Papers of Bom Sucesso Dominican Convent, Lisbon

Repository: Torre do Tombo National Archive of Portugal, Lisbon

Identity Statement

TitleNossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso Dominican Convent, Lisbon
Archive ReferencePT/OP/BS
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1642-2016
Level of DescriptionFonds (The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions). (Often, but not always, contiguous with an archives ‘collection’ ).
Extent Medium224 boxes


Creator(s): Members of Bom Sucesso Community, Lisbon

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Convent of Our Lady of Bom Sucesso was founded in 1639 by the Dominican, Father Dominic of the Rosary O’Daly for Irish women who desired to live religious life but were unable to do so in Ireland due to the restrictive laws against Catholics prevailing at that time. A generous Portuguese countess, Doña Iria de Brito donated her house and property to Father Dominic. Thus, the community had a home in Portugal where they could live their religious life in tranquillity. The nuns lived a strictly enclosed monastic life under the jurisdiction of the Master of the Order until 1955 with a short interruption during the 19th century when it was judged wiser to transfer to the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Lisbon. In 1955, the community amalgamated with the Congregation of Dominican Sisters, Cabra, Ireland. By this time, the nuns were greatly involved in the teaching ministry which had begun in the early 19th century. Two foundations were made from Bom Sucesso, St Anne’s, Oeiras and Comunidade Doña Iria (in Zambujal) in 1983 and 1993 respectively. These were closed in 2002 and all the sisters came together as one community in Bom Sucesso where they lived until their departure for Ireland in August 2016.
  • Archival History ↴

    The history of the Bom Sucesso collection has been a chequered one covering over three and three-quarters centuries and through regimes favourable and unfavourable to religious institutions. Over the nineteenth century especially and early twentieth century, keeping archives was quite a challenge due to interference in the running of the convent’s affairs by Portuguese governments with Republican leanings. Documents were confiscated in 1823 when the community was expelled for a month from Bom Sucesso. In 1834 and in 1835, further documents were confiscated. Letters were written to various officials asking for their return, but with no result. From mid-nineteenth century on, the community requested and enjoyed diplomatic immunity under the British Government. Some of the archives were taken for safe keeping to the British Embassy and never returned. Subsequent applications in the 1950s to the British National Archives in Kew near London yielded no result either. Thus, it happens that some older documents pertaining to Bom Sucesso are found today in the National Archives in Torre do Tombo and in the archives of the Ajuda Palace, while some convent plans are supposed to exist in the Biblioteca Municipal in Campo Grande. A further misfortune befell the archives during the Revolution of 1910. Many original documents were purposely destroyed by the sisters as they feared that these papers might contain evidence which would lead to their expulsion from Portugal. Mother Cecilia Murray of the community in Bom Sucesso succeeded in salvaging its history from the documents remaining in the convent and retrieving copies of others from the archives in Corpo Santo, in the Vatican and in the University of Coimbra in addition to the offices mentioned earlier. This activity carried out over a lifetime in Bom Sucesso has meant that the history of the community can now be told. Mother Cecilia reconstructed the annals, at least the sequence of events in the history of the convent. Other sisters also helped in restoring the archives including those who typed out transcripts of original documents. These archives have now been classified and are of interest for anyone wishing to study communities of Irish religious women in exile. The entire Bom Sucesso archive is now deposited in the National Archives of Portugal in Torre do Tombo since July 2019. This consists of material created and deposited in Bom Sucesso Convent up to 2016 as well as copies of original records which had already been held in Torre do Tombo before 2019. It also includes copies of papers originally held in Ajuda Palace, Campo Grande, the Vatican, the University at Coimbra and in the Dominican Fathers’ archives in Corpo Santo, Lisbon.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Members of Bom Sucesso Community, Lisbon ↴

    The first two series cover early years, changes in jurisdiction and the governance of the convent, both external and internal. Personnel records are rather patchy and contain few obituaries as they were not required by the community.

    Property is an ample series, though by no means complete, covering some transactions regarding lands in Golegã and property located near the convent, also correspondence concerning the water supply to the convent and its subsequent expropriation by the municipality in 1941.

    The Finance series covers summaries of transactions and reports sent to the Master of the Order. The two series, Dominican Order and Religious Life contain mostly papers from recent annual meetings as well as some
    correspondence. The few Hierarchy records are mainly business papers which the convent was required to send to the Patriarch of Lisbon to comply with Concordat regulations. The Civil Authority papers outline the relationship of Bom Sucesso with the British Government and the uneasy tolerance of its existence in Portugal by the Portuguese authorities.

    In the Spirituality series, there is information to be found regarding the tombs of those buried in the church. The section also includes much devotional ephemera and hymnbooks used by the community. The documents on Ministry consist of letters concerning their first pupil, Marianne Russell Kennedy, account books, lists of permissions for sisters
    engaged in the ministry to go outside cloister, papers regarding public examinations, visits of inspectors, the award in 1932 of a licence for pupils to follow State programmes and examinations.

    Miscellaneous Correspondence refers to all correspondence not emanating from the Generalate or immediate superior. This series includes letters of thanks for hospitality, requests for accommodation, and references to
    donations of holy objects. The Events series includes papers from events and functions held on convent premises while the Annals cover descriptions of these events as well as the daily happenings in the lives of the sisters. Visitors’ books and handwritten library and archive catalogues complete this section. Writings cover writings by members of the community and some other members of the congregation, dissertations, and theses by students on aspects of Bom Sucesso, such as 19th century anti-clericalism and church art.

    Photographs are arranged according to people, places and events with descriptions and dates if known. Newspaper cuttings include
    national and local references to Bom Sucesso and to the consequences of the 1974 Revolution.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    All items retained permanently.
  • Accruals ↴

    No further accruals expected.
  • Arrangement ↴

    The fonds has been arranged into seventeen series:

    Early Documents
    Dominican Order
    Religious Life
    Civil Authorities
    Miscellaneous Correspondence

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Generally open access to bona fide researchers. Appointment is made by email to
Conditions Governing ReproductionReproduction is dependent on condition of original item and only with permission of Congregation Archivist. No digital photography permitted.
Creation Dates1642-2016
Level of DescriptionFonds (The whole of the records, regardless of form or medium, organically created and/or accumulated and used by a particular person, family, or corporate body in the course of that creator's activities and functions). (Often, but not always, contiguous with an archives ‘collection’ ).
Extent Medium224 boxes
Material Language ScriptLatin, English, Portuguese.
Characteristics Tech ReqBound volumes and loose documents. Some older legal documents consist of stitched pages and older handwriting which may be difficult to read. Careful handling is required.
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Originals InformationSome of the earlier original documents that were confiscated have not yet been traced. They may be in the National Archives of Portugal in Torre do Tombo, separate from the Bom Sucesso current archive. Others may be found in the archives of the Ajuda Palace and the Biblioteca Municipal in Campo Grande.
Related MaterialRelated material may exist in the archives of the Irish Province of Dominican Fathers, Tallaght, Dublin 24.
Publication NoteA Light Undimmed, the Story of the Convent of Our Lady of Bom Sucesso, Lisbon, Honor McCabe OP (2007) Uma Luz Que Não Se Apaga, História do Convento de Nossa Senhora Do Bom Sucesso, Lisboa 1639-2006, Honor McCabe OP (2017) Ambassador Extraordinaire: Life of Daniel O'Daly, 1595-1662, Margaret MacCurtain OP (2017) The Irish Dominican Convent of Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso (web), Bronagh McShane -


NoteThe entire archival collection of Bom Sucesso Convent is located in the National Archives of Portugal in Torre do Tombo, Lisbon. To access, please email

Descriptive Control Area

Rules/ConventionsISAD(g) General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed, Ottowa, International Council on Archives, 2000. IGAD Irish Guidelines for Archival Description, Dublin, Society of Archivists, Ireland, 2009.