Fr. Gerry Horan from Limerick

Our Provincial.

Having received permission to go there the English Province of the Order of Saint Augustine began a house (convento) in Dublin, Ireland sometime between 1260 and 1280 .

This would not have been the first exposure of Ireland to the Ruleof Augustine, however, because, as was also the case in many other districts and nations, an earlier-founded and separate (non-mendicant) religious congregation called the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine and their female counterparts – the Canonesses – were already present there. For example, the Canoneses had the Convent of St Mary de Hogges in Dublin as early as 1146. and the Archbishop of Dublin, Laurence O’Toole, introduced the Canons Regular to Christ Church cathedral in Dublin in the year 1163, which probably was about a century earlier than the arrival of the Order of Saint Augustine that city. Numerous other Canon and Canoness houses existed in Dublin as well. Furthermore, the Dominicans (who follow the Rule of Augustine) predated the Augustinians in Dublin.
The Augustinians arrived in Dublin some time before 1280, they also settled at four other Irish centres by 1300 within the territory in Ireland that was controlled by the English kings: Dungarvan in 1290, Drogheda in about 1295, and Cork and Tipperary in 1300.
The earliest extant reference to the Order’s presence in Dublin appears in a last will and testament that was signed in 1282, hence presumably the Order had been there and become known at least a few years previously, e.g., in about 1275.
The first Augustinian site in Dublin in approximately 1275 was east of the city walls beside the Poddle, a small tributary of the River Liffey. The Priory there was most probably dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
The present central Augustinian presence in Dublin at Saint John’s Lane had its beginnings much later, around the year 1700.

The other mendicant orders – the Dominicans, Franciscans andCarmelites, plus the later-disbanded Sack Friars all preceded the Order of Saint Augustine to Ireland.

The first Augustians there were men brought from England, for it was the invading Norman families from England who settled in Ireland from 1169 onwards and supported these early mendicant communities.
These families desired education for their sons in the English language from English-speaking friars. The existing monastic schools attached to churches and cathedrals taught in the Gaelic language.
Of the first thirteen Augustinian houses established in Ireland by the year 1241, all but one of them formed part of a semi-circular sweep from Drogheda near the borders of Ulster to Adare near the River Shannon.
This line reflected somewhat accurately the extent of English culture and domination in Ireland at that time.
Unlike the Orders founded by Saint Dominic and Saint Francis of Assisi, the Order of Saint Augustine appeared slow in establishing itself among the native Irish areas outside the area of English domination.
The Augustinians initially worked only among the English settlers, and looked to England to obtain new members for the community.
By the middle of the 14th century, there were thirteen houses of the Order in Ireland, making Ireland both the most numerous but the poorest section of the English Province.
These Anglo-Irish Augustinians became uneasy with their direct supervision from the leadership of the English Province in London.
Their uneasiness grew into tension, and developed into a stalemate which that led to the Irish houses being deprived of privileges by the Augustinian Provincial in London.
In a gesture of defiance the Anglo-Irish sent two spokesmen to the Augustinian General Chapter at Wurzburg, Germany in 1391, and their privileges were restored.
Note that the above defence of Augustinian rights in Ireland was the work of the Anglo-Irish, since up to that point in time the Order had not penetrated greatly into Gaelic (native Irish) areas.

Beginning in the first half of the fifteenth century, however, a change happened. From that point onwards, there was a great benefit enjoyed by the Order in that unfortunately would not also be present in England. The Augustinian observantine movement had begun in in 1387 at the famous monastery of the Order at Lecceto near Siena, Italy.

Observantine reformers insisted on strict adherence to the Rule of Augustine and theConstitutions of the Order, that is, a return to the original spirit and practice of the Order. From Italy, the movement spread to Ireland, introduced by a friar named Charles, who was apparently surnamed O’Hara.

On 19th September 1423, O’Hara was authorized by the Prior General, Agostino da Roma O.S.A., to establish a house of the observance at Banada, County Sligo (which eventauted in 1432, after which some other Irish houses also became observantine).

According to one historian, the observant movement, initiated in this way, was adopted in other Augustinian houses in the country. This example was also adopted by the Dominicans and Franciscans, and put new life into the Irish Church.

The adoption of the observant or strict way of Augustinian life did not of itself save the Order in Ireland. After all, Martin Luther was a member of the observant congregation of Saxony before he rejected the authority of the pope and went his own way.

In Ireland itself the Augustinian Vicar Provincial, Richard Nangle, an observant, abandoned the Order in the early 1530s even before the suppression of the Irish houses by the English Crown.


But individual defections, even by men who at one time held high office in the order such as George Browne and Richard Nangle, did not significantly diminish the witness of the Irish observant Augustinians, who neither threat nor inducement could compel to disown their Augustinian religious profession.


In the first half of the fifteenth century, therefore, the Augustinian situation in Ireland had changed dramatically. Between 1413 and 1500 all eight new Augustinian houses founded were located in a cluster within Gaelic areas towards the west of Ireland (see map on the third page).


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.

St Augustine : Augustinian Centre Orlagh, Dublin Ireland St Augustine : Augustinian ruin Clonmines, Ireland

Augustinian Retreat Centre, Orlagh. Ruins at Clonmine, Wexford.



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 conquerers 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 amoung 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 some time after 1500 when all Augustinians and other religious in Ireland were Irish-born.

(This transition certainly ended later than 1455 in some of the religious orders, however, when for political reasons all mendicant orders were directed by the mayor and council of Dublin to expel any 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 Augustinian Friaries in pre-Reformation Ireland.By F. X. Martin O.S.A. Augustiniana (6), April 1956: Augustinian Historical Institute of Louvain. pp 346-384.

Medieval Augustinian Foundations in Britain and Ireland.By David Kelly O.S.A. Analecta Augustiniana (LXX, 2007), Institutum Historicum Ord. S. Augstini, Rome, pp 187-204
There is a book on this subject by Michael Benedict Hackett O.S.A., who died in April 2005: A Presence in the Age of Turmoil: English, Irish and Scottish Augustinians in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. It was published in 2002 by the Augustinian Historical Institute, Villanova University, Pennsylvania 19085, United States of America. ISBN 1-889543-27-X. 134 pages. A History of the Abbeys, Convents and Churches, and other Religious Houses of the Order… in Ireland.By W. J. Battersby. Dublin: G.P, Warren, 1856.

Chronology of the Order in Ireland Pre-Reformation
Augustinian Friaries in Ireland.