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Kings and Abbots

The Three Grades of King

The ancient texts describe three grades of king:

  1. Ri or Ri túathe, - in effect the equivelant a clan chief
  2. Ruiri - eg the Kings of Dál nAraide, Dál Riata, or Dál Fiatach
  3. Ri Ruirech - a king of a Province eg the King of Ulidia

"According to the classical law tracts, there were three distinct grades of king: ri or ri túathe, the king of the local túath or petty tribal kingdom; ruiri or great king who, in addition to being king of his own túath, was the personal overlord of a number of other tribal kings; and lastly, ri ruirech or 'king of overkings', who is identified with the king of a province. No higher grade of king, 'high king' or king of Ireland is known to the classical law tracts." (O Corrain, Donnchadh: Ireland Before the Norman's Gill and MacMillan 1972 page 28).

The Relationship between King and Abbot

Kathleen Hughes, a leading historian of early Irish Christianity, has written,

'The bishop stood in a similar relationship to his diocese as did the petty king to his túath; but the head of a great monastic paruchia was like a king over kings' (Hughes Kathleen, Early Christian Ireland, p73)

St Moluag the founder of 100 monasteries was the head of a great monastic paruchia and will have ranked above the King of Dalriada, a king of the second grade.

Last updated 22 May, 2008