The major functions of the Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives are to collect, preserve, arrange, describe, and make available for use the records and materials that document the Capuchin Order’s heritage in Ireland. The Capuchin Order has a very long history in Ireland with the first Friar arriving in the country in 1615.
The primary task in an archive is the arrangement or re-arrangement of its material by the preparation of a catalogue, which is the fundamental tool to ensure the preservation and location of documents. After a period of neglect, the entire archival collection of the Order is being processed.
The Provincial Archives’ team told us about the Capuchin Order’s involvement with the Letters of 1916 project.
The Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives contain the records of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Ireland from 1615 to circa 1980, with the bulk of the papers relating to individual Capuchin Franciscans, Capuchin administration in the Irish Province of the Order, sermon and retreat notes and various sodalities and tertiaries. Principal collections include:
- Records relating to Capuchin houses in the dioceses of Dublin, Cork, Ossory and Raphoe and to overseas missions undertaken by Irish Capuchins in New Zealand, Australia, the United States, and in Africa.
- Correspondence between the Minister General of the Order, congregations of the Roman Curia, the Holy See and the Irish Province Provincial and General Chapter meetings.
- Novitiate registers and papers.
- Material on studies and formation.
- Records of sodalities
- Personal papers and polemical writings of Fr. Arthur O’Leary OFM Cap. and Fr. Theobald Mathew OFM Cap.
- Correspondence and papers of Capuchins involved in ministering to court-martialled insurgent leaders following the Easter Rising.
- Works of art (including original works by Richard King).
- Artefacts (including a large collection of printing blocks, framed historical Maps and plans of properties held by the Capuchin Order in Ireland)
- Photographic collections.
The collection relating to the Irish Revolution consists of the correspondence and papers of Capuchin priests detailing their involvement with participants in the national struggle. The majority of the material dates from 1916-1925 and includes many records highlighting the role played by Irish Capuchins in ministering to Republican leaders and their relations.
Of particular interest to the Letters of 1916 project is a large collection of ‘prison letters’, including the correspondence of some of the leading figures of the Irish Revolution. The collection also contains a large collection of republican publicity material, newspapers and miscellaneous items of ephemera and artefacts mostly relating to the military and political campaign organised by nationalists for Irish independence. A smaller collection relating to the repatriation of the bodies of Fr. Albert Bibby OFM Cap. and Fr. Dominic O’Connor OFM Cap. from the United States to Ireland in 1958 is also extant.
From the re-establishment of the Irish Province of the Capuchin Order in 1885 there had been strong links between its members and the emerging national movement. It was clear that the cultural resurgence associated with the Irish Ireland movement deeply influenced the men who were drawn to Capuchin religious life. Even before the Province was re-constituted, Fr. Albert Mitchell OFM Cap., made a particular point of always wearing Irish-made garments and vigorously championed home-made products.
Later, Fr. Aloysius Travers OFM Cap. preached a ‘buy Irish Campaign’. Fr. Edwin Fitzgibbon OFM Cap. played a leading role in promoting Gaelic games. Many of the Friars were fluent Irish speakers and Fr. Augustine Hayden OFM Cap. and Fr. Albert Bibby OFM Cap. were to the forefront in fostering interest in the native language through Conradh na Gaelige.
Most of the Irish Capuchins were educated in the novitiate in Rochestown, County Cork, where the collegial atmosphere was conducive not only to a religious education but also to a flourishing interest in cultural nationalism. Following the Easter Rising of 1916 the Capuchins of St. Mary of the Angels, Church Street, Dublin, became very prominently associated in the public mind with the Independence movement. Some of the events of this period are recorded in the 1942 and 1966 editions of ‘The Capuchin Annual’.
Besides the well-known Capuchins like Albert Bibby, Augustine Hayden and Aloysius Travers, who rendered spiritual and humanitarian service to republican participants in the Rising, there were other less well-known men like Columbus Murphy, Sebastian O’Brien and Brendan Green who played some role. Although the interaction of these priests with republicans has attracted most attention, it should be noted that other traditions found some expression in Capuchin ministries. A number of Capuchins served as British Army chaplains in the First World War.
The Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives is open to bona fide researchers with access by advance appointment. The Capuchin Order is committed to increasing accessibility to their archival collections for research and educational purposes. To this end, the Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives is happy to collaborate with the ‘Letters of 1916’ project in enabling enhanced digital access to our collections. We are hopeful that our participation in this exciting project will open up new avenues of research into this critical period of Irish history.
If you would like to see more material from the Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives, check out their Facebook page.