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Rule of St. Clare - Riaghail ar Máthar Naomhtha S. Clára

RIA MS D i 2: Cat. No. 1221 17th century Paper: 7.5cm x 10cm 356pp

The manuscript contains the Rule of St Clare, and ancillary texts, translated into Irish.

The opening section of the manuscript, ff. 1-32 contains Mícheál Ó Cléirigh’s transcript of the Rule of St Clare, copied from an Irish translation prepared by Aodh Ó Raghallaigh and Seamus Ó Siaghail.

The remainder of the manuscript is mainly in the hand of Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh and contains his Irish translation of the following items: the testament and benediction of St Clare; the bull of Innocent IV concerning a grant by Gregory IX; the declarations and constitutions of St Colette, two letters addressed to St Colette by Br William Cassal, minister-general of the Order of Friars Minor; an exhortation of Fr Benignus for the better observation of these constitutions; the obligation of the Rule of St Clare concerning mortal sin; praise of the Rule; an examination of conscience for religious; the twelve evils which come by venal sin; nine ways in which people participate in the sins of others; twelve fruits of the Blessed Sacrament; twelve evangelical counsels; the malediction of St Francis; a table of ‘points’ in the Rule; and a table of contents.


Folios 1 - 32 were transcribed by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh in October 1636.
The remainder of the manuscript is in the hand of An Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh. Mac Fhirbhisigh’s section is initialled ‘DF’ at the College in Galway, December 1647.
There are occasional annotations in another smaller hand in the latter part of the manuscript.

History and Provenance

A convent of Poor Clare nuns was established c. 1629, on the east shore of Lough Ree, a few kilometres north of Athlone, Co. Westmeath, at a place they named ‘Bethlehem’. The nuns arranged for the Rule of St Clare to be translated into Irish (from English) by two Franciscan Fathers, Aodh Ó Raghallaigh and Seamus Ó Siaghail (f. 31v), and a fair copy was later transcribed by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh on 19 and 21 October, 1636. It was probably intended for public reading of the rule within the convent. In return, the scribe added a colophon asking for the prayers of the community:

Ar Ghradh Íosa Críost agus a naomhmathar milsi an Óg Naomh Muire, ar ghradh San Frainseis, agus San Clara, sa riaghail tionnsgaintear annso, bíodh cuimhne agaibh a dheirbhseathra in bhar nurnuighe go laitheamhail ar bhar ndearbhrathair bocht Michel Ó Cleirigh a (fol. xvii loghaidheacht a shaothair).
For the love of Jesus Christ and His sweet holy Mother the blessed Virgin Mary, for the love of St Francis and St Clare, whose rule begins here, let there be remembrance daily in your prayers, Sisters, of your poor brother Michel O Cleirigh, in recompense for his labour. (Translated in Brendan Jennings, Michael O Cleirigh, chief of the Four Masters, and his associates (Dublin, 1936), p. 151)

The Irish text was translated from The Rule of our holy Mother S. Clare, published in English, probably at Saint-Omer, in 1621 (ESTC S91457). A copy of the English edition, which may well be the actual copy used when preparing the Irish translation, has been preserved in the library of the Franciscan House of Studies, Killiney, Co. Dublin.

In 1642, the community of nuns left Bethlehem and moved to Galway, taking the Ó Cléirigh transcript of the Rule of St Clare with them. There, further material relating to the Rule was translated into Irish by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh and incorporated into the same manuscript. In a colophon at the end of the manuscript, Mac Fhirbhisigh apologised for the ‘lameness’ of his Irish, explaining that he occasionally used a foreign word in his translation in the knowledge that it would be more readily understood than the authentic Irish word. The manuscript probably remained in Connacht until the mid-eighteenth century, when it was presented to Charles O’Conor of Belanagare in 1746. His grandson, also Charles O’Conor, was librarian at Stowe in the early 19th century, and this manuscript was acquired for the collection of the Marquess of Buckingham there. The collection was subsequently sold to the earl of Ashburnham, and then in 1883 to the British Museum. Ó Cléirigh’s transcript of the Rule of St Clare was among the Irish ‘Stowe’ manuscripts transferred to the Royal Irish Academy in 1883, by order of the British government.

The manuscript is generally in good condition, although there are some ink stains. Modern cloth binding, gilt-lettered on spine ‘Stowe MS D i 2. Royal Irish Academy’. Ruling in dry point to f. 32, and in pencil and dry point from f. 33.

Digital images of the manuscript can be viewed on Irish Script on Screen.

Select Bibliography

  • Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin, 1943), Fasc. 26: 3283-6.

  • Helena [Mrs Thomas] Concannon, The Poor Clares in Ireland, AD 1629-AD 1929 (Dublin, 1929).

  • Bernadette Cunningham, ‘The Poor Clare order in Ireland’, in E. Bhreathnach, J. MacMahon, J. McCafferty (eds), The Irish Franciscans, 1534-1990 (Dublin, 2009), 159-74.

  • Brendan Jennings, Michael O Cleirigh, chief of the Four Masters and his associates (Dublin, 1936), 150-1.

  • Eleanor Knott (ed.), A seventeenth-century Irish translation of the Rule of St Clare, by an tAthair Aodh Ó Raghailligh, An tAthair Sémus Ó Síaghail agus an Dubháltach Mhac Fir Bhisigh / edited with notes and glossarial index [Dublin] 1950 [Issued as Ériu XV] This edition contains the Irish text of the Rule of St Clare, transcribed from RIA MS D i 2 with the English version of the text on facing pages.

  • Sylvester O’Brien (ed.), Poor Clare Tercentenary Record: 1629-1929 (Galway, 1929).

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