Sources for the history of the early Irish Capuchins

Repository: Capuchin Provincial Archives

Identity Statement

TitleSources for the history of the early Irish Capuchins
Archive ReferenceIE/CA/EMT/1-178
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1591-1930; predominately 1615-1885
Extent Medium12 boxes


Creator(s): Irish Capuchins

  • Administrative History ↴

    The Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives holds a rich collection of transcribed documents from various European libraries and archives related to the early history of the Irish Capuchins. This collection of transcripts and surrogate copies of archival sources covers the years from the foundation of the Capuchin mission to Ireland in 1615 to the reconstitution of the Irish Capuchin Province in 1885, and includes documents relating to ministries in Ireland and abroad. It should be noted that this manuscript series is an artificial collection as it is not the result of any one scholar’s collecting activity. The collection was formed by a desire to accumulate a corpus of material vital to the history of the Capuchin Province. The reconstitution of the Irish Capuchin Province in 1885 provided an additional incentive to those who were interested in rediscovering the history of the Order in Ireland. In 1882 the Cork-born Friar, Fr. Benvenutus Guy lamented the almost complete lack of written records relating to the early history of the Irish Capuchins. He noted that the ‘Province dates back to the early part of the seventeenth century … had suffered many a sad vicissitude … not the least of which was that it was left bereft and destitute of archives and particular historical accounts ...’. (CA/EMT/26). Acutely aware of the dearth of reliable archival records relating to the role played by the Irish Capuchins during the period of the seventeenth-century Catholic Reformation, it was clear that a large collection of manuscript material was required to write a history of the Province. It was this intellectual quest for a Capuchin Franciscan past which prompted an attempt to re-create the archives of the Irish Capuchin mission in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, derived almost solely from continental sources. This activity also reflected the Order’s charism as Franciscans have always displayed a distinct interest in collecting and preserving historical materials and devotional artefacts. It was hoped that the acquisition of these sources would enable the writing of a general history of the Irish Capuchin Province – although this hope remained unfilled, what we are left with constitutes a very rich legacy of historical sources, which thankfully have been preserved in the Provincial Archives of the Order in Dublin. It was chiefly through the efforts of Fathers Dominic O’Connor (1883-1935), Angelus Healy (1875-1953) and most especially Stanislaus Kavanagh (1876-1965) that an extremely important corpus of manuscripts, surrogate copies and transcribed materials for early Irish Capuchin history are now extant in the Provincial Archives. In assessing the provenance of the material described in this catalogue, it is impossible to overstate the contribution made by Fr. Kavanagh. He served as provincial archivist for the Order in Ireland from 1919 to 1958. During this time he worked assiduously to collect and record any events connected with the history of the Province. The Kilkenny-born Friar, Angelus Healy gave ample assistance to Stanislaus in his archival endeavours. His Pages from the Story of the Irish Capuchins, was published in 1915 to mark the tercentenary of the arrival of the first Capuchin in Ireland. The Louvain-educated Dominic O’Connor was a gifted Latinist who undertook the first extensive survey of early Irish Capuchin material in continental archives in late 1919. All of these scholars were appointed roles as researchers and postulators in the beatification process for two seventeenth-century Irish Capuchin martyrs, Fr. Fiacre Tobin OSFC (d. 1656) and Fr. John Baptist Dowdall OSFC (d. 1710). The material required for saints’ causes necessitated a great deal of archival investigation. The research carried out to promote the causes of the Capuchin martyrs resulted in the uncovering of important documents relating to the early history of the Irish Capuchins. Taken in its entirety, the collection of transcripts and documentary sources compiled by Fr. Kavnagh and the other archival pioneers constitute a detailed record of Capuchin activities in Ireland from the early seventeenth century onwards.
  • Archival History ↴

    The fonds form part of the archival collection of the Irish Province of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. The collection is held at the Provincial Archives, Capuchin Friary of St. Mary of the Angels, Church Street, Dublin 7.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴

    Official Transfer

Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Irish Capuchins ↴

    The almost total destruction of Catholic archival collections in pre-emancipation Ireland has had some distinct effects on scholarship: it has forced historians to either edit what was at hand or what could conveniently be selected from continental sources. The lack of Catholic archives in Ireland for the early modern period can be compensated for to some degree by the various collections of Irish interest scattered throughout Europe. In most cases these collections were formed at Irish communities and colleges of religious founded during the counter-reformation. For much of the seventeenth century Irish Capuchin activity of necessity had its base abroad, in communities established in France and at the General Curia of the Order in Rome. The fonds consists of transcripts and surrogate copies selected because they illustrated either the early history of the Capuchin Order in Ireland or the wider history of the early modern period. Much of the material is extant in bound volumes of transcripts but there are also loose files of historical research notes. The collecting activity was instigated to improve the archival record of Capuchin activity in Ireland. The fonds includes transcribed material from Capuchin provincial archives in Italy, France, Belgium and Spain.

    Other documents were sourced from Papal Archives, especially those of the Vatican and the Archives of Propaganda Fide. The centralised administration of the Catholic Church has ensured that Roman Archives will supply records about an organisation – such as the Irish Capuchin Mission – which was been legally established and supervised by the Papacy. Other documents were found in the collections of Irish and English state records, family papers and diaries, as well as miscellaneous papers from private collections. Many of the transcripts are based on material which is administrative in nature. The fonds includes a large part of the surviving documentary record of Irish Capuchin houses in France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This part of the collection includes formal documents such as the rules and legal documentation relating to the Capuchin-run college in Lille, reception and profession books, financial records, correspondence files with the General Curia in Rome, and letters from bishops and other ecclesiastical figures in both Ireland and Europe. The seventeenth and eighteenth century records of Irish Capuchin foundations in France offer an important insight into the singular existence of an Irish community on the continent. Other records provide important statistical information in respect of the Order’s pastoral work and mission in nineteenth-century Ireland. The collection also includes unpublished historical writings and biographical material relating to notable members of the Order. The collection reveals the enormous wealth of Irish Capuchin source materials which can be found in continental archives and libraries.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

  • Accruals ↴

  • Arrangement ↴

    The material has been catalogued (2013) and a new arrangement has been imposed upon the fonds. The collection has been divided into four series, which have been further divided into sub-series. The papers in each of the series represent a distinct grouping of transcribed sources. The first series includes copies of the principal historiographical texts of the early Irish Capuchin chroniclers. The second series comprises compilations of archival sources and research notes compiled by various researchers and copyists. The material is wide-ranging and includes material relative to Capuchin ministries in Ireland from the seventeenth century onwards. The third series includes a large collection of transcribed material of Irish Capuchin interest from various European archival collections. This series includes material relating to the former Irish Capuchin foundations in France held in the departmental Archives de l’Aube and the municipal archives at Troyes. The final series contains annalistic and chronological histories of the Irish Capuchin Province compiled by Irish Friars at the end of the nineteenth century. Within the various divisions all the papers have been arranged chronologically by the original date of their creation.

    1. The Early Irish Capuchin Historians
    1.1. Fr. Nicholas Archbold OFM Cap. (1589-1650)
    1.2. Fr. Robert O’Connell (c. 1623-1678)
    1.3. Commentarius Rinuccinianus
    1.3.1. Transcripts
    1.3.2. Correspondence
    1.3.3. Related Material

    2. Compilations of Archival Sources and Research Notes
    2.1. Fr. Stanislaus Kavanagh OFM Cap. (1876-1965)
    2.1.1. Bound volumes
    2.1.2. General research notes
    2.1.3. Correspondence regarding historical research
    2.2. Fr. Angelus Healy OFM Cap. (1875-1953)
    2.2.1. Bound volumes
    2.2.2. General research notes
    2.2.3. Historical Irish Capuchin Houses
    2.3. Fr. Francis Hayes OFM Cap. (1866-1946)
    2.4. Other Historical Research Notes

    3. Transcripts from European Archival Collections
    3.1. Archivio Generale Cappuccini (Capuchin General Archives), Rome
    3.1.1. Calendars and transcripts
    3.1.2. Procurator General Records
    3.1.3. Analecta Ordinis
    3.2. Archives de l’Aube, Troyes, et Archives Départementales de la Haute-Marne, Chaumont
    3.2.1. Bound Volumes
    3.2.2. Catalogues
    3.2.3. Indexes and Lists
    3.2.4. Surveys, Maps and Visual Material
    3.2.5. Published Sources
    3.3. Archivio di Stato, Milano (Milan State Archives)
    3.4. Archivio della Sacra Congregazione de Propaganda Fide (Archives of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide), Rome
    3.5. Archives of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome
    3.6. Bibliothèque nationale de France and Archives nationales de France
    3.7. British Museum, London
    3.8. The National Archives, Kew, London (formerly the Public Record Office)
    3.9. Belgian Archives
    3.10. Spanish Archives

    4. Historical Annals of the Irish Capuchin Province

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions The Capuchin Provincial Archives is open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment.
Conditions Governing ReproductionNo material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Provincial Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Provincial Archivist.
Creation Dates1591-1930; predominately 1615-1885
Extent Medium12 boxes
Material Language ScriptThe principal languages are English, Latin, French and Italian. A certain amount of the material is in Spanish and Flemish.
Finding Aids Descriptive List Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Originals InformationThe majority of the documents in this fonds are transcribed copies of original sources held archival repositories, most of them in continental collections. See section on arrangement for details.


NoteThe majority of the documents in this collection are transcribed copies of original sources. This has created some difficulties in relation to the date element of the catalogue entries. Insofar as possible, the following convention/rule has been followed: Date of Creation: Refers to the date the document was originally created or to which the source refers. Compilation/Transcription Date:Refers to the date the transcribed or surrogate copy was created

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteProvincial Archivist
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description, 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions2013