EARLY CHRISTIANITY, PRE-ROMAN VERSION REFORMS
Come to Glendalough, 550-600 AD, Noonan at 12; and many other sites remaining in Ireland, for a glimpse of another Christianity, one seeking conversion of others but never pushing it. If you can find an old guide, like Glendalough, or the Seven Churches of Saint Kevin, by P. J. Noonan (P.O'Nuinain), 1st edition 1936, and the last, the 8th, in 1962, you are rich indeed. See reference to it at The Seven Churches of St. Kevin
See the Sea Stallion of Glendalough, Roskilde, DK reconstructed.
Danes and Norse: plundered Dublin, Kildare, Glendalough in 837. Then the indigenous, native Irish plundered Glendalough in 983. And in 984-85, the Danes were back at Glendalough; and again in 1012, 1016. Between 1017-1163, Glendalough was "ravaged seven times", Noonan at 23.
There are also prehistoric tombs in the area around Kevin's hermit cave, or Kevin's Bed. His arrival there could be geared to dispensing with old superstition, including regarding causing the death of a powerful witch named Caineah or Caoineog, who tried to harm a son of a king sent to Kevin for fostering.
Ireland's connections with Spain and Portugal are also known, Noonan at 17, and some legends may stem from those contacts.
There are many old monastery ruins in Ireland This complex at Glendalough, in County Wicklow, is one of the most famous, see a virtual tour at http://www.faculty.de.gcsu.edu/%7Edvess/ids/medieval/glendalough/glendalough.shtml.
Back to theology.
This place represents a golden age for creativity and self-direction in religion - Celtic Christianity, before the rigid institutions, exclusions, and authority of the Roman church took over. Linear thinking cuts like a machete through the gentle tolerances it finds, and abhors. Is that so?
By 1157, the Roman church reforms were well begun. Laurence O'Toole introduced those reforms, but continued to make his own pilgrimates to Glendalough, Noonan at 24. Suddenly there was the Pope asserting jurisdiction, there were formal offices to be held, hierarchies, and, most important, priests began attending deaths with last rites -- and perhaps influencing who got what at the end? Read the overview at another religious-political site, Cashel, and its Rock of Cashel at http://homepage.eircom.net/~cashelemly/acesaint.htm
1170 -- These reforms in turn led to the Norman Invasion, through one Diarmuid MacMurrough and tawdry events of reprisal and revenge, and treachery in his bringing the Normans into the country, see Noonan at 25. Again Glendalough was sacked. This time, by the Normans. Henry II followed up with assertions of "grants" and control, Normans again in 1174 sacked Glendalough, and Henry II himself invaded Ireland in 1175. More plunder, and a flood. Politics, Pope finally affirmed the "grant" that had been opposed by the local Thomas O'Toole (back to the original revenge reprisal issue), and competing "grants" by Pope Innocent vs. Prince John. More attacks, English this time.
Glendalough and town walls: Ireland has many walled towns, most of which are layered over previous cultural settlers. Celtic hill round forts, to Vikings and their wooden fences, to Normans with stone walls of massive size, sentry towers, defense crenellations, and beneath many of those, early monastic peaceful towns, "building communities of shared labor and protection within walls." Glendalough was one of these. A secular community also grew there, "that clung to the monastery for protection and profit. See http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/07/travel/walking-along-norman-walls.html?scp=1&sq=Walking%20Along%20Norman%20Walls&st=cse
A confusion of history, who is entitled to what. The Noonan guide is comprehensive. PP 27 ff. The Normans represented state interference in church appointments, the old times celebrated independence of the clergy, then came the Pope with new interferences in old ways, but through the church branch he represented. Many large Orders were introduced, with Rules. English archbishops were anathema to the Clan O'Toole, and so on.
1398-1497 - Celtic bishops held the See of Glendalough by "usurpation" it was called, and with permission of the Popes, and the local clans, but then the English archbishop system prevailed, the last bishop of the "usurpation," a Friar named Denis White, surrendered in 1497 to Archbishop Fitzsimons.
1591 - Ulster princes fled from Dublin as the English prevailed
1741 - enter the "penal days" -- Catholics gathered at Glendalough, at the Seven Churches of St. Kevin, were dispersed. Rebellion against hte English seemed to failed, but Michael Dwyer escaped as did others into the Wicklow mountains. See http://irish-rebellions.wikispaces.com/2+-+The+United+Irish+Rising+of+1798
So: What if the Gregorian Reforms, see http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/245503/Gregorian-Reform, with the militance of the Roman branch had confined itself to Italy? No way. So down came Ireland, into systemic violence. Is that so?