The victory of the Gaelic element was signalled in 1547 when Hugh O'Malley O.S.A., the first superior of the convento at Murrisk, was appointed Vicar Provincial of the Augustinians in Ireland by the Augustinian Prior General in Rome. The first record of a Vicar Provincial in Ireland is for the year 1360, although it is not known if this person - John Dale - was in fact the first person to hold this position.
The supply of English Augustinians to Ireland was reduced. The Anglo-Irish Augustinian presence thus declined, and eventually ceased completely. As this happened, all was not well in the Irish priories of the Order. In 1393 the Prior General received complaints from the English Provincial of quarrels and disputes in some of the Irish houses. These were based on cultural differences between the English-born and the Irish-born there, the Anglo-Norman conquerors and the native Irish. This was a common phenomenon in all religious orders, for previously in 1310 and 1366 the Norman parliament in Kilkenny had instructed religious houses located among the Norman English to deny admission to candidates who were not of English stock.
There were obvious political differences in the general society as much as in the religious orders, as the English-born were normally loyal to the King. This situation continued in religious communities until sometime after 1500 when all Augustinians and other religious in Ireland were Irish-born. (This transition had certainly ended later than 1455, when the mayor and council of Dublin to expel members with Gaelic surnames.) Even in this tense climate, Irish Augustinians were still dependent on the English Province for their access to higher education at the studia generale (international Augustinian houses of study) at Oxford and Cambridge. The Irish houses of the Order were unable to support candidates there for the required six years for each student. The Black Death in 1348 had made the financial plight of the Irish houses even more acute. Photos (at left): Former Augustinian monastery at Adare, Ireland. Now a parish church of the Church of Ireland.
The King of England was petitioned thus on 9th May 1348 (the year of the onset of the Black Death): “Since in all Ireland there is not a single school (studium) of liberal arts or theology six Austin friars were sent to England for obtaining degrees; their sustenance cost six marks per year. The Irish Austins can no longer pay this amount because the misery of the people is such that they can no longer support the Order. New, John de Graunsete declares himself willing to pay these six marks, if he can charge his tenements in Dublin with it. The king grants this request.”
And then on 3rd July 1364 Lionel, the Duke of Clarence wrote to the Dean and Chapter of the Church of St Patrick in Dublin. They had been granted certain privileges by himself, who was a son of the King. In turn he now asked the Dean and Chapter fund a friar of the Order of St Augustine, Dublin, to read theology in the house of scholars of the dean and chapter at Dublin according to an ordinance to be made by the Duke, and to pay yearly for the sustenance of such reader to the prior and convent of the Austin Friars, Dublin, ten marks at terms to be agreed upon between the prior and the convent and the dean and chapter
The Order in England had numerous members who had obtained the highest degrees at Oxford and Cambridge, but in 1359 the Irish seemed only to have one student there. Anti-Irish feeling there became such that the university authorities prevailed upon the king in 1393 to order all Irish-born lay students out of the country. The Prior General directed the Augustinians to follow this ruling, for the safety of its Irish members. Not only did the Irish section of the Order desire funds with which to educate their candidates, they also needed it to pay a proportion of the expenses of maintaining the Provincial, the appointed leader of the Province of England. The matter was sorely debated, with the Province of England even demanding payment of previous annual amounts that had not been completely paid. When asked to address the situation, the Prior General was even-handed in arbitration, but this still left the Irish Augustinians with a debt - albeit a reduced one - to pay.
In May 1348 the Irish Augustinians appealed to the king for financial assistance. They sought permission to have a man in Dublin divert some of his tax money to them. In return for this privilege, they promised that a Mass would be celebrated daily for the king and his family in the Augustinian houses of Dublin, Drogheda, Cork and New Ross. The king agreed. Further help came in 1361 when Lionel, the second son of King Edward II, was appointed viceroy of Ireland. Lionel had a great personal regard for the members of the Order at Clare Priory, Suffolk. England. Lionel, the second son of King Edward II, helped the Order in Ireland. He created for the Order in Ireland the position of professor of theology at the house of study (studium) attached to Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.
It may have been the first step towards the Augustinians' opening of a studium of their own in Dublin some time before the year 1421. Such a studium was necessary because by 1393 all Irish people were forced to depart England by September 1393, or face death. Irish students of theology were exempt, but the Prior General demanded that, for their greater safety, all Irish members of the Order depart anyway. It is not known whether he did this solely for reasons of safety of the individuals concerned or also for the politics of the Order in relation to the English king. Another reason that a studium was necessary was that the number of Irish houses in the Order was increasing regularly.
The tally rose from thirteen in 1257 to twenty-two by 1500. The locations and dates of these twenty-two pre-Reformation Irish foundations are given as: Dublin (1280), Dungarvan (1290), Drogheda (1295), Cork (1300), Tipperary (1300), Fethard (1306), Ballinrobe (1307), Tullow (1314), Clonmines (1317), New Ross (1320), Skryne (1341), Ardnaree (Adare, 1400), Burriscara (1413), Banada (Sligo, 1423), Dunmore (1423), Ballyhaunis (Mayo, about 1430), Naas (1430), Burriscarra (Tuam, about 1430), Murrisk (1456), Scurmore (1454), Callan (1461) and Galway (1500). ID0691 /
All the members of the later communities (listed above earlier) were indigenous non-Norman Irish. Only one of these pre-Reformation buildings is still occupied by Augustinians today, i.e., at Fethard. Map (at right) The thirteen Pre-Reformation Augustinian houses in Ireland are to the right of the map. Financial troubles continued. In 1456 the Irish members had not paid their provincial taxes to the English Province for seven years, until the threat of excommunication made them comply. By 1476 Ireland practically became a province in its own right, (which was something the king would not have favoured), at which date a change was made so that the Prior General in Rome, and no longer the Provincial in England, selected and appointed the Vicar Provincial of the Irish houses. The Prior General told the English Provincial not to "molest" any Irish house - except to seek the Provincial tax.
This step allowed the growth of a tradition of leadership in the Order in Ireland, which was well in place by the time of the destruction of the Order in England and the attack on it in Ireland by King Henry VIII about fifty years later. The English Province of the Order was destroyed by King Henry VIII, who suppressed the last remaining community in England of the Order of Saint Augustine on 10 March 1539.
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