The origins of the Archives of St. Isidore’s College begin with the Irish friar, Luke Wadding, Annalist and Chronicler General of the Franciscan Order, who was appointed to write the history of the Order, the “Annales Minorum.” The papers that refer to St. Isidore’s College, and the various documents written by Wadding, were, from the beginning, all fused together, both those that are personal and those connected with his many activities. In a document prepared for an apostolic visitation in 1663, one reads that there should have been two archives, that of Luke Wadding and that of the house, but there was only one. Another notable characteristic of the Archives of St. Isidore’s in the first two years after its foundation was the function they were intended to fulfil. Because of the English persecution in Ireland, the Irish Franciscan Province was unable to have a safe depository at home and decided, therefore, to send all its official documentation to Rome, to the archive here.
The official documentation continued without any significant interruption or change until 1792, the year when it is thought that some sections of the Archives from the Irish Franciscan College of St. Anthony in Louvain were transferred to St. Isidore’s for safekeeping following the first invasion of the French into the Netherlands. Just a few years later, in 1798, a series of events began which would lead to the impoverishment and dismemberment of the Archives of St. Isidore’s. During the First Roman Republic (1798-99) the documents were hidden, and the archives remained intact thanks to the help of Fr. Dunne OP, of San Clemente, Rome.
During the French occupation of Rome (1810 -1814) the College was confiscated and sold to a private owner who changed it into a hostel. During those four years only the Guardian, James MacCormick, and a lay-brother, Br Francis, were allowed to remain in St. Isidore’s, so that they could celebrate Mass in the church and take care of the Archives and the Library. Fr. MacCormick arranged the removal of the more precious items to the Vatican, Propaganda Fide and the church of La Minerva. Despite these efforts, about 290 manuscripts and some books were taken to Paris, as well as the Pontifical Archives, and they were not returned until 1817.
When the life of the College was restored in 1814, efforts were made to recover the books and documents, but not without some thefts and losses. The peace that followed was short enough because in September 1870 the “capture of Rome” as part of the unification of Italy forced the Irish Provincial to transfer – “fast and furiously”- a large part of the manuscripts and documents from St. Isidore’s to the British Delegation, to keep them safe from doubtless appropriation by the new Italian government. In a short time, in 1872/3, Fr. Luke Carey managed to move this material to Dublin. It was initially deposited in the friary at Merchants’ Quay. In 1946 it was taken to the new house of Franciscan studies at Dún Mhuire, Killiney, and then finally, in the 1990s, to the Mícheál Ó Cléirigh Institute for the Study of Irish History and Civilisation in University College, Dublin, where the books and manuscripts are now being carefully conserved and studied.
Today, the Archives of St. Isidore’s College are divided into three different collections of documents, located in three different places.
One part is located in Collegio S. Isidoro itself. In 2010 it was decided to carry out a survey aimed at an initial recognition of the different types of documentation to hand, as also their quantification, to provide a complete inventory. Meanwhile, it was noted that the documents referred generally to the period 1660 to 2000, but that a more detailed study would be required to distinguish the various epochs.
Another part of the Archives, for security reasons, is temporarily located in the Archives of the General Curia of the Order of Friars Minor here in Rome.
For queries about accessing the archive in St. Isidore’s please email: firstname.lastname@example.org