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Devotional Revolution

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Religion and Irish Society
Religious affiliation in Ireland
The Church of Ireland (Anglican) and
Irish Presbyterianism
Sectarian tension
Problems within the Catholic Church
Mass attendance rates
Popular religion
The impact on the famine
The Devotional Revolution
The role of Paul Cullen
A changing priesthood
�In the nearly thirty years that he faithfully
served Rome in Ireland, Cardinal Paul Cullen not
only reformed the Irish Church, but perhaps
what was even more important, in the process of
reforming that Church he spearheaded the
consolidation of a devotional revolution. The
great mass of the Irish people became practicing
Catholics, which they have uniquely and
essentially remained both at home and abroad
down to the present day.’
Larkin, Emmet, (1972), �The devotional revolution in
Ireland 1850-1875’, American Historical Review, 77,
In 1834 the Commissioners of Public
Instruction calculated that 80.9 percent of
the population of Ireland were Catholics,
while 10.7 percent were members of the
Anglican Church of Ireland, and some 8.1
percent were Presbyterians.
In 1861 Catholics made up 77.7 percent of
total population. Anglicans accounted for 12
percent and Presbyterians 9 percent.
In 1861 Catholics comprised a minority of the
population in four of the counties of Ulster
(Antrim, Armagh, Down and Londonderry).
Catholics were also a minority in Belfast and
In two other Ulster counties (Fermanagh and
Tyrone) they made up a little more than half
the population.
Catholics made up 86% of the population in
Leinster, and more than 90% in Munster and
96% of Presbyterians lived in
Irish Anglicans were quite
dispersed. 56% of Anglicans
lived in Ulster, 25% lived
Leinster, 12% in Munster and
only 6% percent in Connacht.
The Church of Ireland in the
early 19th century
Bishops and archbishops appointed by the
Lower clergy – often did not reside in
their parishes
Many clerics were pluralists
Churches were often in poor condition
Baptists: grew from around 500
members in 1800 to an estimated
2000 by 1818 and to 4237 by 1861.
The number enrolled in Methodist
societies rose from 3000 in the late
1760s to 19000 by 1800 and to
36,903 by 1830.
The Second Reformation is the
name given to the early and mid
19th century campaign to
promote the mass conversion of
the Ireland’s Catholic population
to Protestantism.
The Catholic Church in
early 19th century Ireland
Some priests:
neglected basic pastoral duties
did not preach regularly
failed to provide for the religious instruction of
the young
Did not ensure their parishoners fulfilled their
religious duties
First Report of the Commissioners
of Public Instruction, Ireland
Mass attendance figures:
80-100% in other Irish towns
30-60% in rural English speaking areas
20-40% in the rural Irish speaking areas
Revised mass attendance figures:
50-75% in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and
100% in other Irish towns
37-75% in rural English speaking areas
25-50% in the rural Irish speaking areas
Going to Mass, 1870
Popular forms of religion in Ireland
The celebration of festivals that marked
turning points in the agricultural year -St
Brigid’s day (1 Feb), May Eve and St
John’s Eve (23 June)
Lucky and unlucky actions
�…he had herbs in his hand, and he
gave instructions to Michael Cleary
to boil them and make the sign of
the cross and go round the house
making pishrogues.’
Bourke, Angela, The Burning of Bridget
Cleary, pp82-83.
Michael Cleary
Scene at an Irish wake, 1873
Pattern: �a local festival celebrated at a
holy well or other significant venue on
the feast day of the saint to whom the
site was dedicated. By the 18th century
patterns were a major venue for
popular sociability…Participants
typically combined prayers and ritual
observations at the well or other site
with dancing and other forms of
Oxford Companion to Irish History, p458
The devotional revolution is a
term coined in 1972 by the
American historian Emmet
Larkin to describe what he saw
as a sudden and dramatic
transformation of popular
religious practice in Ireland in
the period from 1850 to 1875.
Cardinal Paul Cullen (1803-78)
Cardinal Paul Cullen (1803-78)
Committed to ultramontanism
Insisted on the authority of bishops
over priests
The pope’s chief whip in Ireland
Brought the Catholic Church in Ireland
into line with Roman discipline
The Synod of Thurles
Tightened ecclesiastical discipline
Introduced greater uniformity into religious
Decided that the sacraments would be transferred from
the home to the church
Adopted measures to counteract Protestant missionary
Opposed government education schemes
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