| TOR & The Irish Connection
There are 2 documents on this page:
1. The Third
Order Regular and the "Irish Connection": - Fr. Seraphin J. Conley, TOR
2. The Third Order Regular of St. Francis in Ireland: - Fr. Patrick J. Quinn, TOR
THIRD ORDER REGULAR
OF ST. FRANCIS OF PENANCE
AND THE "IRISH CONNECTION"
Seraphin Conley, TOR "The Cord," 1992
long ago, I had the opportunity to visit the historic Friary of "San Isidoro" in
Rome, the site of the Irish College established by the famous Luke Wadding, OFM for the
education of young friars from his country during the long period of religious persecution
there. In the Refectory is an impressive set of drawings of the ruins of some of the
ancient houses of the Friars Minor in Ireland. I thought it would be nice to have a
similar drawing of the ruins of a house of the Irish Friars or Sisters of the Third Order
Regular for an honored place in our Generalate at the Convent of Sts. Cosmas & Damian.
In the process of searching for my ancient and picturesque ruin, I discovered a number of
of all, that in the fifteenth century there was a rapid expansion of the TOR Friars in
Ireland similar to the remarkable response to the Order in Italy and in Spain. In that
century, during which it seems there were no fraternities of the TOR in England and only
two in Scotland, some forty friaries would be founded in Ireland. The Order took root in
Connaught and spread most successfully in the western part of Ireland beyond the Pale
where the native Irish were still dominant. Obviously, there was something about the Rule
of the Franciscan Order of Penance which was attractive to the Irish spirit and a
flexibility which enabled the friars to respond to a need in the local Church and culture.
and curious detail, given the numerous congregations of Tertiary Sisters, is that there
seems to have been either no communities or only two communities of women following the
TOR Rule during the same period. In light of this, one of the historians wondered why
certain papal letters to Ireland were addressed to the Brothers... and Sisters... of the
Third Order Regular of Penance! Most probably the solution to this not very great mystery
is that since the Rule has always been "The Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of
Penance," any papal document granting a privilege or referring to the entire Third
Order Regular would use this formula.
Irish Congregation of the Franciscan Third Order Regular was made up of both clerics and
non-clerical members. It is known that a number of secular vicars and canons had resigned
their offices and benefices to become friars. Under their influence, the religious strove
to live a life of penance and self-sacrifice in community while cooperating in the
pastoral work of the neighboring parishes. However, the special work of the TORs in
Ireland was teaching. Each monastery was to a greater or lesser extent a center of
learning and had its own "free school" for boys. As teachers in 15th century
Ireland, their cultural and teaching interests would not have centered so much around the
classics of Greece and Rome as around the native learning - the grammar, the poetry and
songs of Gaelic Ireland and the sagas of its important heroes. In an important time in
Irish history, the Third Order Regular Franciscans as teachers preserved the native
culture, as priests they provided pastoral assistance to the faithful in their districts
and as sons of St. Francis their loyalty and obedience to Rome was unshakable.
Reformation was eventually to wipe out the TOR in Ireland. However, it took a long time
before English law could effectively reach into the rural areas to definitively suppress
their Convents. The Friars would come back to places several times after their expulsion
but probably by 1635 the last of the TOR Friars had died. Over the following centuries
even the memory of their connection with certain ruins of churches or friaries was lost to
the local people. Of the 47 Third Order Regular foundations, there are remains of 21. The
only Convent to be fully preserved is that of Rosserk Friary founded sometime before 1441.
It is built of cut stone work of the highest quality and beautifully situated on Killala
Bay at Rosserk, County Mayo.
Rosserk Friary, County Mayo circa 1440
There is a famous
monastery with the confident motto: "If cut down, it will sprout anew." That
could very fittingly be a description of the Third Order Regular in so many countries. In
Ireland, it did "sprout anew" especially in the Congregation of Franciscan
Brothers of the Third Order Regular with their Motherhouse at "Mount Bellew" in
the Diocese of Tuam. In the very best TOR tradition it was rooted in the Local Church and
in service to the people. The fraternity began with two brothers dedicated to teaching
children their catechism and their language. More young men joined them and they developed
three types of schools: Sunday Schools for those young men working in the mills during the
week; Evening Schools where the brothers handed on their skills as tradesmen; and the Day
Schools or the regular grammar school for boys. The Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. McHale was an
enthusiastic supporter of the Brothers and saw in them a revival of the monastic system of
education on which he would base his Catholic school system. In modern times, the TOR
Brothers still remain faithful to their service to the local Church and people, especially
by means of their Agricultural College at Mountbellew. The emphasis is on the best methods
of scientific farming to get the most out of the type of land in their area and allied
subjects such as Marketing, Development of new products. With this type of training more
and more young people are able to stay on the land and avoid the need to emigrate.
Brothers of Brooklyn have their roots in this Franciscan Congregation as do the two
American Provinces of my own Third Order Regular. Mountbellew might be called the
"Irish Connection. " So, perhaps, it might be more fitting if there were two
drawings to have a place of honor here at Ss. Cosma e Damiano: Rosserk Friary for the
ancient Congregation of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and Mountbellew Monastery
for the modern brothers who carry on its great tradition.
Conley, TOR "The Cord," 1992
FR. PATRICK QUINN,
Immaculate Conception Province, USA
THE THIRD ORDER REGULAR
OF ST. FRANCIS IN IRELAND
DEL. 6 CONVEGNO DI STUDI FRANCESCANI
Milano, 22-24 settembre 1992
TERZIARI FRANCESCANI IN ETA MODERNA ANTICO E NUOVO MONDO
scope of this paper is very modest and represents but a beginning in the study of the
presence of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis in pre-Reformation Ireland. In this
essay, the origins of this branch of the Franciscan family as it emerged in the "Isle
of Saints" will be exposed through an analysis of existing documentation. Likewise,
its life and ministry will be examined and discussed. It will become evident that the
Order was rooted and nurtured in the native Irish culture and will disappear for about two
hundred years with the advent of the Reformation, which for a time, succeeded in
abolishing the faith and cultural heritage of Gaelic Ireland.
date of the foundation of the Third Order of St. Francis in Ireland is uncertain. It has
been suggested that it may have existed as early as 1347, when a confraternity was formed
for the purpose of erecting the bell-tower of the Franciscan church in Kilkenny 1. However, this is rejected by
Canice Mooney, OFM, who points out that the source of this documentation was one Fr. John
Clyn, a Franciscan of the First Order himself, and if this confraternity had been a
tertiary congregation it would be reasonable to expect him to have mentioned it 2. A list of Franciscan
provinces and houses
E.B. FITZMAURICE and A.G. LITTLE, eds. Materials for the Franciscan Province of Ireland
1230-1450 (Manchester: University Press, 1920), xxx.
2 CANICE MOONEY, "The Franciscans in Ireland," Terminus (Mar-Apr
1956): 41. In another article, Mooney cites a document given by Paul II in 1466 which
grants a plenary indulgence to John Barret of the Third Order of St. Francis and to his
wife Joan MacEagan (Calendar of Papal Letters 1458-1471, p. 521). He holds that
this is the earliest known documentation which clearly distinguishes individual persons of
the Third Order as distinctly secular. Cf. "The Franciscans In County Mayo", in Journal
of the Galway Archaeology and Historical Society XXVII (1956-1957): 58.
by a Dalmatian friar at Ragusa in 1385 mentions the existence of four
"Congregationes Tertii Ordinis de Poenitentia" in Ireland 3. Mooney is joined by A.G.
Little in speculating that this citation probably refers to secular ternaries living in
their homes, being associated with the friars of the First Order, and who "gathered
monthly for prayer and devotions " 4 .
inspeximus of the Bull, "Supra Montem" was given to the "brothers and
sisters of penitence of the Franciscan Order" in Ireland by Martin V in 14251 5. Mooney suggests that this is
an indication that the secular tertiaries were "beginning to interest themselves in
the Third Order Regular" 6.
in 1426, an indult addressed to "fratibus et sororibus tertii ordinis S. Francisci,
de Poenitentia nuncupati in Hibernia", grants the privilege of celebrating mass and
the divine offices during times of interdict, "nonpulsatis campanis et submissa
voce" in "vestri ordinis domibus et monasteriis seu ecclesiis" 7. This indult would indicate
that both houses and churches of the Third Order had already been established by 1426 and
that the regular life was also well underway. It is unlikely that such a community would
have applied for this kind of indult in its first year of existence. It is not improbable
then that the Third Order Regular existed some years before the 1426 indult and possibly
when the list of Franciscan houses was compiled at Ragusa in 1385. The inspeximus of
1425 could have been requested well after the regular life had begun in order to clarify
or legitimize its status within the Irish church.
earliest known and most certain documentation referring to a particular foundation of the
Third Order in Ireland is dated March 3, 1428 8. It is a document given by Martin V,
granting indulgences to all of the faithful who on the principal feasts of the year visit
and give alms for the repair and conservation of the church and the house of St.
Mary the Virgin, at Cyllynbonnaynn 9, of the brethren of the Third Order of
St. Francis in the Diocese
Fitzmaurice and Little, 163.
4 C. Mooney, Terminus (Mar-Apr 1956): 41 and Fitzmaurice and Little, xxx. It seems
however that Mooney is speaking of the Secular Tertiaries in a twentieth century Irish
perspective thus limiting their activity to praying in common once a month.
5 Fitzmaurice and Little, 226.
6 C. Mooney, Terminus, (Jul-Aug 1956): 88.
7 Bullarium Franciscanum, VII, 655; Calendar of papal Registers for Great
Britain and Ireland 1417-1431, 427 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 182.
8 CPR 1427-1447, 25; Wadding, Annales Minorum X, 445 and Fitzmaurice and
9 This name is rendered in a number of different spellings. Wadding writes 'Kyllyn
Bonanayne" and "Khyllyn Bonnayne" and in Bullarium Franciscanum it
reads "Cyllynbenayim". Its contemporary spelling is "Killeenbrenan".
Tuam, which by reason of wars was threatened with ruin. While this is very definite proof
that the brothers of the Third Order already existed at Killeenbrenan before 1428, it does
not necessarily indicate that they did not exist elsewhere in Ireland prior to 1426 as C.
Mooney suggests 10. He refers to a document
dated 1456 which states that Killeenbrenan is "quae prima inter omnes domos vestri
praedicti in Hibernia consistentes et famosa existit" 11, understanding "prima" in
its chronological sense. However, "prima"can also be translated in the sense of
"chief" or "principal" as is the case in the Calendar of Papal
Registers l2. It is quite possible
that the Third Order Regular was already established in Ireland before its foundation at
Killeenbrenan around 1426. As stated above, the 1426 document dispensing the brothers and
sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis in Ireland to celebrate the Eucharist and divine
office in their churches and monasteries points clearly to their having already been
firmly established and living the regular life. While there is no known testimony naming
particular Third Order foundations prior to Killeenbrenan, there is no positive proof that
others did not exist. To the contrary, evidence would seem to suggest the existence of
Third Order Regular foundations some years prior to 1426 and possibly prior to the time
when the list of Franciscan foundations was completed at Ragusa in 1385.
are several documents which were issued in 1441 which indicate by name two other early
foundations of the Third Order, one called Clonkeenkerrill, in the Diocese of Clonfert and
the other known as Rosserk in the Diocese of Killala. The first document dated October 31,
1441 is given by Pope Eugenius IV transferring the vicarage of Killoscobe with its
monetary benefits to Donatus O'Kellay, because the former vicar, David Omulcori, had
become a brother of the house of Clonkeenkerrill of the "third Order of Friars
Minor" 13 in the diocese of Clonfert 14. In that same year, in a
Mooney, Terminus (Jul-Aug 1956): 88.
11 WADDING, Annales Minorum XXII, 141.
12 Calendar of Papal Registers 1455-1464, 641.
13 In the fifteenth century this is a designation used to describe the Third Order Regular
in Italy. The inclusion of "minorum" in the title was not meant to connect the
Third Order with the First, but rather it was a means of honoring St. Francis' wish that
all his brothers and sisters place themselves in a position of minority in relation to all
creatures. Cf. GABRIELE ANDREOZZI, "II Terzo Ordine Regolare di San Francesco: nome,
abita e stemma", in Ritorno a Francesco, in the Acta Ordinis, Vol. II,
Rome 1980, pp. 222-223.
14 Fitzmaurice and Little, 193.
December 14, there is mentioned the transferral of the title and benefits of a canonry
from the former canon Philip Oculuan who has now become a friar of the "Third Order
of St. Francis, called the Order of Penitence" in the Diocese of Killala at the house
known as Rosserk 15.
in 1441, in a document dated December 16, there is granted a petition from
David and John Ymulcaeryll, "brothers of the Third Order of St. Francis, priests of
the Diocese of Clonfert", along with the "other brethren living conventually
with them, present and future", the temple of the parish church of Cluacaen Caeryll,
(Clonkeenkerrill), with chapel cemetery and lands l6. It further indicates that the Bishop
of Clonfert, Thomas O'Kelly, O.P., had given them permission to rebuild and convert the
church into a friary 17.
another document of uncertain dating, either of February 23, 1441 or 1442, Eugenius IV
granted the petition of Patrick, Philip and Andrew Yclumain, "friars of the order
called the third Rule of St. Francis of penitence", permitting them to found and
build a monastery or house of the said order, "with churches, bells, bell-towers and
oratories" in the locales of "Trachsasson, Roisent and Baile in muta" 18. Each of these places is
locatcd in a different diocese, Tuam, Killala and Achonry respectively. They are all
however located in the western province of Connacht.
documentation points to the rapid development of the Third Order Regular in the first half
of the fifteenth century, continuing into the early sixteenth. Of the known forty-seven
foundations of the Third Order, Ballmacadane, County Cork, is believed to have been
founded last, sometime after 1539 19. The earliest known friaries sprang
up in the western province of Connacht and spread rapidly to the northern province of
Ulster. Only four houses are known to have existed in Leinster Province, two of which were
located near the Connacht border. In the southern province of Munster, only five Third
Order foundations are known to have existed.
Fitzmaurice and Little, 193.
16 CPR 1431-1447, 155 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 193.
17 CPR 1431-1447, 155-156 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 194. Bishop O'Kelly is buried
in the friary of Clonkeenkerrill and his tombstone further attests to his having granted
that the church be converted into a friary.
18 CPR 1431-1447, 155 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 195. These locales are now
referred to as Tisaxon, Rosserk and Ballymote.
19 A. GWYNN and R.N. HADCOCK, Medieval Religious Houses.- Ireland (London: Longman,
1970), 267. Page 251 ____________________
emergence of the Third Order Regular in Connacht and its rapid spread to Ulster is of some
significance as these provinces were populated and ruled by the native Gaelic-Irish.
Simultaneous with the emergence of the Third Order in Ireland was the ascendancy of Gaelic
power as many of the Anglo-Irish (originating from Normandy) became fully integrated into
the Irish culture, becoming as it were, more Irish than the Irish. By 1435, the English
colonists' power had shrunk, with their territory known as the "Pale" becoming
very small 20. It was in the west and the
north where the native Irish chieftains continued to rule. There were however, many
rivalries and frequent wars among them.
state of the church was very poor indeed. The power of the monastic orders was on the
decline and at the same time, the diocesan structures were struggling to take shape. There
were contentions between the once-powerful abbots and the diocesan bishops. It seemed that
prelates were so preoccupied with secular and military concerns that they neglected even
the repair of their churches 21. An observer in 1515 commenting on
the state of the church said "there is no archbishop nor bishop, abbot nor prior,
parson nor vicar, nor any other person of the church, ... that is accustomed to preach the
Word of God, saving the poor friars" 22. While this citation refers to all of
the mendicant orders of that time, it also illustrates the deplorable state of pastoral
ministry. The mendicant orders are largely credited with keeping religion alive in Ireland
during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Third Order's rapid growth in the west and its expansion northward are connected to both
the decentralized secular rule of the Gaelic lords and to the sad condition of the church.
It is thought that the success of the Third Order in these provinces was also related to
its loose structure and its remarkable adaptability and elasticity 23. It seems to have well
suited the temperament of the native peoples in the west as well as the existing pastoral
Mooney, a former provincial of the Friars Minor and writing around 1617, said that the
ternaries in Ireland are
MOODY and F.X. MARTIN, eds., The Course of Irish History (Cork: Mercier Press,
21 Moody and Martin, 172.
22 <<State Papers of Herny Vlll>>, Ir, 11, 15. Cited in Moody and Martin, 172.
23 Fitzmaurice and Little, XXXI.
in congregatione viventes, et praecipue occupati in gerendis curis pastoralibus
circumjacentium parochiarum, et in docendis scholis puerorum, atque in singulis eorum
monasteriis usque in hodiernum diem sunt aedificia nominata nomine domus scholae" 24.
early seventeenth century source speaks of the Third Order in Ireland as being solely
comprised of men living in communities. In the same document Mooney writes that he has not
seen nor heard of women of the Third Order in Ireland 25. He further highlights the ministries
of teaching and pastoral work as proper to these Third Order communities of men. Both of
these ministries appear to be a response to the needs of the local church.
ministry had certainly become a great need in Ireland at that time as it had fallen into
neglect within diocesan structures. A.G. Little notes that because episcopal sees remained
vacant for years or were held by absentee and foreign prelates, and because the value of
benefices was often too small to support a priest, there was a consequent need for
institutions which were independent of parochial systems 26. Not only did the friars serve in
surrounding parishes as indicated by D. Mooney, but the churches built connecting to the
monasteries served the sacramental needs of the neighboring families as well as that of
the friars. This is evidenced by the document given by Pope Eugenius IV in 1441 which
bestows the house and church of Clonkeenkerrill to the brothers of the Third Order of St.
Francis. It notes that the late Bishop Thomas O'Kelly, O.P. gave the brothers license and
authority to rebuild and convert the buildings of the property "for the propagation
of religion and the increase of divine worship" 27. The already mentioned document
granting the brothers permission to build churches, bell-towers and oratories at Tisaxon,
Rosserk and Ballymote 28 would also suggest their role in the sacramental
ministry offered for the benefit of the surrounding peoples. The friars then ministered in
both the surrounding parishes and in their friaries and churches which also served the
spiritual needs of the people.
DONAGH MOONEY, "Tractatus de provincia Hiberniae", in Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels,
MS 3947, published in Analecta Hibernica 6 (1934): 102.
25 "Non vidi nec audivi mulieres 2ae aut 3ae regulae Ordinis nostri fuisse in
Hibernia, nisi non satis fimam relationem de Carrignasuir, ubi nunc est domus Comitis
Ormoniae, quod furent ibi monasterium Sanctae Clarae". D. MOONEY,
"Tractatus", in Analecta Hibernica 6 (1934): 102.
26 Fitzmaurice and Little, XXXI.
27 CPR 1431-1447, 155.
28 CPR 1431-1447, 155.
ministry of teaching is the other work of the Third Order in Ireland mentioned by Donagh
Mooney. He notes that the schools themselves were attached to the monasteries, and that in
his day, the friaries of the Third Order were referred to as "school-houses".
This points to the priority that this ministry held for the friars of the Third Order, so
much so that their domiciles were even identified with teaching. It is known that the two
founders of Clonkeenkerrill, both priests of the Diocese of Clonfert, were styled
"professors" 29. J. Claffey notes that the curriculum of these
schools would have focused on native learning- the grammar, poetry, histories and sagas of
Gaelic Ireland, as well as the genealogies of important families 30.
architecture of some of the existing ruins of Third Order friaries reflects the two-fold
ministry of the friars in Ireland. The well preserved ruins of Rosserk serve as one
exceptional example. There exists a handsome, (now roofless) church, whose nave is
separated from the chancel by a square tower which is supported by gothic arches. To the
south there is a rectangular transept in which there appears to be a confessional recessed
into the stone wall. Connecting to the north wall of the church is the friary. A square
courtyard is formed by the monastery buildings connecting to the north wall of the church.
The east and west wings of the friary both contain three barrelvaulted chambers on the
ground floor. These chambers most likely served as classrooms and workshops.
from the ministries of teaching and pastoral work, it is most probable that some of the
friars concerned themselves with working the land. Most of the monasteries are known to
have possessed lands connected to their friaries 31. However, their farming operations
were not anywhere near as large as those of the Cistercians 32. Nonetheless, they would have been
large enough to serve the needs of the monastery. It is perhaps in this way that the
ministries performed by the friars were supported. As noted above, the benefices of a
vicarage often could not support a priest. The farming done by the members of the
community certainly would have subsidized the good works of the friars.
CLAFFEY, "The History of Mountbellew" Connacht Tribune (1983): 93.
30 Claffey, 92.
31 This is known through the records of inquisition hearings performed by the English
crown in the seizing of religious houses and giving them over to new owners. c.f. GWYNN
AND HADCOCK, 264-275.
32 DAPHENE COUCHEN MOULCH, The Monasteries of Ireland (London: Balesford, 1976),
At the turn of the
seventeenth century, the Third Order communities seemed to have been exclusively male 33. There is some evidence
however, to suggest that in the first half of the fifteenth century there may have been
communities of both men and women, although living in separate buildings of the same
friary. In 1426, an already mentioned indult granting the privilege of celebrating mass
and the divine office during times of interdict, is addressed to "fratibus et
sororibus tertii ordinis Poenitentia nuncupati in Hibernia" 34. Another papal document,
dated 1456 and pertaining to a visitator of the Third Order from the monastery of
Killeenbrenan which shall be treated shortly, states that "the Third Order is for
both sexes, dwelling under religious habit" 35. It also grants that the appointed
visitator will visit " all of the houses of the said order and persons of both sexes
dwelling therein' 36.
in a document that was issued in October 1454, a license for a house of friars and sisters
of the Third Order at Court was granted by Pope Nicholas V 37. This permission was given
in response to the "petition of Andrew Ocluman, priest, and the rest of the friars
and sisters of the third order of St. Francis, called the order of Penance dwelling in the
diocese of Achonry". The document notes that "the said Andrew has begun to build
a house or church for the use and habitation of the said friars and sisters in the said
place". It then grants the license to "Andrew, the friars and sisters to
complete the said house or to build another with church, bell, bell-tower, cemetery,
dormitory, refectory, etc" and to "transfer themselves thither".
is quite possible that in the first two documents the references to the "brothers and
sisters of the Third Order" are merely formulaic and employed by the Holy See as a
matter of course in addressing religious orders whose membership includes both sexes.
Further, these two documents are general in character, the latter being a brief
description of the nature of the Third Order and the former granting an indult to all of
the Third Order brothers and sisters in Ireland.
the document concerning Court is much more specific, granting
MOONEY, "Tractatus", in Analecta Hibernica 6 (1934): 102.
34 Bullarium Franciscanum, VII, 655 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 182.
35 CPR 1455-1464, 141.
36 CPR 1455-1464, 141.
37 CPR 1447-1455, 713-714.
particular person and a specified community the right to build in a certain locale. This
would strongly suggest that the mentioning of brothers and sisters in this document is not
merely a matter of form, but rather is a response to an individual and an actual community
consisting of both men and women. It is quite possible then that at Court and possibly
also at Killeenbrenan, there existed a "double-monastery" for both men and women
of the Third Order. There is certainly a great monastic tradition of this sort in ancient
Ireland. St. Brigid herself was the abbess of a monastery of both men and women. Given
that Court and Killeenbrenan are both located in the Gaelic west, this would not have been
unheard of and probably would have been quite acceptable. It is suggested that other such
monasteries of the Third Order may have existed in those parts of Ireland that had not
been anglicized 38. If such monasteries did exist, there is no mention
made of them after 1456.
Calendar of Papal Registers mentions a number of members of the Third Order who for
the most part are priests. Generally, those mentioned therein are resigning canonical
offices and the benefices connected to them in order to become professed members of the
Third Order. There is one case in which a priest-friar must have forgotten to resign his
canonry and renounce its accompanying benefits. A document dated July 4, 1448 given by
Pope Nicholas V, notes that the said friar, without any canonical title, unduly detained
possession of the title of canon of Achonry for three years after entering the Order at
Rosserk 39. However, a document given
that same year, dated August 31, allows another friar of the Third Order of St. Francis to
hold a perpetual vicarage whose value would not exceed four marks sterling, his religious
profession notwithstanding 4O. Doubtless, this money was needed for
the support of the monastery and the good works of the friars.
the existing documentation, most coming from the Calendar of Papal Registers, one
would be led to believe that the friars of the Third Order of St. Francis in Ireland were
all priests. However, these documents usually concern themselves with those resigning
canonical titles and therefore would apply primarily to those in the clerical state.
Needless to say, lay brothers had no need to apply for such dispensations and thus go
Gwynn and Hadcock, 264.
39 CPR 1447-1455, 395 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 202.
40 CPR 1447-1455, 414 and Fitzmaurice and Little, 202.
There is an early
reference to Magonius Maccultucko, professed member of the Third Order of St. Francis of
the Tuam diocese and Thomas MacDuorchan, professed priest of the Third Order in the same
diocese who were both granted plenary indulgences in "articulo mortis" by Pope
Eugene IV on August 21, 1433 41. Friar Magonius was no doubt a lay
brother. He surely was not the only one who numbered among the friars of the Third Order
in Ireland. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of historical documentation surrounding
them. There is no evidence detailing any specific ministries belonging to them. They
undoubtedly participated in the good works of the community and may have worked the land
to support the life and ministries of the friary.
would seem however, that there were a good many priests in the Third Order Regular in
pre-Reformation Ireland. There are three Third Order friaries which bear the name
Ballynasaggart, which means "priest-town". There is some uncertainty about
another friary called Ballynabrahrair, "na brahrair", meaning "of the
friars" and thus, "friars-town", as to whether it belonged to the First or
the Third Order 42. Canice Mooney notes that
the "usual designation" for Third Order friaries was Ballynasaggart, priest-town
43. This would suggest that the
friars of the Third Order were distinguished from those of the First Order by their
predominant number of priest-friars.
is evidence pointing to at least one member of the Third Order in Ireland having been
ordained a bishop. Writing in 1790, Vincente Salgado notes that a certain Cornelius,
bishop of "Kilaloa" and of the Third Order Regular, retired to the convent of
the same Third Order in Lisbon where he is buried 44. In Hierarchia Catholica Medii et
Recentioris, a Cornelius Ryanus is listed as bishop of Killaloe, consecrated August
22, 1576. It identifies him however, as a member of the Friars Minor Observant. It also
notes that he died in 1616 in Lisbon 45. It would seem unlikely however,
Bullarium Franciscanum, n.s., I, no. 104, cited in Canice Mooney, "The
Franciscans in County Mayo" Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical
Society XXVII (1956-1957): 58.
42 C. MOONEY, Terminus (Sept-Oct 1956): 108.
43 C. Mooney quoted in Gwinn and Hadcock, 270.
44 VINCENTE SALRADO, Origem e progress das linguas orientaes na congregavao da
Terceira Orden de Portugal, Lisboa 1790: 34.
45 Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi, vol. IV, ed. by Patritium
Gauchat, O.F.M. Conv. Monasterii: Librairiae Regensberkianae, 1935, 215.
a Bishop from the First Order, fleeing his diocese because of the religious suppression,
would have retired to a Third Order friary to live out his remaining days. There certainly
was no dearth of First Order friaries on the continent. Cornelius Ryan was probably
"minorized" in the compilation of the list of hierarchy completed in 1935.
remains of medieval friaries belonging to the Third Order of St. Francis, indicate that
individual communities varied greatly in size. In a monastery such as Rosserk or Slane,
perhaps there were as many as twenty or thirty friars. Other communities may have been as
small as two or three in number. It is known that at Slane there was a hermitage
constructed around 1450, thought to have been built for the Third Order of St. Francis 46. In 1512 when the abbey was
rebuilt, there were but two friars living in this hermitage 47. While there were a number of fine
stone churches and monasteries belonging to the Third Order, such as those at Slane, Court
and Rosserk, there were also many that amounted to little more than a few clay and wattle
huts or a few low thatched cabins 48. The Third Order houses were
generally smaller and less pretentious than those of the First Order 49.
Third Order in Ireland flourished between the mid-fifteenth century and the first half of
the sixteenth century. According to F. Bordoni, the second most numerous province in the
entire order was to be found in Ireland 5O. Donagh Mooney gives a list of
thirty-two foundations and admits that there were more in Ulster, recommending that a
diligent inquiry be undertaken to ascertain their identity 5l. The success of the Third Order in
Ireland was perhaps due in part to its response to the needs of the local church. Both
sacramental and educational ministries were greatly needed. At this time, in both England
and Scotland, colleges of secular priests were being formed to respond to existing
educational needs. It has been suggested that the regular life of the Third Order was more
attractive to the Irish than was collegiate model of living. Further, this was a time when
earlier forms of monasticism,
FITZMAURICE, The Drogheda Independent 23 January 1909, 6.
47 ANTHONY LOGAN, The Ecclesiastical History of meath, vol. I (Dublin: W.B.
Kelly, 1874), 284.
48 CANICE MOONEY, "Franciscan Architecture in Pre-Reformation Ireland", The
Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland LXXXV (1955): 134.
49 C. MOONEY, "Franciscan Architecture", 134.
50 FRANCESCO BORDONI, Historia tertii Ordinis Regularis S. Francisci, (Parma,
1658), caps. XXXIV and XL.
51 D. MOONEY, "Tractatus", in Analecia Hibernica 6 (1934):
and canons regular, were on the decline and often too exclusive 52. The Third Order's
rootedness in the native Gaelic culture also contributed to its success and ultimately to
is also believed that there was a good deal of cooperation between many of the houses of
Third Order. The above mentioned license given in 1442 53, to erect the three houses of
Tisaxon, Rosserk and Ballymote suggests widespread organization and cooperation between
the houses 54. Likewise, the close proximity of the houses at
Clonkeenkerrill, Kiltutiagh and Templemoyle, all being on a line of only fourteen miles,
is evidence not only of the rapid expansion of the Order in the fifteenth century but also
of the response of the local people to the life and mission of the Third Order 55.
success of the Order is further indicated by the appointment of a visitator from their own
ranks. While Donagh Mooney wrote that the Third Order was always under the jurisdiction of
the First Order for visitation and correction 56, it is known that
Thomas O'Ruane (Oruane), senior friar of the Third Order friary of Killeenbrenan was named
visitator in a bull given by Pope Calixtus III, dated 1456 57. In this document it is known that
Thomas was a priest and an expert in canon law, and also given the task of visitating all
of the houses of the Third Order in Ireland. The reason given for his appointment was that
"on account of the distance of places and the dangers of the roads... and especially
seeing that in their said Order there are friars sufficient and fit to exercise such
office of visitation". 58 It seems that D. Mooney was unaware
of this when writing in 1617. This bull of 1456 recognizes that there were also other
friars in the Order capable of performing this office, and grants in perpetuity, that
after the death of the said Thomas, the right of the members of the Order to elect as
their visitor "a priest of their own or other order" 59. This suggests that others
could have succeeded O'Ruane in this work. The right of visitation may have only reverted
back to the First Order with the promulgation of the Third Order Rule of 1521
and Hadcock, 265.
53 CPR 1431-1447, 155.
54 Fitzmaurice and Little, XXXI.
55 Claffey, 97.
56 D. Mooney, "Tractatus", Analecta Hibernica 6 (1934): 102. "et a
primaeva institutions semper erant subditi Ordinis nostri visitationi et
57 CPR 1455_1464, 140 -42.
58 CPR 1455-1464, 141.
59 CPR 1455-1464, 142.
Pope Leo X which stipulated this 60. Mooney's sense of "always"
may have only extended back one hundred years or so, at the time of the giving of the
Leonine rule. In any case, there is at least one known visitator from the Third Order
itself in Ireland.
certain independence from the First Order is further suggested in a letter preserved in
the Vatican Archives which is addressed to Pope Clement VIII and dated June, 1600 61. This letter is signed by
the ministers provincial of the First Order Franciscans, the Dominicans, and the
Carmelites, followed by 'Donatus Cossaeus Minister Tertiorum". His title given at the
beginning of the letter is "Tertiariorum Divi Francisci Minister in eodem". Even
if the tertiaries were juridically subject to the First Order, the fact that Donatus
Cossaeus is ranked among the provincials of the other mendicant Orders of that time and
that he is referred to as "Minister of the Franciscan Tertiaries in the kingdom of
Ireland", points to a certain autonomy from the First Order.
friars of the Third Order Regular in Ireland were to meet their end with the coming of the
Reformation. Their's however would be a slow death, beginning at the extremities of their
corporate body and taking nearly seventy years to destroy the heart of the Order in the
province of Ulster. In 1536, Henry VIII declared himself the "only Supreme Head on
Earth of the whole Church in Ireland" 62. His policy from that time forward
was to anglicize the people of Ireland. This was a political necessity as England's great
fear was an alliance between Ireland and Spain. Therefore, the adoption of the
"reformed religion of Henry Vlll" by the people of Ireland was of great
political importance. Part of the king's policy was the dissolution of the monasteries in
Ireland which began in the "Pale" in 1539. The first casualty for the Third
Order was the friary and church at Slane which were confiscated in 1540 63.
VIII's anglicization policy was effectual initially only in the "Pale". The
church in the Gaelic west was separately organized and thus continued
Bull Inter coetera, January 20, 1521, in Archivium bullarum, privilegiorum,
instrumentorum, et decretorum fratrum et sororum Tertii Ordinis S. Francisci Collectorum
per Rever. P. Magistrum F. Franciscum Bordonum Parmensem eiusdem Ordinis Professum, et
Generalem, Parmae, 1658, p. 383.
61 Vatican Archives: Borghese Collection Series III, vol. 124c, published in Archivium
Hibernicum 2 (1913): 293.
62 T.W. Moody and F.X. Martin, 180.
63 C. Mooney, Terminus (Sept-Oct 1956): 106.
exist as it had prior to the legislation of Henry VIII. It was not until the reign of
Elizabeth I (1558-1603) that there was a concerted effort to establish the Protestant
religion in Ireland 64. This met with great resistance in
those areas of the country still under Gaelic control. The Ulster chieftains, led by Hugh
O'Neill, having seen what had happened to the rest of the country, sought to oppose
English rule and religion. This resistance lasted for nine years, 1595-1603. The climax of
this was to come at the battle of Kinsale in which the Gaelic lords of Ulster, in league
with Spain and other Catholic forces were defeated by the English crown. This would mean
the end of Gaelic rule in Ulster and consequently the demise of the Third Order Regular in
Ireland which had enjoyed protection under the Gaelic lords. Ulster had been the last
stronghold of the tertiaries. By the time of the suppression, there were about twenty
tertiary foundations in Ulster Province 65. However, with the "Flight of
the Earls" to the Catholic continent, there would no longer be anyone to protect the
life and ministry of the friars.
as uncertain as the date of the establishment of the Third Order Regular in Ireland is the
date of their disappearance. In spite of the fact that the Gaelic Earls fled Ireland in
1607, it is known that ten years later, there were still some tertiaries existing in
Ireland 66. However, having been
dispossessed of their property, forbidden the practice of their faith and roundly
persecuted, it wouldn't be long before they would die out entirely in Ireland.
Archdall, writing in the late eighteenth century, held that the Third Order friary at
Bonamargy was the last to exist, with the friars remaining there until 1720 67. However this friary passed
into the hands of the First Order Franciscans some time before the Spring of 1626, and
continued to play a vital role in the missionary efforts of the First Order to the
Highlands of Scotland, serving as a rest house 68. Canice Mooney notes that the First
Order established themselves canonically at Bonamargy in 1687 69. The origin of Archdall's confusion
about the presence of the Third Order at Bonamargy
Moody and F.X. Martin, 180-181.
65 CANICE MOONEY, "The Third Order Friary at Dungannon", Seanchas Ardmhacha 1
66 "Supersunt ad huc aliqui ex ipsis", D. MOONEY, "Tractatus", Analecta
Hibernica 6 (1934): 102.
67 M. ARCHDALL, Monasticon hibernicum, ed. Moran, (Dublin: W.B. Kelly, 1873), 1, 4.
68 CATHALDUS GIBBONS, "The Irish Franciscan Mission to Scotland 1619-1647", Proceedings
of the Irish Catholic Historical Committee 1957, 23.
69 C. MOONEY, "The Franciscans in County Mayo", 60.
to lie in the fact that the friary which had been established by the Third Order had
subsequently become home to friars of the First Order.
Mooney was quite convinced that the Third Order Regular had disappeared completely by 1635
70. He supports this by citing
a document submitted to "Propaganda Fide" dated January 19, 1635. Cardinal
Barberini, acting on behalf of the Friars of the First Order, petitioned the transfer of
the Third Order friary of Ballynasaggart in the Ardagh diocese, "cum sunt dicti
Tertii Ordinis non sint in Hibernia" and because the consent of the procurator
general of the Third Order had been received with the condition that the friary revert
back to the Order should the tertiaries return to Ireland 71.
is indeed convincing evidence. However, there is also evidence that at least one
Franciscan tertiary lived in Ireland until he was martyred in 1647. In a list of martyrs
contained in a letter of appointment of the Irish pro-minister for the general chapter of
Friars Minor in 1664, there is mentioned one "Reverendus Admodum Dominus Thomas
OMorisa tertiarius" 72 . This Thomas OMorisa was vicar
choral of Cashel, killed in 1647 with Fr. Butler and Brother James Sall 73. What this suggests is that
there were some individuals of the Third Order who may have continued to discreetly
exercise their ministry after 1635, in spite of being deprived of the benefit of the
conventual life. There is little doubt that other members of the Third Order Regular
suffered the same fate as that of Thomas OMorisa. There remains much research to be done
in this area. What seems certain is that with the lives of these friars being given over
to a martyr's death, so too came the end of the Third Order Regular in Ireland for some
time to come.
Third Order Regular did not re-emerge in Ireland during the counter-Reformation as the
other mendicant Orders had done. This may be due to the fact that they had been very
concentrated in the province of Ulster prior to the Reformation. Ironically, Ulster was
the last province to be affected by the Reformation but it was the one on which it had its
greatest impact. It was in Ulster that the "plantation policy" proved most
successful. English and Scottish planters were brought to Ireland to push out the natives
and create a new society. Ulster thus became the bastion of
MOONEY, "Dungannon", 19.
71 Annales Minorum XXVIII, 226 and 720, cited by C. Mooney in
72 Archivio del Collegio S. Isidoro, ms. W. 5, n. 5.
73 BENINGNUS MILLET, The Irish Franciscans, (Rome, 1964), 539.
Ireland in the seventeenth century. It is in the very heart of Ulster, Dungannon, where
the last Third Order friary was known to have existed in pre-Reformation Ireland.
Third Order Regular did not emerge again in Ireland until around 1820. It began again at
Merchant's Quay in Dublin with a group of zealous men from the secular tertiaries at the
Friar Minor's church of Adam and Eve. The first Third Order Regular friary was established
in May of 1820 in Milltown, with the second being opened in September of that same year at
Dalkey 74. The brothers were soon to
return to the very same locale in which the Third Order Regular had first originated
almost two centuries earlier, the province of Connacht. At the invitation of Christopher
Bellew in 1820, some brothers were sent to the Archdiocese of Tuam 75. At this time the brothers
continued to be under the direction and jurisdiction of the Friars Minor.
result of the so-called "Emancipation Acts" of 1829, which contained several
articles which were hostile toward religious orders, Christopher Bellew, on whose estate
the friars lived, wishing to stay within the limits of the newly enacted laws, obliged the
brothers to change their obedience from the Friars Minor to that of the Archbishop of
Tuam. This was effected in 1830 and the tertiaries regular in Ireland acquired a diocesan
remarkable coincidence, the Third Order Regular would once again flourish in the west of
Ireland. Their growth and success was a response to the desperate need for education and
to stave off the new evangelization effort launched by the Bible Society. While the
membership of the pre-Reformation Third Order Regular was predominantly clerical, its
reemergence brought an exclusively lay membership. At present the brothers number about
fifty in Ireland. However, Franciscan sisters of the Third Order Regular are ubiquitous in
Ireland, working in hospitals, schools and a
Bernard Mac Uaid, "The Brothers of the Third Order Regular in the Diocese of
Tuam", Analecta TOR XVI/137 (1983): 336-337.
75 Mac Uaid, 337.
76 Mac Uaid, 338-339
of varied ministries. This presents another irony as the pre-Reformation Third Order was
almost exclusively male, it is now almost entirely female.
there was a hiatus of the Third Order Regular's presence in Ireland for nearly two hundred
years, the spirit of Francis once again inspired men and women to respond to the concrete
ministerial needs of the local church, to live in fraternity, without property, in
chastity and obedience, according to the rule of the Third Order Regular. Our Lord be
FR. PATRICK J. QUINN, T.O.R.
Immaculate Conception Province, USA