A coarb, from the
Old Irish comarbae (Modern Irish comharba), meaning
"heir" or "successor", was a distinctive office of the later
medieval church among the
Gaels of Ireland and Scotland. In this
period coarb appears interchangeable with "erenach", denoting the
episcopally nominated lay guardian of a parish church and headman of
the family in hereditary occupation of church lands. The coarb,
however, often had charge of a church which had held comparatively
high rank in pre‐Norman Ireland, or one still possessed of
relatively extensive termon lands.
Also as per this article "... such lucrative monastic offices as
“coarb” (comarbae “heir” to a saint) or “erenach”
(airchinnech “superior”), otherwise transmitted by natural or
nepotic descent within ecclesiastical families, which were often the
politically displaced branches of royal dynasties"
The coarb of Columba
In medieval Ireland and Scotland, the coarb of
St Columba (Medieval
Gaelic comarba Coluim Chille) identified the abbots who succeeded
Columba. When the monks fled to their monastery in Kells, following
the 9th-century Viking raids on Iona, their abbot continued to hold
the title of coarb to reflect his direct inheritance: many of the
early abbots were members of Columba's family.
The abbot of the collegiate church (i.e., monastery following the Rule
of St Columba), who held holy orders and celebrated
Mass ('serveth the
cure'), was responsible for his monastic community. In time, the
pattern of a Bishop and an
Abbot of Iona was established, which after
the Reformation and the
Dissolution of the Monasteries
Dissolution of the Monasteries fell into
^ "Coarb". Clan Livingstone Society. Sep 2, 2004.
^ Etchingham, Colmán (2011). Connolly, Sean J., ed. The Oxford
Companion to Irish History (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
p. 107. ISBN 9780198662709. Archived from the original on
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