The friars in Ireland, 1224–1540


Colmán Ó Clabaigh OSB

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-224-7
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ISBN: 978-1-84682-225-4

March 2012. 432pp; colour ills.

‘As the author and editor of several significant studies in the field of Irish monasticism in the course of little more than a decade, Colmán Ó Clabaigh is well positioned to undertake this synoptic history of the mendicant orders. Nor does he disappoint … this is a comprehensive account of the friars from their arrival in Ireland in 124 to their suppression in 1540 … His skillful use of a wide range of source materials may be gauged by his adroit exploitation of the issue rolls of the Irish exchequer … Readers will also find his treatment of diverse aspects of the Irish mendicants’ life, governance, patronage, critics, liturgies, devotions, education, architecture, art and formation, instructive … the book not only speaks to Irish historians but also to students of medieval monastic history generally. Ó Clabaigh’s grasp of the political contexts of a deeply regionalized Ireland, coupled with its ethnic and cultural tensions, is both necessary and illuminating … this history will remain the standard history of the mendicant orders in Ireland for the foreseeable future’, Adrian Empey, English Historical Review (June 2015). 

‘The range of subject matter and the level of detail in this book echo the integral role of the friars, making this required reading for all those with an interest in the religious, social and cultural history of medieval Ireland’, Benjamin Hazard, Irish Studies Review (2014).

‘The first comprehensive study of the friars in Ireland to cover the entire period from their arrival until the Reformation … this is surely a major work of both national and international significance', Norman Tanner SI, Gregorianum (2013).

‘This study of the mendicant friars in Ireland is a monumental work. Ó Clabaigh has produced what is likely to be the definitive book on the mendicant orders in Ireland from their advent in the early 13th century to the dissolution of many of their friaries by Henry VIII … The chronological chapters are as detailed as is ever likely to be possible … The second part of Ó Clabaigh’s book is well-nigh faultless. It is work that will guarantee its place on historians’ shelves indefinitely … Ó Clabaigh examines the lifestyle of the friars in a most comprehensive manner … chapter 8 is focused on the architecture and art of the friaries and makes for fascinating reading [and] is beautifully illustrated with striking photographs … an outstanding work’, Henry A. Jefferies, Irish Economic and Social History (2013).

‘This beautifully-produced volume should be for the medieval Irish historian what the aroma and taste of real, slowly-brewed coffee is for the social beverage connoisseur … this volume, given the meticulous research which it evidences and the manner in which Ó Clabaigh has managed to elicit the most intriguing and often wonderfully humorous of incidental details from what are often tantalisingly meagre sources, must surely have been a labour of love … Ó Clabaigh writes as very much an “insider” in terms of religious life: this is a huge boon and can be seen in his insights into the lives of the friars – from a close examination of their habits (both those they wore and those they acquired!), to their living arrangements, their diet and their ritualised dining … the reader will just have to acquire a copy to find out why the “hat” being peddled by a wandering friar in Connacht was most likely something far less innocuous! … This is a hugely significant work, not just for those interested in the history of medieval mendicancy, but also for the general scholar of late medieval Ireland. Ó Clabaigh places the lives and interests of these friars and those they influenced in the broader context of their European counterparts, which will ensure that this marvellous study will be read and mined by scholars far beyond these shores', Salvador Ryan, Irish Historical Studies (November 2012).

‘Having dealt with the Franciscans in Ireland 1400–1534 in his first book, Colmán Ó Clabaigh has now moved on from a particular order to deal with the mendicant phenomenon as a whole, the first time such a broad sweep has been undertaken … One of the fascinating aspects of Ó Clabaigh’s work is the light it throws not only on the religious contribution the mendicant orders made to late medieval and early modern Ireland, but also their social and cultural contribution … Colman Ó Clabaigh’s interdisciplinary monograph makes a major contribution to this field and will be the fundamental text in this area for many years to come', Mícheál Mac Craith OFM, Archivum Franciscum Historicum (December 2013).

‘This impressive study serves as a new landmark in monastic studies, offering a wide-ranging and scholarly discussion of the Irish mendicant orders that should serve as a standard work for the foreseeable future … the book offers a rounded and critical approach to medieval friars and friaries', Deirdre O'Sullivan, Journal of Medieval Archaeology (2013).

‘This is a handsome book, packed with information and full of wonderful photographs and images … Colmán Ó Clabaigh has succeeded brilliantly in approaching the history of the friars in Ireland in a multi-disciplinary manner, and making his results accessible to readers interested in learning more about this fascinating topic', Brendan Scott, Breifne (2013).

‘Ó Clabaigh treats an enormous amount of detail in a very organised fashion … Replete with details garnered from history and hagiography, the text includes selections that enliven the narrative history … The author includes numerous appealing, informative pages throughout. History is as richly revealed in image as it is in words in this volume', Roberta A. McKelvie OSF, The Catholic Historial Review (October 2013).

‘Ó Clabaigh’s approach offers many interesting similarities and contrasts … Ó Clabaigh furnishes us with gems of information throughout his work … It is difficult to do justice to Colman Ó Clabaigh’s scholarship within the confines of a short review. Suffice to say that his interdisciplinary monograph makes a major contribution to Irish religious, social, and cultural history in the late medieval and early modern periods. He has placed us in his debt', Mícheál Mac Craith OFM, Renaissance Quarterly (Summer 2013).

‘Publication of Br. Ó Clabaigh’s The Friars in Ireland 1224–1540 is long overdue; but worth the wait … This is a scholarly work, but not at the expense of accessibility … The text is beautifully illustrated, including some hitherto unpublished images and the bibliography contains a comprehensive listing of primary and secondary sources. This is an important contribution to the study of religious life in medieval Ireland and is likely to be the standard text on the subject for some years to come', Rachel Moss, Irish Theological Quarterly (2012).

‘This wonderfully written and extensively researched volume concludes with an epilogue detailing the developments and upheavals in Ireland during the tumultuous decade between 1530 and 1540 ... This is an excellently produced volume with extremely useful references and an extensive bibliography', Michael Merrigan, Ireland’s Genealogical Gazette (May 2012).

‘The real strength of this book lies in the manner in which it combines religious history with architectural, intellectual, social and political history to illuminate a crucial element in medieval Irish life … The publishers are to be congratulated for producing a very attractive book containing numerous helpful maps and plans, and a large number of excellent photographs … Students of medieval Irish history will be forever in his debt on account of this book’, Brendan Smith, The Tablet (June 2012).