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Forming Catholic Communities

Irish, Scots and English College Networks in Europe, 1568–1918

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Edited by Liam Chambers and Thomas O'Connor

Forming Catholic Communities assesses the histories of Irish, English and Scots colleges established abroad in the early-modern period for Catholic students. The contributions provide a co-ordinated series of case studies which reflect the most up-to-date research on the colleges. The essays address interactions with European states, international networking, educational frameworks, financial challenges, print culture and institutional survival into the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. From these essays, the colleges emerge as unexpectedly complex institutions. With their financial, pastoral, and intellectual networks, they provided an educational infrastructure that, whatever its short-comings, remained crucial to the domestic and international communities they served during more than two centuries.
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Edited by Liam Chambers and Thomas O’Connor

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Liam Chambers and Thomas O’Connor

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Liam Chambers and Thomas O’Connor

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Ana Sáez-Hidalgo

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Controversy – or theologia polemica, with a long and rich tradition in the Middle Ages – was one of the pillars of the Counter-Reformation. This was particularly the case for English Catholic students in overseas colleges, where the training in controversy was a core part of college curricula and seen by college authorities as essential to successful service on the English mission. Indeed controversy and training in controversy became a distinctive element of seminary life in the English colleges in Spain, notably those at Valladolid and Seville. Both institutions, in their search for patronage and support in Spain, published narrative accounts in Spanish of the hardships suffered by English Catholics. These published accounts, so central to fund-raising efforts, were adapted to local taste and into local genres, like the relaciones, martyrdom accounts, avisos, and pliegos sueltos. In this complex process of narrative composition, adaptation, publication, and dissemination, the distinctive preoccupation of this literature with the heroic virtue, religious zeal, and controversial acumen of persecuted English priests contributed to the popularisation and subsequent fictionalisation of the literary characters created in Spanish print culture. This was one of the most important achievements of the college network in Spain. It exercised a formative influence not only on English Catholic clergy and laity on the mission but also on the English Catholic diaspora and their Spanish patrons.


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Christopher Korten

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Money was a constant concern for cash-strapped Catholic collegial networks in the early-modern period. Financial difficulties were often exacerbated by changes in college government. The suppression of the Society of Jesus in July 1773 constituted a major challenge for former Jesuit institutions like the Irish college in Rome. This essay looks at the hitherto unexamined consequences for the Irish college in this period running up to its suppression by the French in 1798. By focusing on the financial administration of the Irish college in Rome, one forms a clearer picture of the motives of the anti-Jesuit personalities involved, such as Cardinal Mario Marefoschi, the college’s protector. In the process, the financial history of the college reveals questionable hiring practices, inflated administrative costs, and personal agendas involving college resources. Thus, despite Marefoschi’s charge of financial mismanagement by the Jesuits in his report of 1772, the college failed to improve its financial position between 1772 and 1798. In fact, its condition deteriorated and this was reflected in the paucity of ordained priests who returned to Ireland to contribute to the mission there. Ironically, it would take a total suppression by the French in 1798 to begin the reversal of this trend and to allow for a fresh start, which finally occurred in 1826 with the reopening of the college.


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Matteo Binasco

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The essay provides a fresh assessment of the foundational decades of the Irish college in Rome in the seventeenth century. Drawing on seminary sources and on other Roman archives, it identifies the difficulties faced by the college as it struggled to establish itself as an effective institution for missionary training. In particular the essay highlights the nascent institution’s structural problems, particularly the lack of adequate financial resources and grave indiscipline among the student body. Further complicating the picture were the strategic discontinuities and contradictions between alternating Irish and Italian management regimes in the college. Faced with these challenges the Irish college in Rome struggled to survive.


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Ciaran O’Scea

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The Spanish court played a decisive and defining role in the economic survival of the Irish colleges in Spain during the second decade of the seventeenth century. Access to patronage at court via either the pro-Lerma or anti-Lerma factions determined the outcome of the inter-Irish struggles to control the Irish colleges in Spain. This became most apparent in the controversies surrounding the takeover by the Irish Jesuits of the Irish college of Santiago de Compostela in 1613. The Old English Jesuits, profiting from the identification of the Gaelic Irish with the Morisco population, who were expelled from Spain (1609–14), tied their destiny to that of the Duke of Lerma in order to gain control of the Irish college system. Their success was however short lived as the fall of the Duke and the end of the Spanish Match effectively ended any substantive influence that they had attained. The end result was nefarious for the construction of Irish exile identity as it drove a wedge between the Old English Jesuits and their supporters on the one hand, and the Gaelic Irish and Hiberno-English on the other. This deep division was moreover reflected in the works of Philip O’Sullivan Beare.


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Frédéric Richard-Maupillier

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The role of the English colleges and religious communities in Flanders for secondary education is already well known. This essay examines an under-researched example further to the east. From the installation of the English Benedictine monks in Dieulouard in 1608, the monastery housed and ran a school. The Thirty Years War reduced the number of students but the eighteenth century marked a new beginning. The development of the school obliged the monks to erect new buildings and also to face the challenges of maintaining an English environment and identity in a foreign place. These challenges were negotiated with relative success, especially in the eighteenth century. In 1779, a college was created in the monastery of Dieulouard, enabling boys to continue their studies in the same location, without going to Douai. Its students were drawn mainly from England, particularly from Lancaster recusant families. The absence of an important English community in Lorraine helps explain the low number of Jacobite students in Dieulouard. Only half of the students became novices in Dieulouard, Paris, or Douai. The other half returned to England. For some former students, Dieulouard could be considered as the first step of the Grand Tour. Until 1793, Dieulouard contributed to the intellectual and religious training of several generations of English students. The article argues that the school was an important source of income for the monks, but also illustrates that it maintained the link, across the English Channel, between the exiled religious communities and England. Missions established in England by Dieulouard facilitated relations among Catholics families and was important, in this way too, for the maintenance in England of a Catholic identity. The archives of Dieulouard, particularly the personal notebooks written during missions, demonstrate the influence and prestige of the Benedictine in English society, both Catholic and Protestant. To a great extent the history of Dieulouard is that of English recusancy.


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Jan Graffius

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This chapter provides a rare insight into everyday life in an early modern overseas collegial institution. It focuses on the purpose and daily operations of the English Jesuit college of St Omers, founded in 1593, now located at Stonyhurst in Lancashire, England.Through surviving documentation, including the extraordinary ‘Custom Book of 
St Omers’ penned by the college’s third rector, Gilles Schondonck, it explores how the rule book structured the lives of collegians and expressed the primary function of the institution. Specifically, it places the Customs Book in the context of the St Omers’ sodality, whose declared mission was the reconversion of England to Catholicism. The Customs Book emerges as a contemporary testament of spiritual and cultural identity tailored for an early modern educational institution dating from 1599 to c. 1650. It is one of the earliest surviving responses to the comprehensive Jesuit system of education, the Ratio Studiorum, published in January 1599. Elements of the Customs Book have, before now, appeared in the work of Hubert Chadwick, Joseph McCabe, and Maurice Whitehead but it has not yet been examined as a complete document. This paper seeks to assess the manuscript in the light of its significance as a manual of operations for English Jesuit collegiate education and for the spiritual and cultural formation of a community in exile.