The Rothe collection: a legacy of the Counter-Reformation in Ireland

Published in Early Modern History (1500–1700), Features, General, Issue 1(Jan/Feb 2013), Volume 21

 

David Rothe (1573–1650) was the most important Catholic churchman in Ireland in the seventeenth century. Born into a famous Kilkenny merchant family, David was part of the new trend amongst the Anglo-Irish to seek a Catholic education in mainland Europe. Although it is not clear where he attended school and university, by 1601 he was head of the Irish College at Douai, an offshoot of the English College there. He is portrayed here as a venerable teacher and peacemaker who is ready to meet his creator. (Private collection)

David Rothe (1573–1650) was the most important Catholic churchman in Ireland in the seventeenth century. Born into a famous Kilkenny merchant family, David was part of the new trend amongst the Anglo-Irish to seek a Catholic education in mainland Europe. Although it is not clear where he attended school and university, by 1601 he was head of the Irish College at Douai, an offshoot of the English College there. He is portrayed here as a venerable teacher and peacemaker who is ready to meet his creator. (Private collection)

The Rothe collection—on show in last year’s exhibition at Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery, ‘Portraits and People: Art in Seventeenth-Century Ireland’—contains five significant interrelated artefacts. It has intriguing portraits of David Rothe and his nephew, Thomas, painted by some unknown, possibly Continental, artist who was in Kilkenny at the time of the Catholic Confederation. Their dates of 1644 and 1645 may indicate a connection to the presence in the city of the first papal nuncio, Pierfrancesco Scarampi. The books and manuscripts in the assemblage have an emblematic significance that reinforce the same theme.

Standardised breviary

The collection includes Rothe’s Latin breviary or prayer-book. The Council of Trent had advised—in direct opposition to the national churches of the Protestant Reformation and to transcend the particularism of the Middle Ages—the production of a standardised liturgy and a universal set of prayers. Thus, to ensure that all Catholics would now ‘sing from the same hymn-book’, Pope Pius V issued the new breviary in 1568.

Rothe’s copy is an illustrated edition published by the Plantin Press of Antwerp in 1625. Its pictures, artistic triumphs in themselves, were functional, intended as spiritual aids to invoke prayer and focus meditation. The other surviving possession of Rothe’s in this collection is his Bible, a volume of the famous Douay-Rheims translation (New Testament 1582; Old Testament 1609–10) by English Catholic scholars at Douai. Although the Irish College there trained its seminarians to preach in Irish, it was very much an Anglo-Irish institution for secular priests upholding English culture and loyalty
'


Copyright © 2022 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568