nd Baron Castletown, died in 1927, thus marking that Ossorian lineage as one of the oldest known or most continuous dynasties in Western Europe.
A celebrated king of Osraige was Cerball mac Dúnlainge, the direct male progenitor of the Mac Giolla Phádraig dynasts of Ossory, and who also gave his patronymic to the O'Carroll (Ó Cearbhail) family in nearby Éile. He was also close enough to the Norse–Gaels that he features as Kjarvalr Írakonungr in many medieval Icelandic pedigrees through his daughters.
Gofraid mac Arailt, King of the Isles, through his daughter Mael Muire, appears to have been the maternal grandfather of Donnchad mac Gilla Pátraic, the Osraige king of Leinster. Thus the Mac Giolla Phádraigs or Fitzpatricks of Ossory are probably matrilineal descendants of the Uí Ímair. Cerball was an ally of their (probable) founder Ívar the Boneless, the Viking king of Waterford. It is also possible that Donnchad's father, Gilla Pátraic mac Donnchada, was somehow a relation of Ívar the Boneless, who had a son named Gilla Pátraic.
The kingdom of Ossory produced a number of noteworthy Christian saints, working both within Ireland and abroad on the continent whose impact and memory are greater than its kings. St. Ciarán of Saighir "The Elder", himself a scion of the Ossorian ruling Dál Birn lineage is reputed to have evangelized the kingdom before the arrival of St. Patrick who also preached there. (In Cornwall he is identified as one with Saint Piran.) St. Ciarán's see was succeeded by his disciple, St. Carthage the Elder. In the sixth century, St. Cainnech of Aghaboe established two monastic centers in Aghaboe and Kilkenny, now named after him. St. Modomnoc of Ossory traveled there from Wales as a disciple of St. David, and is reputed to have brought Ireland's first colonies of domesticated honeybees. St. Nem Moccu Birn, successor to St. Enda of Aran is recorded as having been also of the Dál Birn of Ossory and a kinsmen of St. Ciarán of Saighir. In the eighth century, St. Fergal was an abbot of Aghaboe and later traveled to Franconia where he was well-received by Pippin the Younger. By invitation of Odilo, Duke of Bavaria he arrived at Salzburg and was eventually made bishop there, being known ever after as St. Vergilius of Salzburg the geometer. The Félire Óengusso states that Óengus of Tallaght was born in northern Ossory at Clúain Édnech (Clonenagh, Co. Laois).
Overlap with the Diocese of Ossory
The medieval Diocese of Ossory covered much the same region. In the earliest times, the church at Domnach Mór Roigni (now Donaghmore, County Laois) may have been the chief church in Osraige, but in historic times it had been eclipsed by Aghaboe (County Laois), chief church of Saint Cainnech, since replaced by Kilkenny, and Seir Kieran (County Offaly), chief church of St Ciarán. The record of the Irish annals also points to Freshford, County Kilkenny being of some importance, while archaeological evidence suggests that Kilkieran, Killamery and Kilree (all County Kilkenny) were significant ecclesiastical sites.
In Literature and Culture
The Osraige appear as the final opponents of their southern neighbors the Déisi in the cycle The Expulsion of the Déisi. While portrayed as unconquerable in battle, the Osraige are eventually overcome by the Déisi in the end by magic and treachery and thus cede to them the southern territory they ever-after occupied. The politics and history of the kingdom are well-attested to in the various Irish Annals in which Osraige is often presented as a major kingdom. Strongly associated with the 11th century rule of Donnchad Mac Giolla Phádraig (who reigned as king over Leinster until his death in 1039 AD) are the Fragmentary Annals of Ireland which are famous for their heroic portrayal of the 9th century Ossorian king Cerball mac Dúnlainge in his many victorious struggles against pagan Vikings in Ireland. The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland were believed to be commissioned by Donnchad Mac Giolla Phádraig as historical propaganda for Osraige's rise to power, and likely influenced the creation of other later pseudo-chronicles such as Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib. Cerbhall himself is listed as "Kjarval, king of the Irish" (Kjarvals Írakonungs) in the Icelandic genealogies recorded within Njal's Saga, and through his daughters is reckoned as an ancestor of several important Icelandic families. The kingdom of Osraige also features prominently in two works by Gerald of Wales on Ireland, Topographia Hibernica and Expugnatio Hibernica. In addition, Ossory features prominently as a setting for scenes in the Norman-French lay The Song of Dermot and the Earl.
- Bishop of Ossory
- Cerball mac Dúnlainge
- Fitzpatrick (surname)
- The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland
- Irish royal families
- Kings of Leinster
- Kings of Osraige
- List of Irish kings
- Ossory (disambiguation)
- Piers Butler, 8th Earl of Ormond
- William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
- Annals of Loch Cé 1185.15
- Genealogies from Rawlinson B502
- Annals of Loch Cé 1185.15, Four Masters 1185
- Annals of Ulster 1033.4, Annals of Loch Cé 1033.3, Annals of Tigernach 1033.5
- Byrne, Irish kings and high-kings, maps on pp. 133 & 172–173; Charles-Edwards, Early Christian Ireland, p. 236, map 9 & p. 532, map 13.
- Charles-Edwards 2000
- Genealogies from Rawlinson B 502, at CELT, pg 15-16
- Byrne, p. 201
- Ó Néill, 'Osraige'; Doherty, 'Érainn'
- Byrne, p. 163
- Ptolemy's map of Ireland: a modern decoding. R. Darcy, William Flynn. Irish Geography Vol. 41, Iss. 1, 2008. Figure 1.
- Fragmentary Annals of Ireland 4
- Annals of Ulster 859.3
- Fragmentary Annals of Ireland 265, and 268
- P. McEvoy; additionally Kilkenny Castle staff
- St. Piran Trust http://www.stpiran.org/st-piran.html
- Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hibernica http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/topography_ireland.pdf
- Óengus mac Óengobann, The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G200001/index.html
- Downham, "Career", p. 7; Mac Niocaill, Ireland before the Vikings, pp. 3–4.
- Downham, "Career", p. 7; Charles-Edwards, Early Christian Ireland, pp. 292–294; Byrne, Irish kings and high-kings, pp. 180–181.
- Joan N. Radner (ed. & trans.) Fragmentary annals of Ireland (Dublin 1978)
- Byrne, Francis John, Irish Kings and High-Kings, London: Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-5882-8
- Charles-Edwards, T. M. (2000), Early Christian Ireland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-36395-0
- Charles Doherty, 'Érainn', in Seán Duffy (ed.), Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. 2005. p. 156.
- Downham, Clare (2004), "The career of Cearbhall of Osraige", Ossory, Laois and Leinster 1: 1–18, ISSN 1649-4938
- Mac Niocaill, Gearóid (1972), Ireland before the Vikings, The Gill History of Ireland 1, Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, ISBN 0-7171-0558-X
- Pádraig Ó Néill, 'Osraige', in Seán Duffy (ed.), Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. 2005. p. 358
- "The FitzPatricks of Ossory", T. Lyng, Old Kilkenny Review, Vol. 2, no. 3, 1981.
- The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland (English trans.) at CELT
- The Annals of Ulster (English trans.) at CELT
- The Annals of Loch Cé (English trans.) at CELT
- Genealogies from Rawlinson B502 at CELT
- Irish Geography; Volume 41, Issue 1, 2008
- Irish History in Maps, "The Osraighe Region"
- Cooleeshalmore archeology
- Ossory on Encyclopædia Britannica
- Article on Ossory – 1911encyclopedia.org
- Baldwin, Stewart. Kings of Osraige (Ossory)
- St. Piran's Oratory
- OLL (Ossory, Laois, and Leinster)