Irish College Paris Archive
The Irish seminary community in Paris originally formed around a priest called John Ley in the 1570s. It did not obtain a permanent home until 1677 when the Irish student community was accorded the use of the Collège des Lombards in the rue des Carmes by letters patent of King Louis XIV. The Lombard college had originally been founded in the fourteenth century. The archive containing the deeds of the collège des Lombards formed the nucleus of the Irish college archive, which today houses nearly 20,000 items.
The historical archives of the Irish College Paris cover a period extending from 1316 to 1999. The largest part of the collection is comprised of the college’s papers together with those of the properties situated in and around the French capital and owned by the Irish community. There is a particularly extensive section on the Arcueil country house (Val-de-Marne), as well as files on members of the college administration. The collection also has a section on the foundations and bequests that funded Irish students who came to study in Paris. The Irish college in Paris seems to have acted as a mother house for the other Irish colleges in France, which may explain why the collection has documents concerning the Irish colleges in Bordeaux, Douai, Nantes, Rouen and Poitiers. Since the Irish College was mainly a place for the education of clerics destined for the priesthood, the collection includes many ecclesiastical documents, with letters concerning ordinations and missions as well as official correspondence between senior members of the clergy. It is worth noting the presence of a number of objects such as medals, keys, boxes, cloth bags with tokens, inkpots, and frames. In total there are over 19,000 items in this collection.
Over time the archive underwent a number of reorganizations and was certainly removed from the college buildings during the French Revolution. The current inventory was drawn up by the late Father Liam Swords in 1979. At that time some of the archives were microfilmed. Further work was done on the collection when the Irish College received funding from the Irish government for a conservation and reclassification project in 2007. The classification devised by Liam Swords served as the basis for the new classification system. As part of his project more than 4,300 items were digitized. They are now available for free, on-line consultation at http://archives.centreculturelirlandais.com/index_gb.php.
Researchers can avail of a number of search possibilities: via the classification scheme, or through both simple and advanced search forms. It is possible to search for individuals by name in the catalogue (on the ‘Advanced search’ form, click on the icon ‘List’ near ‘Names of people/students’). One can cross-reference the search by name with a search by date. The objectives behind the digitization of the documents were twofold: to facilitate access for researchers, eliminating the geographical barriers between France, Ireland, and the rest of the world, and also to ensure the preservation of the more fragile documents by avoiding unnecessary handling of the originals. Visits to consult the un-digitized items are by appointment on written request. Details and forms may be found at www.centreculturelirlandais.com/archives_eng.
Facade of the Irish College country house at Arcueil (Irish College Paris Archive, A4, f. 3) courtesy of Irish College Paris.