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Saint Cellach

Saint Cellach
  • Century: 11th & 12th Century
  • Patronage: Reformers, Ireland
  • Feast Day: April 1st

St. Cellach was the son of Aed, who had been Abbott of Armagh and the successor of St. Patrick.  At that time, the church had monopolized the office of Abbot of Armagh since 966.  This had been the case, and with this type of secularism to such an extent, that it made church reform necessary.  Even St. Bernard of Clairvaux commented that it was beyond repair.  The problem was that it had become a hereditarily enriched laicized ecclesiastical dynasty, handing it down from one family member to the other.

St. Cellach became the Archbishop of Armagh, and was an important contributor to the reform of the Irish Church in the twelfth century.  Although he was a laicized member of the ecclesiastical dynasty, he took holy vows and gained Priestly ordination.  This put an end to the anomalous state of affairs, in effect since 966 where the supreme head of the Irish Church had been a layman.  Due to this, in the Synod of Raith Bressail in 1111, a Diocesan structure for Ireland was established.  He became the first Metropolitan Primate of all of Ireland.     

St. Cellach attended that Synod, and played an important role.  This synod was presided by Gilla Espaic, as the Papal Legate and was attended by fifty Bishops, three hundred Priests, and over three thousand laymen.  It marked the beginning of the transition of the Irish Church from a Monastic Church, to a Diocesan and Parish based Church.  It established two metropolitan Provinces, with Archbishoprics at Armagh and Cashel.  Prominence was given to Armagh, making St. Cellach the Primate of the Church of Ireland.  Each Province consisted of twelve territorial Dioceses.  The See of Dublin was not included, as Dublin had been under the primacy from Canterbury.  In 1129 on a visit to Munster, St. Cellach died and was buried in Lismore.   

Practical Take Away 

St. Cellach was the Archbishop of Armagh.  He was noted for his major role in the reform in the Church in Ireland.  He attended a Synod in 1111, with a Papal Legate, Fifty-Bishops, over 300 Priests, and thousands of laymen.  The synod was convened to put an end to the way the Church of Ireland was being managed.  It was operated as a Monastic Church, and this synod established Ireland as being operated with Dioceses and a Parish based Church.  There were two Archbishoprics, one at Armagh and the other at Cashel.  St. Cellach is responsible and venerated as the Saint that brought the Church in Ireland into a Diocesan, Parish Based Church, from a Monastic run Church.