Migratory flows (16th–19th century)

The religious basis for English colonisation

At that time, there were two catholic communities living in Ireland : The Irish, that is the Gaelic[1] speaking populations and the Old English of Anglo-Norman descent entrenched in the island since the 12th century. These Old English were hard to tell apart from the Irish as they dressed like them, much to the dismay of the Protestant new-comers freshly arrived from Great Britain.

England had become Anglican during Elizabeth I's reign. Anglicanism is a compromise between Protestantism and Catholicism. Liturgically[2] it remains close to the Catholic church the episcopal hierarchy of which it has also retained. Several innovations, however, are distinctly Protestant. In 1559 the reestablishment of the Act of Supremacy[3] (temporarily abolished by Catholic Mary I) made the English sovereign « the supreme governor of the Church in England [to whom] appertains the government of all estates whether civil or ecclesiastical, in all causes » ; The Church of England was thence separated from Rome. Furthermore the doctrinal position stated in the Thirty-nine Articles[4] connotes a Calvinist dogma. This text adopted in 1563 by the clergy and in 1571 by Parliament does indeed reject such articles of faith as Purgatory[5], indulgences[6] and the worship of relics[7], it upholds « salvation by faith » and not « by works », acknowledges the dogma of predestination[8] and admits only of two sacraments[9] : baptism and « the supper of the Lord » (Holy Communion). The Book of Common Prayer adopted in 1599 was inspired by Calvinist teaching.

From the end of the 16th century, the English set out to disseminate Protestant Reformation in Ireland. With this in mind Elisabeth's administration was the main agent of a cautious Anglicisation of the island. It encouraged the settlement of Anglican communities ; in other words, it colonised in order to reinforce its own authority and to help affirm Protestantism in two of its main currents : Anglicanism and Presbyterianism.

Indeed, besides the English, the Scots also arrived in numbers to settle the island. Under the influence of John Knox[10] and the Edinburgh Parliament, Scotland had massively turned away from Catholicism and evolved a Protestant, Presbyterian church founded in a rejection of church hierarchies. In August 1560, the Scottish parliament adopted a Calvinist Confession of Faith and during the second semester of the year 1560, a six member commission set up the new church known as the Kirk. The Church of Scotland adopted a Calvinist, Presbytero-synodal[11] structure : bereft of bishops, it is organised around the congregations, its base communities, run by their ministers, deacons and elders and it sets up a range of hierarchical elected synods[12] presided over by the General Assembly. From the 17th century, Scottish Presbyterians migrated to Ireland not only to find land but also to proselytise.

  1. Gaelic

    The Irish language is one of three Gaelic (or Goidelic) tongues with Scottish Gaelic and the Manx language. It belongs to a branch of Celtic languages, distinct from the Brythonic group in which Welsh, Cornish and Breton are to be found.

  2. Liturgy

    A prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship. Anglican liturgy banned the use of Latin and the worship of the holy Virgin and the saints but upheld the use of liturgical objects (e.g. candles) and vestments. Communion was to be given under both kinds (bread and wine).

  3. Act of Supremacy

    A piece of legislation that declared the English sovereign to be the head of the Anglican church. Passed a first time in 1534, it was revoked by Mary I, a catholic who reigned from 1553 to 1558, then reinstated by Elisabeth I.

  4. The Thirty-nine Articles

    The Thirty-nine Articles are a statement of the position of the Church of England as adopted in 1563 by the Convocation, and the adherence to which was made a legal requirement by the English Parliament in 1571.

  5. Purgatory

    In Catholic theology, it is thought of as both a time and place where the faithful not deserving of hell go through a process of purification after their death. The general understanding of Purgatory was refined between 1170-80 and the end of the 18th century ; in the 16th century, it was laid open to question.

  6. Indulgences

    To Catholics, they are a partial remission of temporal punishment due for sins the believer has committed and which are already forgiven. An indulgence shortens the time spent in Purgatory.

  7. Worship of relics

    The Council of Trent (1545-1563) encouraged the worship of relics advocating pilgrimages to sanctuaries housing the bodies of saints or relics from the life of Christ or the Holy Virgin (e.g. Loreto)

  8. Predestination

    Christian doctrine upheld in some Protestant quarters, according to which God has elected some people to lead them to salvation and abandoned the others to damnation without taking their own action into account.

  9. Sacraments

    Perceptible signs that Christians call upon to represent by means of symbols, using gestures and words, a spiritual truth that cannot be expressed in other ways.

  10. John Knox (1505-1572)

    Scottish priest who embraced Reformation and, after 1559, introduced a harsh Calvinism in Scotland.

  11. Presbytero-synodal

    Calvinist churches are governed by elders (presbyters) meeting in sessions through to regional and national synods.

  12. Synod

    In Calvinist churches, regional and national synods are assemblies where pastors and representatives from the lower consultative echelons sit.

AccueilAccueilImprimerImprimer François Brizay, Maître de conférences à l'Université d'Angers (France). Paternité - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de ModificationRéalisé avec Scenari (nouvelle fenêtre)