A European walk through Bordeaux 8
The « Chapel of the Irish ».
17, place Pey-Berland
Dessin de Émile Piganeau. (1879)
Today’s building is built within the walls of what was, successively, Notra Dama de la Plassa, Saint-Eutrope, and Sainte-Anne-la-Royale. But it is the name Chapelle des Irlandais, or “Chapel of the Irish,” that has stuck.
The church was mentioned for the first time in 1173, in a bull of Pope Alexander III (1159-1181) establishing the divide between the rights of Saint-Seurin and of Saint-André, who were vying for tithes. In 1237, under Archbishop Gérard de Malemort, an association of thirteen chaplains attached to the collegiate church of Saint-Seurin, known as the Confrérie de la Tretzenna [brotherhood of the thirteen], was formed in the chapel. They shared the church with the Confrérie de Saint-Eutrope [brotherhood of Saint-Eutrope], who had chosen it on account of the fact that the saint’s relics had been transferred there during the wars of religion, and whose most ancient title dates back to 3 March 1356. On 23 July 1588, the church lost its parochial title in favour of Saint-Projet. In the 17th century, it became the Chapelle des Irlandais.
When, in November 1603, some forty Catholic Irish, chased from their homeland, arrived at Bordeaux under the leadership of Reverend Demertius (Dermit in Irish), Mac Carthy, from Muscry, in the diocese of Cork, the Cardinal of Sourdis, gave them the chapel of Saint-Eutrope, then located at 11 Place Saint-André, to perform their ecclesiastical duties. Under the direction of Father Demertius, a seminary was created at Saint-Eutrope where only English was spoken and taught, which lasted nearly two hundred years.
The institution was confirmed by a bull of Pope Paul V, dated 26 April 1618. Gradually, in 1621, the brothers of the Treizaine abandoned the full possession of the church to the Irish and decided to celebrate their anniversaries in the Notre-Dame-des-Anges chapel, in Saint-André. They preached “in English on every Sunday of Lent,” and “on the seventeenth of March” they celebrated the feast of the Apostle of Ireland, Saint Patrick, in the same church. Irish students lived there on the alms collected at church doors, and thanks to payment received through a right they had been granted in the city, that of “laying the dead to rest,” and in the name of which the bearers “each had 40 soils.” This tradition was perpetuated until 1780, and so the inhabitants of Bordeaux were buried by the Irish until the eve of the Revolution.
In 1653, during the events of the Fronde, the rector of the Irish College, Cornelius O’Scanlan, persuaded some 5,000 Irish soldiers sent from Spain to support the Bordeaux rebels not to leave and instead to join the fight for the crown of France. In recognition of the unwavering loyalty of the Irish, Anne of Austria, then regent, decided in the month of February 1654 to offer the college her protection, granting a pension of 1,200 pounds for the subsistence of twelve priests and ten clergymen. She conferred on the Irish of the college the “right of naturalisation or citizenship” to allow them to receive donations and have certain privileges within the kingdom in letters patent, in which she declared herself “the founder of this seminar and college of the Irish, whose house shall now bear the name of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale.” She added: “We want our arms to be placed and carved in relief, alongside those of the king, our successor and son, on the door of the chapel of Saint-Eutrope.” However, the royal arms do not seem to have been placed on the facade. And although the church officially bore the name of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale, the name that prevailed was that of Chapelle des Irlandais. It was under this name that it appeared on the plans of Bordeaux until the end of the 18th century. It is also under this name that it was closed on 15 February 1792, then sold on 27 June 1796 for the sum of 21,006 francs to the citizen Chamblant, a coachbuilder, who established a saltpetre factory there. It went on to become a sculpture’s studio, followed by a shop until its demolition in 1880, when work began on aligning Place Pey-Berland.
One hundred years later, during excavations carried out from April to August 1983, parts of the nave and the chevet reappeared intact, when the building that currently stands there was built.
Until the late 17th century, the chapel and the college were united. But the number of students increased from twenty in the 17th century to thirty in the 18th century, then forty. The college of Bordeaux was known for the quality of its teaching, and once they had completed their studies the residents would leave to occupy the most important bishoprics in their country. In 1696, the college’s superior, Thaddée O’Mahony, bought a house with a central building and two wings at 3 Rue du Hâ, right next to the chapel, to house the college. It took nearly thirty years to finish paying for this acquisition, which was paid in instalments until 17 May 1723. As for the college, complying rather late with Anne of Austria’s requirement, it took the name of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale.
Under the Reign of Terror, superiors, teachers and students were arrested in December 1793, as priests or subjects of British origin. The college’s last rector, Reverend Martin Glynn, was sentenced to death by the military commission of Bordeaux for refusing the oath and evading deportation. He was guillotined on 19 July 1794. The college became the headquarters of the head of the military commission, Lacombe, who moved his family and servants there. It is in this Irish college that the last episode of the Reign of Terror was played out in Bordeaux, since Lacombe was arrested there, on 14 Thermidor, before … …
La Chapelle des Irlandais sur le plan de Lattré en 1733.
Plaque sur le Collège des Irlandais.