The secrets of Leuven’s Irish connection
This is the English version of the last Irish language blog, Cuairt ar Leuven.
Monday night (23 March 2015) saw a great programme go out on BBC2 NI in which I learned an awful lot about the important role played by a Belgian town in the history of the Irish language.
It was the second programme in the series, An ColáisteÉireannach/The Irish College and this episode dealt with the college in Leuven or Louvain or Lobháin, 25 kilometres outside Brussels. Presented by Dr Art Hughes, the programme described:
how the College was founded in 1607 to facilitate the Gaels and not for the Old English who had allegedly been preferentially treated up to then (that’s a story in itself;
how Leuven was a centre for the revival of Irish in the 16th an 17th centuries;
How Leuven was part in the Counter-Reformation in Europe;
that Leuven was “the first Irish language research institute”;
that it was there that the Grand Project was begun to define and promote Irish identity;
that the Irish were to the forefront in using the latest technology available at that time;
Giolla Brighde Ó hEodhasa wrote the first Cathechism in Irish in 1611;
that the old Irish font many of us know was based on the handwriting of Giolla Brighde Ó hEodhasa who did great work at Leuven;
that Aodh Mac Aingil, from Saul in County Down, wrote an influential book, Sacraimint na hAithridhe
that the famous history book Annála Ríoghachta Éireann or the Annals of the Four Masters was started in Leuven, where its main author, Michael Ó Cléirigh, was studying.
The reason why I have written this blog (and the Irish version) is to let you know that there are tours available to Leuven/Louvain if you are interested in the Irish language, Irish history, religion, travel, languages or any number of subjects.
If you involved in language promotion, you might be interested in learning about the success of the small German-speaking population of Belgium.
We all know of the linguistic divide between Walloons and Flemings in Belgium but German speakers have won many rights for their language too. Are the lessons for the Irish?
400 years after the foundation of the Irish College in Leuven, the Irish language is still relevant in the heart of Europe – but is the presence of the language that Ó Maol Chonaire and Mac Aingil and Ó Cléirigh fostered in Leuven under threat from decisions made by a government in Dublin?
But on top of all these worthy matters, Leuven is a beautiful town, only 15 miles east of Brussels – which of course is well worth a visit – and has a wealth of wonderful buildings, museums and galleries, fine restaurants and it isn’t without reason that Belgium is famous for its beers. Stella Artois is one of Leuven’s more popular products!
I’ve been asked by the Leuven Insititute for Ireland in Europe to find out if people might be interested in visiting and staying at the Irish College in Leuven. Perhaps you might want to bring a group or organization this summer when costs are lowest.
If you are interested, then please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
You can watch An Coláiste Éireannach on Leuven on the BBC iPLayer for the next five days (UK only).