Overview

Laurence

(c. 1128—1180) archbishop of Dublin


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(1128–80), archbishop of Dublin 1162–80. Born in Co. Kildare of a marriage between the chieftain families of O'Toole and O'Byrne, Laurence spent part of his childhood as the hostage of Dermot McMurrogh, king of Leinster. He became a monk at Glendalough and was elected abbot at the age of twenty-five. His duties included not only the government of his monastery but also the relief of famine and the suppression of brigandage (some of it due to apostate monks) in the vicinity. In 1162 he was elected archbishop of Dublin. To ensure a supply of good pastoral clergy he introduced Austin Canons of Arrouaise into the principal churches, wearing their religious habit himself and following their community life. His nephew became bishop of Glendalough, replacing an unworthy intruder, supported by the local chieftain; Laurence retained contact by living there from time to time in Kevin's cell above the principal lake. He was also outstanding for his relief of the poor in his diocese, sometimes sending them, later in his life, to England for rehabilitation.

When the English invaded Ireland in 1170, Laurence acted as peacemaker between Strongbow and the Irish. He took part in various synods including Cashel (1172), convened by Henry II, where Adrian IV's Bull imposing clerical celibacy and the Sarum Rite were accepted. In 1172 he negotiated a treaty between Henry II and Rory O'Connor, high-king of Ireland. On this occasion he visited Thomas Becket's shrine at Canterbury and narrowly escaped violent death at the hand of a mad assassin.

Inevitably Laurence had become involved in affairs of State as well as those of the local church. In 1179 his activities widened: with five other Irish bishops he went to Rome for the third Lateran Council, where he gave Alexander III a full report on the Church in Ireland and became papal legate. On their way to Rome they had been obliged by Henry II to swear not to injure his rights as ruler of Ireland when they were in Rome; this did not prevent Laurence obtaining papal protection for the properties of the see of Dublin and its five suffragans, especially Glendalough. Also in 1179 was held a council at Clonfert which deposed seven ‘lay bishops’, prevented priests' or bishops' sons from receiving holy orders, and above all forbade any layman to have ‘the rule of any church or church matters’. These decrees show that the success of Malachy in fighting the same battles had been partial only. The growing power of Dublin was made clear in 1180 when Laurence promoted a Connacht bishop to the primatial see of Armagh.

Also in 1180 Laurence again visited Henry II on behalf of Rory O'Connor to negotiate tribute and other matters. But Henry, incensed by Laurence's use of the papal bulls in property disputes with Norman settlers near Dublin, refused to see him, keeping him waiting at Abingdon for three weeks. Laurence followed him to Normandy and obtained his permission to return to Dublin. But on the way Laurence died at Eu (Seine-Inférieure) on 14 November 1180, where his relics survive and where his Life was written.

Laurence was canonized by Honorius III in 1225; his relics were translated 10 May 1226. He has a place in the painted calendar of saints canonized in the 13th century in the basilica of the Four Crowned Martyrs at Rome. Feast: 14 November; translation, 10 May.

From The Oxford Dictionary of Saints in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Christianity.


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