Synod of Ráth Breasail

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Dioceses of the Metropolitan Province of Cashel.

The Synod of Ráth Breasail (also known as Rathbreasail) (Irish: Sionad Ráth Bhreasail) was an Irish national church council which took place in Ireland in 1111.[1] It marked the transition of the Irish church from a monastic to a diocesan and parish-based church. Many Irish present day dioceses trace their boundaries to decisions made at the synod.

The synod was attended by no fewer than fifty bishops, three hundred priests and over three thousand laymen. It established two provinces: Armagh and Cashel. Each province consisted of twelve territorial dioceses. The boundaries of the dioceses were only vaguely defined, however. The synod also made the See of Waterford a suffragan of the Archbishop of Cashel having previously been a Danish city subject to Canterbury.

The papal legate giving authority to the Synod was Gille, Bishop of Limerick.[2] Gille is not mentioned in the Irish Annals, possibly because Limerick was then a Hiberno-Norse city.

It was the second of four great reforming Irish synods, the other three were at Cashel (1101), Kells-Mellifont (1152) and Cashel again (1172). Rathbreasail is near Mountrath, County Laois, a suitably central place for such an important meeting, however the location of the Synod is not certain and sites in counties Armagh, Laois, Tipperary and Cork have been mooted possible locations. Ó Murchada (1999) argues in favour of a location near the townland of Clonbrassil about 4 miles south-west of Templemore, Co. Tipperary in the present-day parish of Drom & Inch.[3]

Dioceses established[edit]

The following 24 dioceses were established by the synod:

The Diocese of Dublin acknowledged the jurisdiction of Canterbury until 1096, but was not included in the list of dioceses at the synod. It was not incorporated into the system of Irish dioceses until the Synod of Kells in 1152.

Dictatus papae[edit]

Main article: Gregorian Reform

The Synod's deliberations were guided by the relatively new powers of the Papacy that were specified in Dictatus papae (1075–87) and Libertas ecclesiae (1079).


External links[edit]


  1. ^ Diarmuid Ó Murchadha,Placename Material from Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn; ÉIGSE (2005) p. 93:
  2. ^ Fleming J., "Gille of Limerick, architect of a medieval church" Four Courts Press, Dublin 2001.
  3. ^ Ó Murchada (1999) "Where was Ráith Breasail?" in Tipperary Historical Journal