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Matthew (Muirges, Muirgheas, Matthaeus, Mauricius) O'Heney (Ua hEanna, OhEanna) , Archbishop of Cashel

Born: c.1140   Died: 1206   

O'Heney, Matthew (c.1140 - 1206), archbishop of Cashel, entered Holycross Abbey as a young man, where he became known for his devotion and scholarship. He rose quickly through the ecclesiastical ranks to become an archbishop. While little is known of his actions or attitudes, especially towards the English arrival in the 1170s,he appears to have been cooperative to both sides of the ethnic divide, acting as a witness to ecclesiastical grants. He was appointed papal legate in 1191, and presided over a general synod of the church in Dublin. He was also centrally involved in negotiating a settlement between the archbishop of Dublin and the Cistercians of St. Mary's Abbey, Dublin. While in England in 1192/3, John, Lord of Ireland, granted him lands at Ludgershall, Wiltshire. With other church prelates, he brought the body of Hugh de Lacy (d. 1183) for burial in Bective Abbey on the Boyne in 1195. Although the reasons are unclear, he retired in disgrace sometime after 1195, returning to Holycross Abbey. He fell from papal favour when he refused to consecrate the new bishop of Ardfert, and also because he became involved in a dispute between the archbishop of Dublin and King John. He maintained some involvement in public life, however, and he was involved in resolving conflict between William de Burgh and the Munster Irish in 1201, and he was again functioning as an archbishop in 1205. His advanced age meant that he did not travel to seek the pope's absolution in person. He died at Holycross in 1206. His riposte to the charge that Ireland had produced no martyrs is recorded by Giraldus Cambrensis: 'now a people has come to the kingdom which knows how, and is accustomed to make martyrs. From now on, Ireland will have its martyrs, just as other countries'. (Emmet O'Byrne, Dictionary of Irish Biography, eds. James McGuire, James Quinn, Cambridge, 2009)

Sites associated with this person

Holycross Abbey, Tipperary