Synod of Kells

The Synod of Kells took place in AD 1152, under the presidency of Cardinal Paparoni, and continued the process begun at the Synod of Rathbreasail of reforming the Irish church. The sessions were divided between the abbeys of Kells and Mellifont, and in later times the synod has been called the Synod of Kells-Mellifont and the Synod of Mellifont-Kells.

Its main effect was to increase the number of archbishops from two to four, and to redefine the number and size of dioceses. The Primacy of Ireland was granted to the Archdiocese of Armagh.


Máel Máedóc Ua Morgair (Saint Malachy) was made a priest in 1119, as vicar to Celsus. His first sees were Down and Connor, and he was located at Bangor Abbey. On the death of Celsus in 1129, Malachy was nominated as his successor at Armagh, now the prime see in Ireland. An internal church dispute over the succession and proposals for reform obliged him to concede the position to Gelasius. In 1137, Gelasius, lacking papal confirmation of the appointment of Malachy by Rome asked him to secure the archbishop's pallium at the hands of the Pope or his legate. Malachy reached Rome but the Pope, Innocent II, would only grant the pallia to Malachy at the request of an Irish National Synod. To facilitate this, he made Malachy his papal legate. Malachy then returned to Ireland accompanied by a number of Cistercian monks provided by St. Bernard.[1]

The synod of Kells

In 1148 a synod of bishops was assembled at Inispatric. Malachy set out on a second journey to Rome, but died on the way at Clairvaux, France, in November. A synod was summoned to Kells in 1152. This synod approved the consecration of four archbishops. Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, the High King of Ireland, approved the decrees, and the pallia were conferred by the Papal Legate Cardinal Giovanni Paparoni.

Ireland was divided into thirty-six sees, and four metropolitan sees: Armagh, Cashel, Tuam, and Dublin. Armagh was granted Primacy (see Primacy of Ireland). The diocese of Dublin, ruled by the Ostmen (Hiberno-Norse), seceded from Canterbury and was united with Glendalough. Gregory, the incumbent bishop, accepted the new title and Ostman separatism came to an end.[1]

The diocesan system

The diocesan system was further reorganised, with the number of metropolitan provinces being increased from two to four, by raising the dioceses of Dublin and Tuam to archdioceses. The four provinces of Armagh, Cashel, Dublin and Tuam corresponded to the contemporary boundaries of the provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht respectively.

The diocesan structure established by the synod largely survived until the sixteenth century, and still forms the basis of the territorial structure of both the Roman Catholic church and the reformed Anglican Protestant Church of Ireland, with many of the sees now merged.

Provinces and dioceses

Province of Armagh

Province of Cashel

Province of Dublin

Province of Tuam

See also


  1. 1 2 Curtis, Edmund (2002). A History of Ireland from Earliest Times to 1922. New York: Routledge. pp. 38–39. ISBN 0-415-27949-6.


External links

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