Irish in Europe

art by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

I’ve been invited to participate in an exhibition in Leuven, Belgium this summer. The other artists in the show will be Colin Martin, Hughie O’Donoghue, Geraldine O’Reilly and Robert Russell. This exhibition is part of the calendar of events to celebrate the Irish EU Presidency 2013. ( )

The location is the Irish College in Leuven ( formerly known as Louvain).  Founded by the Irish Franciscans in 1607, the college was renowned as a centre of learning. In 1614 they had established their own printing press and they developed a new font specifically for printing in the Irish language. ( The language of the college was Irish until the 18th century ). For more information see:

Using the manuscripts of the Franciscans as inspiration, we were asked to respond to the notion of an Irish identity and to explore our historical and contemporary relationship with Europe. It was an interesting subject but a complex one. Above is a detail from one of my pieces, entitled: Lon Doire an Chairn/ Blackbird of Doire an Chairn.  Its starting point was a poem from Irish mythology where the warrior Oisín addresses a monk and contrasts the song of the Blackbird with the sound of the church bell.


  1. We tend to think of the diaspora as a movement of Irish people in the last 200 years, but a long long time before that there was also a “scattering” or “dispersion” of ideas and learning across the continental land mass of Europe. Your group show Eoin is a continuation of that lineage. Congratuations I am sure you and the other artists will represent Ireland admirably

    regards John


    • Thanks for that, John. Yes, you’ve heard I’m sure about ‘the flight of the Earls’, when the Ulster Earls O’Donnell and O’Neill left Ireland after their defeat by the English at the beginning of the 17th century. O’Donnell and his entourage spent their first winter with the Irish Franciscans in Leuven (in 1607). But even earlier in history, during the so-called Dark Ages, Irish monks travelled all over Europe, establishing monasteries in various countries – St. Cillian in Germany and St. Fiachra in France for instance.


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