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The Proctor's Accounts of Peter Lewis
&
 The Registers of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin
Raymond Gillespie, Editor


 Recusant History (October 1999)
‘Christ Church Cathedral, situated in the centre of medieval Dublin, was founded as part of a religious house of the Augustinian Canons and at the Reformation was reconstituted as a secular cathedral. Therefore its history is one of major interest to historians of the city and recently the Cathedral Chapter in a praiseworthy effort have decided to publish a series of documents relating to the history of the cathedral. The series is edited by Dr Raymond Gillespie and there are four volumes published to date, two of which are reviewed here.

The first of the series The Proctor’s accounts of Peter Lewis, 1564-65 contains accounts of money spent on the upkeep of the cathedral building and its activities. The manuscript text is held in the library of Trinity College, Dublin and two modern transcripts have been made both of which have been used to produce this printed text. Peter Lewis came to Ireland in the retinue of Sir Anthony St Leger who was appointed lord deputy in 1540. He served as chaplain to St Leger and then decided to stay in Ireland. His appointment as precentor of the newly reconstituted cathedral of Christ Church was due to the patronage of Sir Henry Sidney who became lord deputy in 1565.

Under the rules of the cathedral the proctor was elected annually from the members of the cathedral chapter and at the end of the period had to furnish accounts of his stewardship’. The proctor’s accounts contain details of the expenditure of the cathedral on restoring and maintaining the building and on daily routine items required for the religious services. During Lewis’s year of office the cathedral was in need of major repair as the south wall had collapsed, the crypt vault had been damaged and the nave still had no roof. Payments recorded in Lewis’s accounts include those to masons, carpenters and heliers engaged in the repair as well as ‘item paid to Mr Mitchell Pentony for this quyer of paper to make this book, the x day of October’. The items needed for the running of the cathedral included candles for the ‘quer, the helleyers man and the workmen macking of morter, and for the massons super’; tallow for greasing the bell ropes; and money ‘to Tady, helleyer hadysman to cleane the gutters of the Dean’s chambyr for the great snow that fell this Chrystynmas and frost’. Despite the changes of the Reformation the structure of the cathedral services continued and the saints’ days were observed as before – ‘Fryday 29 of December. Thomas Beckett’s day. Spend in the quere in candlylight, in the quere and churche’. and ‘Good Fryday, I paid for manchet and loffe bred for the vycars, to them by custome as they says of old tyme apon the house cost by the proctor for the yer being.’.

The other volume in the series entitled The Registers of the Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin includes the medieval book of obits, funeral entries from the proctor’s accounts, 1542-1735, the first register of Christ Church, 1710-1848, and the second register, 1847-1900. The book of obits which was first published in 1844, contains the names of over 1,000 persons arranged in calendar order according to date of the commemoration of their death. Obituarial prayer was an important ritual in the medieval cathedral and wealthy persons gave donations and bequests to ensure prayer for their souls. The lists include the names of archbishops, abbots and priors as well as lay members of the congregation. The mayors of Dublin, anglo-norman lords and members of gentry families of the city are listed and include famous persons such as ‘Strongbow’, James Butler, earl of Ormond, and Garret More Fitzgerald, eighth earl of Kildare. In later centuries the cathedral became a ‘favoured location’ for the burials of English officials of government and for titled Irish families while the connection with the Fitzgerald family continued throughout the eighteenth century. The later registers list baptisms, marriages and burials and although the strong links between the civic community and cathedral weakened in the nineteenth century, the cathedral remained an important centre of worship and a historic feature of the city.

These two books are very well produced and each contains a concise essay placing the documents in the historical context of the period. A full history of the cathedral is planned and this document series will provide valuable material for the history. Christ Church Cathedral was ‘one of the largest and wealthiest corporate bodies in medieval and early modern Ireland’ and its history provides a fascinating and detailed insight into religious and social life of the capital city’ Susan M. Parkes, Recusant History.

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