I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Wild Geese and Clerical Bohemians

Wild Geese and Clerical Bohemians

Andy Pollak
The Irish Franciscans in Prague 1629-1786, Jan Pařez and Hedvika Kuchařova, Karolinum Press (Charles University, Prague), 200 pp, €30, ISBN: 978-8024626765 In the winter of 1629, a decade into the Thirty Years’ War, an Irish Franciscan priest, Father Malachy Fallon, made his way on foot from Louvain across a snowbound Europe to Vienna, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, to meet Emperor Ferdinand II. His mission was to persuade the emperor to allow the Franciscans to set up another institution for the training of Irish priests to supplement the overcrowded facilities at the college in Spanish Flanders. It was a little over twenty years since the “Flight of the Earls” – Hugh O’Neill, Rory O’Donnell and other leaders of the old Catholic Gaelic aristocracy – from Ireland to the continent. Soldiers, priests and students followed their leaders: by 1614 there were three thousand Irish soldiers and three hundred Irish students in Spanish territories alone. The Holy Roman Empire, a vast complex of about a thousand semi-autonomous political units under the loose rule of the Austrian Hapsburg emperors, was another haven for the Irish. It particularly welcomed Irish soldiers after the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618, when Ferdinand’s efforts to curtail the religious privileges enjoyed by his Protestant (mainly Hussite) subjects in Bohemia led to those Protestants appealing for support from their co-religionists elsewhere in the empire and the leading Protestant states of Denmark, the Dutch Republic and England. The result was one of the longest and bloodiest wars in European history, involving most of the continent’s states, from Spain to Sweden, Scotland to Turkey. It was a conflict with catastrophic consequences: the population of the Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia) alone declined by a third due to war, famine, disease and Protestant expulsion. Into this maelstrom arrived officers and soldiers from Catholic Ireland, skilled fighters forced into exile by the Protestant monarchy of England. Many of them ended up in the Bohemian capital, Prague, where the victory of the forces of the emperor and the German Catholic League at the Battle of the White Mountain in November 1620 had ended the first phase of the war, at least for that region. However it would not be long until their services were needed in the resumption of the sanguinary conflict against the continent’s Protestant powers. When Catholic Irish aristocrats and officers found refuge on the…

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