The DIOCESE of KILDARE appears to have been founded towards the close of the 5th or about the commencement of the 6th century, by St. Conlaeth or Conlaid who, with the assistance of St. Bridget, then presiding over the monastery, erected the cathedral and became first bishop.
The first English bishop was Ralph of Bristol, consecrated in 1223, who was at great expense in repairing and beautifying the cathedral. The first bishop after the Reformation was William Miagh, whom, in opposition to the Pope's appointment, and in vindication of his own supremacy, Hen. VIII. advanced to the see, in 1540.
During the prelacy of Alexander Craik, who succeeded in 1560, the see was reduced to great poverty by the alienation of several valuable manors, which that bishop exchanged with Patrick Sarsfield for some tithes of very inconsiderable value; and it was further impoverished by Bishop Pilsworth, in 1604, after a fruitless attempt to recover the alienated property. The estates which had been alienated to Sarsfield became forfeited to the king during the prelacy of Bishop Price, who succeeded in 1660, and might have been recovered by a clause in the act of settlement; but the bishop could not be prevailed upon to take the necessary measures at the time, and all the subsequent efforts of his successors were unavailing.
Anthony Dopping, who succeeded in 1678, in consideration of the poverty of the see, procured the annexation of the preceptory of Tully, and several rectories in the diocese of Meath, to be held in commendam with the bishoprick; and William, Dean of Christchurch, Dublin, who was advanced to the prelacy in 1681, was for the same reason allowed to retain his deanery, which has also been held ever since by the bishops of Kildare, who rank next to the bishops of Meath, the other bishops taking precedency according to the dates of their consecration. Under the provisions of the Church Temporalities act of the 3d and 4th of Wm. IV., the see, on its next avoidance, will be annexed to the archiepiscopal see of Dublin, and its temporalities, together with those held in commendam, will be vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
It is one of the five dioceses which constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin, and comprehends part of Queen's county, a large portion of King's county, and the greater part of the county of Kildare; it is 36 miles in length and 23 in breadth, and comprises an estimated superficies of 332,200 acres, of which 49,000 are in Queen's county, 121,000 in King's county, and 161,000 in Kildare. The chapter consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, and four canons, and there are an archdeacon and the eight prebendaries of Lulliamore, Rathangan, Nurney, Ballysonan, Castropetre, Geashill, Harristown, and Donadea, who are not of the chapter, but have a vote in the election of the dean. The consistorial court consists of a vicar-general, two surrogates, and two registrars; the last are keepers of the records, which consist of modern documents, those prior to 1641 having been lost during the insurrection.
The total number of parishes in the diocese is 85, comprised in 41 benefices, of which 20 are unions of two or more parishes, and 21 single parishes: of these, 12 are in the patronage of the Crown, 10 in lay and corporation patronage, 4 in joint or alternate presentation, and the remainder in the patronage of the Bishop or Incumbents. The total number of churches is 35, and of other places of Protestant worship, 4; and the number of glebe-houses is 19. The quantity of land belonging to the see is 911 acres, and the gross revenue of the bishop, including the preceptory of Tully and the deanery of Christchurch, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, amounted to £6451. 13. 3. The cathedral, dedicated to St. Bridget, was nearly destroyed in the parliamentary war, and the choir is now the only part kept in repair. The walls of the nave are still remaining, and present some plain pointed arches, and those of the south transept are entire; but the north side of the tower, which rose between the nave and choir, is levelled with the ground. The choir, which is also the parochial church, has no interesting details: it contains the sepulchral vault of the Earls of Kildare. In the churchyard is the lofty pedestal of an ancient stone cross, and in the surrounding walls are numerous fragments of sculptured monuments, removed form the interior of the cathedral, of which several are remarkable both for their subjects and their execution. A few yards distant is a remaining portion of the chapel of St. Bridget, called "the fire house," a low and narrow stone cell in which the sacred fire was preserved.
is neither chapter-house nor episcopal palace, nor are there
residences for any of the dignitaries. In the R. C. divisions the diocese
is united with that of Leighlin, together forming one of the three suffragan
dioceses to the archiepiscopal see of Dublin: it comprises 46 parochial
benefices or unions, containing 110 chapels served by 108 clergymen, of
whom 46, including the bishop, are parish priests, and 62 coadjutors or
curates. The parochial benefice of the bishop is Carlow, near which is
his residence, Braganza House. The cathedral in Carlow, built during the
prelacy of the Right Rev. Dr. Doyle, and chiefly through his exertions,
is an edifice of much architectural elegance.
The parish comprises 4759 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. It is a rectory, appropriate to the dean and chapter: the tithes amount to £323. 1. 6. In the R. C. divisions it is the head of a union or district, called Kildare and Rathangan, comprising the parishes of Kildare, Rathangan, Carne, Dunmurry, Pollardstown, Thomastown, Tully, Lackagh, and Knavenstown. There is a chapel in the town, and also one at Rathangan. Near the R. C. chapel is a convent of nuns of the order of the Presentation, the sisters of which devote their time to the gratuitous instruction of poor girls; and near the ruins of the monastery of St. Bridget is a Carmelite friary, a neat modern building recently erected on the site of the ancient house of that order, attached to which is a chapel. There are three public schools, in which about 800 children are taught, and a private school, in which are about 70 children. The county infirmary is situated in the town.
About thirty yards from the church is the ancient
round tower, 132 feet high, which within the last century
has been crowned with graduated battlements; and part of the ancient castle
is still remaining. On the Curragh, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, was
formerly a circle of large stones, of which no traces remain; but there
are numerous earthworks, most of which appear to have been sepulchral.
On this plain, Richard Marshall, Earl of Pembroke and Earl Palatine of
Leinster, who had been invited by De Burgo, De Lacy, and other lords to
negotiate a truce, was betrayed by Geoffrey de Marisco, his attendant,
into the power of his enemies, and put to death, in 1234. David O'Buge,
who, in the early part of the 14th century, was eminently distinguished
as a philosopher, rhetorician, and divine, was a native of this town; he
was provincial of the Carmelites in Ireland, and was interred in the monastery
of that order at this place, of which he had been a friar. Kildare gives
the inferior titles of Earl and Marquess to the Duke of Leinster.