John Colgan

John Colgan (d.1657/8?)

Colgan was born in Country Donegal in the early part of the seventeenth century.  He joined the Franciscan Order and began his studies in the Irish College of St Anthony of Padua in Louvain.  He was professor of theology there for a period during the early 1640s, at which point he is recorded as presiding over several academic disputations which were printed in four separate publications; but he soon stepped down to pursue his own Sstudies of Irish history and hagiography.  On the death of Hugh Ward, who had begun to compile materials for a complete history of Ireland’s saints, Colgan took over the project and the stock of manuscripts.  He planned a six-volume work that would begin with a general account, then a detailed account of the three national saints (Patrick, Brigid, and Colum-Cille), and then a volume for the saints in each quarter of the calendar, beginning with January.  The third volume was published first, in 1645; the second volume appeared two years later.  Luke Wadding stated that the fourth volume down to June was in press in 1650, but only a few loose folios are known - in the Franciscan Library in Killiney, Co Dublin.  In 1655 Colgan published a treatise claiming that Duns Scotus was born in Ireland.  His great hagiographical study was never completed, though what was published is of immense value and evinces sound judgment and scholarly acumen.  There is some controversy about the exact time of his death, but the consensus falls on the year 1657.  He left behind several substantial manuscripts pertaining to saints’ lives which are listed below. 




1.         Acta Sanctorum Veteris et Maiores Scotiae, Seu Hiberniae Sanctorum Insulae (Louvain, 1645), Folio.

2.         Triadis Thaumaturgae Seu Divorum Patricii, Columbae et Brigidae, Trium Veteris et Maioris Scotae Seu Hiberniae Sanctorum Insulae Acta (Louvain, 1647), Folio.

3.            Tractatulus de Purgatorio S. Patricii, ed. Andreas [Andrew MacVeigh] Vitalis (Venice, 1652), 12mo.

4.            Tractatus de Joannis Scotii..Vita, Patria, Eulogiis, Encomiasticis (Antwerp, 1655), Octavo.


5.         "De Sanctis in Anglia, in Britannia Aremorica, in Reliqua Gallia, in Belgio," manuscript, 1068 pages.

6.         "De Sanctis in Lotharingia, et Burgundia, in Germania Ad Sinistram et Dextram Rheni, in Italia," manuscript, 920 pages.

7.         "De Apostolatu Hibernorum Inter Exteras Gentes, Cum Indice Alphabetico de Exteris Sanctis," manuscript, 852 pages.

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