St Patrick's College, Maynooth

St Patrick's College, Maynooth
St Patrick's College, Maynooth
Coláiste Phádraig, Má Nuad
Latin: Collegium Sti Patricii Apud Maynooth
Established 1795
Type Roman Catholic, Private
President Monsignor Hugh Connolly D.D.
Location Maynooth, Republic of Ireland
53°22′49″N 6°35′46″W / 53.3804°N 6.5961°W / 53.3804; -6.5961Coordinates: 53°22′49″N 6°35′46″W / 53.3804°N 6.5961°W / 53.3804; -6.5961
Former names Royal College of St. Patrick Maynooth
Nickname Maynooth College
Affiliations FIUC {Federation of Catholic Universities} NUI (1910-1997),
Pontifical university,
Maryvale Institute,
Scotus College, Royal University of Ireland(1882–1909)
Catholic University of Ireland(1876-1882)

St Patrick's College, Maynooth (Irish: Coláiste Naoimh Phádraig, Maigh Nuad) is the "National Seminary for Ireland" (a Roman Catholic college), and a Pontifical University, located in the village of Maynooth, 15 miles from Dublin, Ireland. The college and seminary are often referred to as Maynooth College. The college was officially established as the Royal College of St Patrick by an Act of Grattan's Parliament in 1795. Mr. Thomas Pelham, the Secretary of State, introduced his Bill for the foundation of a Catholic college, and this was enacted by Parliament.

There are in 2011 approximately 75 men studying for the priesthood at Maynooth: 68 resident seminarians and some non residents. It is now the only major seminary in Ireland. Degrees are awarded by the Pontifical University at Maynooth, which was established by a Pontifical Charter of 1896. The Pontifical Charter entitles the university to grant degrees in canon law, philosophy and theology.

The college is associated with the separate National University of Ireland, Maynooth.



The town of Maynooth, Co. Kildare, was the seat of the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare. The ivy-covered tower attached to St Mary's Protestant Church is all that remains of the ancient college of St Mary of Maynooth which was founded and endowed by Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1518, the 9th Earl presented a petition to the then Archbishop of Dublin (William Rokeby), for a license to found and endow a college at Maynooth: the College of the Blessed Virgin Mary.[1]

St Patrick's College

The present college was created in the 1790s against the background of the upheaval during the French Revolution and the gradual removal of the penal laws. Until this time a significant number of Irish Catholic priests were educated on the European continent, particularly in France.

The college was established on 5 June 1795 (35 Geo III, cap. 21) as The Royal College of St Patrick, by act of the Parliament of Ireland, to provide "for the better education of persons professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion". The College in Maynooth was originally established to provide a university education for Catholic lay and ecclesiastical students,[2] the lay college was based in Riverstown House on the south campus from 1802. With the opening of Clongowes Wood in 1814, the lay college (which had lay trustees)[3] was closed[4] and the college functioned solely as a Catholic seminary for almost 150 years.

The college was particularly intended to provide for the education of Catholic priests in Ireland, who until this Act had to go to the continent for training. The added value in this was the reduction of the number of priests returning from training in revolutionary France (with whom Britain was at war) thus hindering potential revolution. The value to the government was proved by the condemnation by the Catholic Church hierarchy of the 1798 rebellion and later support for the Act of Union.

In 1800, John Butler, 12th Baron Dunboyne, died and left a substantial fortune to the College. Butler had been a Roman Catholic, and Bishop of Cork, who had embraced Protestantism in order to marry and guarantee the succession to his hereditary title. However, there were no children to his marriage and it was alleged that he had been reconciled to the Catholic Church at his death. Were this the case, a penal law demanded that the will was invalid and his wealth would pass to his family. Much litigation followed before a negotiated settlement in 1808 that led to the establishment of a Dunboyne scholarship fund.[5]

The land was donated by William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, who had argued in favour of Catholic Emancipation in the Irish House of Lords. He lived nearby at Carton and also at Leinster House. The building work was paid for by the British Government; parliament continued to give it an annual grant until the Irish Church Act 1869. When this law was passed the College received a capital sum of £369,000. The trustees invested 75% of this in mortgages to Irish landowners at a yield of 4.25% or 4.75% per annum. This would have been considered a secure investment at that time but agitation for land reform and the depression of the 1870s eroded this security. The largest single mortgage was granted to the Earl of Granard. Accumulated losses on these transactions reached £35,000 by 1906.[6]

The first building to go up on this site was designed by, and named after, John Stoyte; Stoyte House, which can still be seen from the entrance to the old campus, is a well-known building to Maynooth students and stands very close to the very historic Maynooth Castle. Over the next 15 years, the site at Maynooth underwent rapid construction so as to cater for the influx of new students, and the buildings which now border St Joseph's Square (to the rear of Stoyte House) were completed by 1824.

The Rev. Dr. Laurence F. Renehan (1797–1857, a noted antiquarian, church historian, and cleric, served as president of St Patrick's from 1845 until 1857. Under Renehan, many of the college's most important buildings were constructed by Augustus Pugin.[7]

The museum in Maynooth College contains many items from the college's history, including ecclesiastical artifacts and scientific apparatus such as that of the physicist Nicholas Callan.[8] Nicholas Callan figure in the study of electromagnetism, inventing the Induction Coil and Maynooth Battery. Callan is buried in the college grounds.

Maynooth Grant

Following the controversy regarding the Maynooth Grant, the College received a higher annual grant from the British Government, as well as a sum for repairs. In 1845, the British government under Robert Peel increased the annual grant to Maynooth College from £9,000 to £26,000, and provided a capital grant of £30,000 for building extensions again. However this was controversial as Roman Catholics saw it as a bribe, while most Protestants were not in favour of the government funding Roman Catholic education.[9][10] For example the Anti-Maynooth Conference was hosted in London in May 1845 by Conservatives, evangelical Anglicans and the Protestant Association to campaign against the Maynooth Grant.[11]


In 1876 the college became a constituent college of the Catholic University of Ireland, and later offered Royal University of Ireland degrees in arts and science. Even after the granting of the Pontifical Charter in 1896 the college became a recognised college of the National University of Ireland in 1910, and from this time its arts and science degrees were awarded by the National University of Ireland. However during this time the Pontifical University of Maynooth continued to confer its degrees, as theology degrees were prohibited in the Royal University of Ireland, and its successor the National University of Ireland until 1997.

In 1966 after a gap of nearly 150 years lay students entered the college again, these being the members of lay religious orders, and in 1968 all laity where accepted; by 1977 they outnumbered religious students. Finally in 1997 the Universities Act, 1997 was passed by the Oireachtas. Chapter IX of the Act provided for the creation of the separate National University of Ireland, Maynooth. This new university was created from the college's faculties of Arts, Celtic Studies and Philosophy, and Science.

In 1994, W. J. Smyth, BA, PhD, LLD, was appointed to the position of Master of St Patrick's College Maynooth (NUI). In 1997 this position was converted into President of NUIM. After his 10-year term ended in 2004, he was replaced by Professor John Hughes as president of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.


  • 1518 - Garret Óg Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, founded the College of St Mary, in Maynooth
  • 1535 - College of St. Mary confiscated as part of Henry VIII's religious policies
  • 1795 - The Royal College of St Patrick established on 5 June 1795 (35 Geo III, cap. 21)
  • 1798 - United Irishmen Rebellion, out of 69 students, 18 were expelled for taking the Oath to the United Irishmen
  • 1800 - Act of Union 1800 results in the transfer of Maynooth grant from Dublin to London
  • 1800 - John Butler, 12th Baron Dunboyne died
  • 1801 - First lay college suppressed
  • 1802 - Second lay college opens in Riverstown Lodge
  • 1808 - Dunboyne Establishment case settled between the Maynooth Trustees and Butler family
  • 1817 - Second lay college closed
  • 1845 - Maynooth grant increased
  • 1847 - The Great Famine
  • 1862 - Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown no longer compulsory for students and staff
  • 1869-71 - Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland by the British parliament (promoted by Gladstone), Maynooth was disendowed, and the lay trustees left the board.[12]
  • 1876 - Maynooth became a constituent college of the Catholic University of Ireland
  • 1880 - Royal University of Ireland founded
  • 1896 - Maynooth granted Pontifical University status by Papal Charter from Pope Leo XIII
  • 1903 - King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra visited the college on 24 July 1903
  • 1908 - National University of Ireland founded
  • 1909 - Royal University of Ireland dissolved
  • 1910 - St. Patrick's College. Maynooth officially became a recognised college of the National University of Ireland
  • 1911 - Coronation Visit of King George V to the Royal College of St Patrick, Maynooth[13]
  • 1966 - Lay students in religious orders admitted
  • 1968 - All lay students admitted
  • 1970 - Department of Biology founded as part of the Faculty of Science
  • 1976 - Higher Education Central Applications Office (CAO) founded
  • 1987 - Department of Computer Science founded as part of the Faculty of Science
  • 1996 - Third level fees abolished by the Irish Government
  • 1997 - National University of Ireland, Maynooth founded from the faculties of Science, Arts and Celtic studies.

Student activities

Students of Maynooth have participated in a variety of inter-varsity competitions. In 1972 Maynooth entered the Gaelic Football Sigerson Cup for the first time and won it in 1976. They also participate in the Hurling competition, the Fitzgibbon Cup and won it in 1974 and 1974.[clarification needed] The Soccer team competes in the FAI's Collingwood Cup. The College won the inaugural Irish higher education quiz show on RTÉ, Challenging Times (based on University Challenge), winning again in 1992 and as NUIM in 1999.


St. Patrick's Flag is used as the emblem of the college, and the flag has flown above Stoyte House, a new logo was used for the build up and since the bicentennial of the college based on the Gothic buildings.

Governance of Maynooth College

From its foundation 1795 Maynooth had been governed by a board of Clerical (the catholic bishops of Ireland) and lay trustees appointed by the government. The lay trustees were prominent Catholic Lords, such as the Earl of Fingall Arthur James Plunkett and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. One of the side effects of the act to disestablish the Church of Ireland, was that Maynooth's governance and funding changed, leaving only the Bishops on the board of trustees.(Vic., C.25)


The oldest part of the library is the Russell Library, designed by Augustus Welby Pugin and completed in 1861.[14] The John Paul II Library was opened in 1983 and in November 2010 the construction of a third library building was begun.[15]


Silken Thomas Yew

The historic buildings of Maynooth.

  • Stoyte House - dating from 1780, originally the home of the steward of the Leinster estate.[16]
  • St. Joseph's Square
  • Dunboyne House
  • Humanity House
  • New House - completed in 1809 (rebuilt after burning down during the 1940s)
  • St. Mary's Square
  • St. Mary's
  • St. Patrick's
  • Russell Library - designed by Augustus Welby Pugin and completed in 1861.[14]
  • Pugin Hall
  • Aula Maxima - opened in 1893, was the gift to his Alma Mater of the Right Rev. Mgr. MacMahon of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C.
  • Riverstown House - used by the lay college from 1801-1817.
  • Logic House - Mathematics Department (NUIM) and Mathematical Physics Department (NUIM).
  • Rhetoric House - History,Geography and Economic Departments.
  • Loftus Halls (usually where examinations take place)
  • Columba Centre
  • Staff Dining Hall
  • Museum - the museum houses many beautiful ecclesiastical and scientific artifacts.
  • John Paul II Library - was opened in 1983
  • St Mary's (Church of Ireland) - was the chapel for the Fitzgeralds, later incorporated into the outer wall of the College.[17]

Presidents of Maynooth College

  • Reverend Thomas Hussey, DD, FRS (25 June 1795)
  • Reverend Peter Flood, DD (17 January 1798)
  • Reverend Andrew Dunne, DD (24 February 1803)
  • Reverend Patrick Byrne, DD (27 June 1807)
  • Reverend Patrick Everard, DD (29 June 1810)
  • Most Reverend Daniel Murray, DD (Coadjutor to the Archbishop of Dublin) (29 June 1812)
  • Reverend Bartholomew Crotty, DD (13 November 1813)
  • Reverend Michael Slattery BA(Dub) (19 June 1832)
  • Reverend Michael Montague, DD (25 June 1834)
  • Reverend Laurence Renehan, DD (25 June 1845)
  • Reverend Charles W Russell, DD (20 October 1857)
  • Reverend William J Walsh, DD (22 June 1880)
  • Reverend Robert Browne, DD (7 October 1885)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Denis Gargan, DD(9 October 1894)
  • Reverend Daniel Mannix, DD (13 October 1903)
  • Rt Reverend John F Hogan, DD (8 October 1912)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor James MacCaffrey, PhD (8 October 1918)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor John D'Alton, MA, DD, DLitt (23 June 1936)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Edward Kissane, DD, LSS, DLitt, PA (23 June 1942)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Gerard Mitchell, DD (23 June 1959)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Patrick Corish, MA, DD (23 November 1967)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Jeremiah Newman, MA, DPh, LLD (8 October 1968)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Tomás Ó Fiaich, MA, LicScHist (12 June 1974)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Michael Olden, BA, BD, DHistEccl (26 September 1977)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Míceál Ledwith, BA, LPh, DD (13 March1985)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Matthew O'Donnell, MA, BD, DPh.(22 June 1994)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Dermot Farrell, BSc, DD (9 December 1996)
  • Rt Reverend Monsignor Hugh Connolly, BA, DD (1 September 2007)

In its early years, Maynooth was involved in many controversies with the Government, initially over the education of Catholics, then over funding and the influence or otherwise perceived to accrue to being beholden to the English government. Since Irish Independence the converse would be somewhat through as to the influence of Maynooth and its trained clergy in the Irish Society, Maynooth would have been seen as being the venue of power of the clergy since the bishops held their conferences there. The foundation of the NUI also excluded members of Maynooth from its governing body as to limit the control of the Clergy over education.

Oath of Allegiance

As part of the bill on which Maynooth College was founded students and trustees of the college were supposed to take an Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown,[18] this was part of the reason why some clerical students would not attend since the perceived sponsor by a foreign government, or pledging allegiance to a Protestant Head of state and head of the Anglican church. The Oath which was supposed to be compulsory until 1862, was evaded by many of the students, some feigning sickness, some repeating the words improperly, and others exercising a mental reservation but all treat it lightly.

The college was also technically banned by the British government from admitting a Protestant or son of a Protestant, this was to assure parliament and more ardent Protestants that the college would not be converting Protestants to the catholic faith.[18]

The Famine

Maynooth College seemed to fare quite well during famine times with only one death reported. The good agricultural land and revenue acquired helped the college, and as a result many ordinary people resented their apparent prosperity whilst most of the country was devastated by potato blight and starvation[citation needed].

Michael O'Hickey

Irish language activist and scholar Dr. Michael O'Hickey(1860–1916) was dismissed in 1909 from his position as Professor of Irish, for his conduct in the controversy over Irish as a matriculation subject for the new National University of Ireland.[19] He was supported by such Maynooth figures as College President Daniel Mannix and Professor of Theology Walter McDonald (1854–1920).

In 'An Linn Bhuí' the Irish language journal of Co Waterford, Dr O'Hickey's home county, Mícheál Briody, Lecturer at The Languages Centre, Helsinki University, Finland, shows us that Dr O'Hickey was a prominent member of The Gaelic League and fiercely in favour of compulsory Irish for the new University of Ireland, whereas Dr Mannix who was then President of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, together with most of the Catholic bishops, was opposed. This was the cause of Dr O'Hickey's sacking. As Briody points out, the Senate of the new University one year after Dr O'Hickey's sacking, agreed to Irish being compulsory for matriculation and not long after that Dr Mannix was posted as Archbishop to Melbourne, Australia, against his own will. Mannix however, later became a strong supporter of Irish Republicanism and something of a thorn in the side of the authorities both ecclesiastical and civil, in Australia as well as Britain.[20]

Current status

Any student of the college, prior to the passing of the Universities Act, 1997, upon whom a degree of the National University of Ireland was conferred is now legally considered to be a graduate of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. The college continues to share its campus with National University of Ireland, Maynooth but remains a separate legal entity with training in canon law, philosophy and theology and awards the degrees of the Pontifical University and is associated with several other colleges.

In 2011 the college had 68 resident seminarians and a small number of non-resident seminarians travelling in by day for lectures. There are approximately 80 post-graduate students of theology and 250 undergraduate philosophy and theology students who are registered as full time students of the college. Up to 120 further students are registered on courses validated by the college including permanent diaconate programmes and partnership programmes with the National Liturgy Institute, ACCORD, Kairos and others. A further 6 Irish seminarians currently study in St. Malachy's Seminary in Belfast (the only other Catholic seminary in Ireland) and maintain close links with their counterparts in Maynooth.

See also


  1. ^ St. Mary's Church Parish History
  2. ^ Maynooth College History official website
  3. ^ New Advent -Catholic Encyclopedia - Maynooth College
  4. ^ Lay Catholics Educated at Maynooth College Hansard (1908)
  5. ^ O'Connor, T. (2004) "Butler, John, styled twelfth Baron Dunboyne (1731–1800)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, accessed 9 Aug 2007 (subscription required)
  6. ^ Dooley, Terence (2001). The Decline of the Big House in Ireland. Wolfhound Press Ltd. ISBN 0-86327-850-7. 
  7. ^ St. Mary's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth History (RHA)
  8. ^ Maynooth College Museum Nicholas Callan
  9. ^ Anti-Catholicism in Mid-Victorian Britain - Theory and Discipline; by Frank Wallis
  10. ^ The Maynooth Grant by Anthony S. Wohl
  11. ^ Proceedings of the Anti-Maynooth conference of 1845 By Rev. A.S. Thelwall M.A., London(1845)
  12. ^ "Maynooth College" from the Catholic Encyclopedia
  13. ^ Coronation Visit of King George V, Royal College of St Patrick, Maynooth
  14. ^ a b Russell Library
  15. ^ "New Library Building". Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  16. ^ Carton House, Maynooth Historic Houses website
  17. ^ St Mary's Church of Ireland, Maynooth, Kildare - Irish Architecture
  18. ^ a b Maynooth College New Advent.
  19. ^ Drums under the Windows by Sean O'Casey, the Third Volume of O'Casey's memoirs., The Macmillan Company (New York 1950)
  20. ^ AN LINN BHUÍ Uimhir 13, 2009, Leabhar Na Linne, An Rinn, Co Waterford, Ireland - Micheál Briody "Briseadh an tAthar Ó hIceadha, Samhradh 1909"

Further reading

  • Healy, John (1895) Maynooth College; its centenary history. xxiv, 774 p. Dublin: Browne & Nolan

External links

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