14 Aug 2022

Ossory cleric brings rare book home

A copy of the very rare first edition of Bishop David Rothe’s Analecta Sacra published in Paris in 1616, has been purchased and presented to St. Kieran’s College.

A copy of the very rare first edition of Bishop David Rothe’s Analecta Sacra published in Paris in 1616, has been purchased and presented to St. Kieran’s College.

The purchaser, a senior Ossory cleric, is well-known for his altruistic deeds. He has had a long and close association with St. Kieran’s. This unique volume, part of our Ossory heritage, was found on the internet by Willie Murphy of Thomastown, who suggested ‘it should be bought for Ossory’. The transaction was negotiated through the Thomastown-based retired school principal turned book-dealer, Joe Doyle of Geata Buidhe Books.

David Rothe, who was born in Kilkenny in 1573, was the son of John Rothe (d.1590) and his wife Lettice Rothe, only daughter of John Rothe Fitzpiers of New Ross. Our Rothe House was built by a different John Rothe of Kilkenny. David probably received his early education in Kilkenny at the local grammar school which was founded by Sir Piers Butler 8th earl of Ormond (died 1539). Earl Pier’s splendid tomb may be seen in St. Canice’s Cathedral. Rothe received his subsequent education at the Irish college in Douai, then in the Low Countries which was part of the Habsburg lands. Rothe’s appointment as Lombard’s deputy in Ireland necessitated his return home. The times were uncertain for Irish Roman Catholic clerics. In Kilkenny, we are told he lived with his brother Edward and also with Richard Butler, Viscount Mountgarret, a peer closely related to the all powerful earls of Ormond. In 1614, Rothe composed a number of petitions to James 1, who had succeeded to the English throne in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth 1. In these petitions he pleaded with King James, (son of an executed Catholic queen), for toleration of Catholics in Ireland. The Analecta Sacra details the sufferings which the Irish Catholic Church and its followers were undergoing at the hands of the Irish administration led by the Irish lord-deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester. Two years after the first printing of the book, Rothe was appointed to the episcopal chair of Ossory. He remained bishop until his death early in 1650. Bishop Rothe was a leading member of the Irish hierarchy in the first half of the seventeenth century and played an important role in the Confederation of Kilkenny during the 1640s. His had always been a voice pleading for toleration as well as one which sought an end to sectarian murders. Days before his death, he was expelled from Kilkenny by the new Cromwellian administration. The College already has a copy of the equally rare second edition of the Analecta Sacra, published in two volumes in 1617 and 1619 in Cologne. It also has an important collection of early vestments and altar plate which had belonged to Bishop Rothe. These items were inherited by the bishop’s collateral descendants, the Catholic Bryan family of Jenkinstown. The Bryan inheritance in turn passed in the nineteenth century to their descendants, the Lords Bellew of Barmeath Castle, Co. Louth. The portrait study of Bishop Rothe shown here still hangs at Barmeath Castle, as does a portrait of his brother, Archdeacon Thomas Rothe. Thanks to the Bryan and Bellew families, copies of these portraits, with other episcopal and related pictures are now on display in St. Kieran’s College.

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