On the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland  in the mid-12th century, see The New History of Ireland, (Vol. 2, Cambridge University Press, Chapters 2-4).  The Anglo-Norman strategy in Ireland differed from its conquest of England in that the invading force was weak numerically.  There were not enough troops and noblemen to secure and hold vast areas of territory.  To compensate the Anglo-Normans married off their knights and lesser nobility to the daughters of the Gaelic Irish elite.  Intermarriage was a political and convenient solution.  As they lacked adequate troops and a colonial population of settlers, they also resorted to financing the placement of Cistercian order monks in various parts of Ireland as a missionary force.

The form of the monastery allows insight into early accumulation of land and power by clergy and state in the early Middle Ages.  That the monastery lasted as an ideological and economic center of land ownership and production until the 16th century is indicative of the clergy's ability to adapt to the rise of the secular or diocesan clergy that became more predominant from the 11th century onward.  The main form of the late medieval monastery as found in France and Ireland during this period included quarters for lay monks, those who were not required to become fully practicing spiritual monks, but who instead were expected to be agrarian based producers who worked the fields and manned the labor required for the monastic complex.  See, the comparative discussion by Edwin C. Rae, "Architecture and Sculpture, 1169-1603," in Art Cosgrove, ed., A New History of Ireland:  Medieval Ireland 1160-1534, Vol. 2, (Oxford, 2005) pp 737-777.

Fig. 1 Knockmoy Abbey, Ireland 12th century

Fig. 2 Plan of Knockmoy Abbey 12th c. Ireland

Notes on Fig. 2. William Cooper, Ground Plan of Knockmoy Abbey, (1784). This Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1190, during the Anglo-Norman period in County Galway.  The Nave of the Church is shown to the North or on the left with the presbytery or altar area at the top.  The cloister is in the center.  Source National Library of Ireland.

Stalley, Roger A. (1987). The Cistercian Monasteries of Ireland: An Account of the History, Art and Architecture of the White Monks in Ireland from 1142-1540. Yale University Press.

The Cistercians in Yorkshire. Web. 11 Apr. 2012. 

The Normans in Europe: an Introduction

The power of the Norman kingdoms and empire from the late 11th to 12th century reflects a greater concentration of land ownership by the ari...