Faced with repression in their own country, many early modern Irish Catholics looked to mainland Europe for a Catholic education. Over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, they set up a vast network of Irish colleges across the continent in important Catholic centres in Rome, the Iberian Peninsula, Central Europe, France and the Habsburg Netherlands. As a renowned centre of Counter- Reformation thought, Louvain became host to several Irish colleges, each with their own outlook and objectives. The Irish colleges throughout Europe soon became hubs for a global network of learning, religion and politics among Irish diaspora communities.

As their primary objective was to provide religious education to aspiring Irish Catholic priests, Irish colleges first and foremost had a fundamental role in supplying trained clerics to the Irish Mission, but they soon also came to serve as important educational centres for Irish Catholic lay people. Furthermore, they were firmly embedded in wider networks of Irish expatriates throughout Europe, and therefore ideally suited to facilitate Irish migration to mainland Europe, with many students of Irish abroad colleges settling permanently in their new home countries and integrating into local religious, political and intellectual circles.

This workshop explores the religious, intellectual and political history of the global early modern Irish colleges from a transregional perspective. The idea is to explore the significance of global Irish diaspora in the Early Modern Period. A first set of presentations will explore the place of the Irish colleges within the intellectual community of the University of Louvain and the international networks of various religious organisations involved in Catholic missionary activities in Ireland,, such as the Society of Jesus and the Irish Mission. Secondly, by approaching Irish abroad colleges from the perspective of migration history, light will be shed on their significance in facilitating migration, highlighting how their students integrated into the society of their host towns. Finally, attention will be given to their role in supporting the Catholic cause in Ireland and its relations to Catholic communities in mainland Europe.



Venue: The Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe (former St. Anthony’s college), Janseniusstraat 1,B-3000 Leuven


9.30 am coffee and welcome

10am Thomas O’Connor (Maynooth): Migration, religion and politics and the early modern Irishcolleges

11am-12.30: college networks
Cristina Bravo Lozano (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid): Spain and the Irish mission Alison Forrestal (Galway): France and Irish Catholic migrants
Lydia Janssen (KU Leuven): Louvain university colleges and Catholic missions

Lunch break

2pm-3 pm: colleges and migration
Liam Chambers (Limerick): migration, mission and the Irish colleges Jason Harris (Cork): Language instruction and the colleges


3.15 pm-4.15pm: colleges and religion
Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin (UCD): The Irish colleges and the early modern Irish episcopate: national and

international contexts
John McCafferty (UCD): Religion and the colleges; conclusions

Organizing Committee : Prof. Johan Verberckmoes and Prof. Eddy Put, Leuven Centre for Irish Studies (LCIS) and Dr. Lydia Janssen, postdoc FWO, Early Modern History Research Group at KU Leuven