- Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, His Associates and St Anthony’s College Louvain
As a Louvain-trained historical theologian and now a resident of Louvain (Leuven) for close to three decades, I read this book with great fascination. [End Page 615] The Irish Franciscan College of St. Anthony at Louvain, established in 1607, was an intellectual powerhouse for an attempt to save and promote the religion, culture, and language of Gaelic Ireland.
For the Irish in 1607, Louvain was a natural choice and close to Ireland. Founded in 1425, the Louvain University could boast of association with such famous scholars as Juan Vives, Erasmus, and Justus Lipsius. The Irish Franciscan College became one of the forty-four colleges that constituted the university. Philip III of Spain became its patron, and Archduke Albert of Austria and his wife, Isabella, laid the foundation stone.
The Irish print alphabet and the first Irish dictionary were created at St. Anthony’s. During the seventeenth century, St. Anthony’s was the site of a key Irish-language printing press. Distinguished individuals at St. Anthony’s included Franciscans (and future Irish archbishops) Flaithrí Ó Maoil Chonaire and Aodh Mac Cathmhaoil, as well as Fathers Hugh Ward, Patrick Fleming, Robert Chamberlain (or Mac Artúir), John Colgan, and Thomas O Sheerin. Brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh led a team of academics that produced the Annals of the Four Masters, among other works. For more than two hundred years the college fostered Irish literary activity and served as a major missionary training school for the Church in Ireland and elsewhere.
This volume—which includes a revised short work by historian Brendan Jennings, O. F. M. (originally published in 1936), and eight academic articles by Paul Walsh, Felim O’Brien, O.F.M., and Canice Mooney, O.F.M.—is the first book to tell the nearly complete story of St. Anthony’s. The one missing element is its neglect of the story of today’s St. Anthony’s. No longer a Franciscan house, it is an international conference center—the Louvain Institute for Ireland in Europe—that focuses on the preservation and promotion of Irish culture. The book is very well documented and solidly anchored in abundant primary sources. This book is recommended for anyone interested in Irish Catholic history.