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Patrick Fleming

Franciscan friar, b. at Lagan, County Louth, Ireland, April 17, 1599; d. November 7, 1631

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Fleming, PATRICK, Franciscan friar, b. at Lagan, County Louth, Ireland, April 17, 1599; d. November 7, 1631. His father was great-grandson of Lord Slane; his mother was daughter of Robert Cusack, a baron of the exchequer and a near relative of Lord Delvin. In 1612, at a time when religious persecution raged in Ireland, young Fleming went to Flanders, and became a student, first at Douai, and then at ‘the College of St. Anthony of Padua at Louvain. In 1617 he took the Franciscan habit and a year later made his solemn profession. He then assumed in religion the name of Patrick, Christopher being the name he received at baptism. Five years after his solemn profession he went to Rome with Hugh MacCaghwell, the definitor general of the order, and when he had completed his studies at the College of St. Isidore, was ordained priest. From Rome he was sent by his superiors to Louvain and for some years lectured there on philosophy. During that time he established a reputation for scholarship and administrative capacity; and when the Franciscans of the Strict Observance opened a college at Prague in Bohemia, Fleming was appointed its first superior. He was also lecturer in theology. The Thirty Years War was raging at this time, and in 1631 the Elector of Saxony invaded Bohemia and threatened Prague. Fleming, accompanied by a fellow-countryman named Matthew Hoar, fled from the city. On November 7 the fugitives encountered a party of armed Calvinist peasants; and the latter, animated with the fierce fanaticism of the times, fell upon the friars and murdered them. Fleming’s body was carried to the monastery of Voticium, four miles distant from the scene of the murder and there buried.

Eminent both in philosophy and theology, he was specially devoted to ecclesiastical history, his tastes in this direction being still further developed by his friendship for his learned countryman Father Hugh Ward. The latter, desirous of writing on early Christian Ireland, asked for Fleming’s assistance, which was readily given. Even before Fleming left Louvain for Prague he had amassed considerable materials, and had written a “Life of St. Columba”. It was not, however, published in his lifetime. That and other MSS. fell into the hands of Thomas O’Sheerin, lecturer in theology at the College of St. Anthony of Padua, who edited and published them at Louvain in 1667.

Fleming also wrote a life of Hugh MacCaghwell (q.v.), Primate of Armagh, a chronicle of St. Peter’s monastery at Ratisbon (an ancient Irish foundation), and letters to Hugh Ward on the lives and works of the Irish saints. The letters have been published in “The Irish Ecclesiastical Record” (see below). The work published at Louvain in 1667 is now rare and costly; one copy in recent years was sold for seventy pounds.


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