Clongowes Wood College

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Clongowes Wood College S.J.
Clane, County Kildare
Coordinates 53°18′39.3″N 6°41′0.4″W / 53.310917°N 6.683444°W / 53.310917; -6.683444Coordinates: 53°18′39.3″N 6°41′0.4″W / 53.310917°N 6.683444°W / 53.310917; -6.683444
School type Voluntary secondary school
Boarding school Private
Motto Aeterna Non Caduca
(Eternal not falling)
Religious affiliation(s) Roman Catholic
Society of Jesus
Established 1814; 203 years ago (1814)
Founder Fr Peter Kenney, SJ
Rector Fr Michael Sheil, SJ
Headmaster Mr Chris Lumb
Gender Boys
Age 12-13 to 17-18
Enrollment 450 (2017)
Colour(s) Purple and white
Publication The Clongownian
School fees €16,800 per annum (2016/2017) [1]
Main Building, Clongowes Wood College - Kildare, Ireland.JPG

Clongowes Wood College is a voluntary secondary boarding school for boys, located near Clane in County Kildare, Ireland. The school was founded by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1814,[2] is Ireland's oldest Catholic school, and featured prominently in James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. One of five Jesuit schools in Ireland, it had 450 students in 2011/2012 when the fees were €16,800 per annum.[citation needed]

The school's current headmaster is Mr Chris Lumb (2015–Present.) Mr Lumb is the first lay headmaster of Clongowes in its 200-year history. Fr Leonard Maloney previous headmaster (2004 - 2015)[3] Fr Michael Sheil, S.J., retired as Rector in 2006 and Fr Bruce Bradley[4] (headmaster 1992-2000) was his successor. In September 2011 Fr Michael Sheil, S.J., returned as rector.


The school is a secondary boarding school for boys from Ireland and other parts of the world.[5] The school is divided into three groups, known as "lines". The Third Line is for First and Second years; the Lower Line for Third and Fourth years; and the Higher Line for Fifth and Sixth years. Each year is known by a name, drawn from the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum: Elements (First year), Rudiments (Second year), Grammar (Third year), Syntax (Fourth year), Poetry (Fifth year), and Rhetoric (Sixth year).[6]


The medieval castle was originally built in the 13th century by Stuart Cullen, an early Anglo-Norman warrior and landowner in North Kildare.[7] He had been given extensive lands in the area of Kill, Celbridge, and Mainham by his brother, Rurai Blaney, who had come to Ireland with Strongbow, the Earl of Pembroke.

It is the residence of the religious community and was improved by a "chocolate box" type restoration in the 18th century. It was rebuilt in 1718 by Stephen Fitzwilliam Browne and extended in 1788 by Thomas Wogan Browne.[8] It is situated beside a ditch and wall - known as ramparts - constructed for the defence of the Pale in the 14th century. The building was completely refurbished in 2004 and the reception area was moved back there from the "1999 building".

The castle is connected to the modern buildings by an elevated corridor hung with portraits, the Serpentine Gallery referred to by James Joyce.[9] This gallery was completely demolished and rebuilt in 2004 as part of a redevelopment programme for the school buildings.

The Serpentine Gallery - a portrait corridor connecting Clongowes castle to modern buildings
The Jesuit Community Library at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The College Coat of Arms in the Community Reception Room at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The Jesuit Community Reception Room at Clongowes Wood College SJ

In 1929 another wing was built at a cost of £135,000, presenting the rear façade of the school. It houses the main classrooms and the Rudiments, Grammar, Syntax, and Humanities dormitories.

An expansion and modernisation was completed in 2000; the €4.8m project added another residential wing that included a 500-seat dining hall, kitchen, entrance hall, offices, plant room, and study/bedrooms for sixth year ("Rhetoric") students.[10]

The Boys' Chapel has an elaborate reredos, a large pipe-organ in the gallery, and a sequence of Stations of the Cross painted by Sean Keating. School tradition has it that the portrait of Pontius Pilate in the twelfth station was based on the school rector, who had refused to pay the artist his asking price.

The moat that outlines the nearby forest of the college is the old border of The Pale, with the Wogan-Browne castle (now the residence of the Jesuit community) landmarking its edge.

The Boys' Chapel at Clongowes Wood College SJ
The Altar in the Boys' Chapel at Clongowes


The school traces its history back to a 799-acre (3.23 km2) estate owned by the Wogan family in 1418 under the reign of Henry IV. The name "Clongowes" comes from the Irish for "meadow" (cluain) and for "blacksmith" (gobha). The estate was originally known as "Clongowes de Silva" (de Silva meaning "of the wood" in Latin).[11] The estate later passed to the Eustace family and became part of the fortified border of the Pale in 1494. The Eustaces lost their estates during the Restoration (1660).[12] The estate was sold by the Wogan-Brownes to the Jesuits in March 1814 for £16,000.

Plaque outside reception, commemorating its 1st pupil James McLornan on 18 May 1814

The school accepted its first pupil, James McLornan, on 18 May 1814.[13]

In 1886 the Jesuit-run St Stanislaus College in Tullabeg, County Offaly, was amalgamated with Clongowes Wood College.[14]

As of 2008, there were 13 Jesuits living at the historic school.[4]

Historical accounts[edit]

One early history of the school is The Clongowes Record 1814-1932 by Fr Timothy Corcoran, S.J. (Browne and Nolan, Dublin, 1932). A half-century later, a history was written by Fr Roland Burke Savage, S.J., and published in The Clongownian school magazine during the 1980s; that same decade, Peter Costello wrote Clongowes Wood: a History of Clongowes Wood College 1814-1989, published by Gill and Macmillan, Dublin, 1989).

Statue of Ignatius of Loyola in reception area


Clongowes is known for their strong pedigree in rugby union. Despite their relatively small size, Clongowes have won the Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Cup on eight occasions, winning their first final in 1926. Following this there was a gap of 52 years until their next title in 1978. Beginning with their 3rd title in 1988 and up until 2011, Clongowes have appeared in 13 finals, more than any other school in the competition during this period. Clongowes performed their first set of back-to-back titles with wins in 2010 and 2011. Clongowes have reached the final of the 2012 competition with a potential "Three-peat" on offer if victorious, the first time this will have happened since the 1960s.

Cultural associations[edit]

The school featured prominently in James Joyce's semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. More recently, a documentary depicting a year in the life in the school was screened in 2001 as part of RTÉ's True Lives series.[15] The popular fictional series of Ross O'Carroll Kelly has mentioned Clongowes Wood on a number of occasions in the book and Irish Times column.

Selected past pupils[edit]

Partner schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mitchell, Susan; Maguire, Áine (20 July 2008). "Parents face big jump in private school fees". The Post. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived 12 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ [2] Archived 23 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b [3] Archived 16 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 14 October 2008.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ [4] Archived 17 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Costello, Peter (1989). Clongowes Wood: a history of Clongowes Wood College, 1814-1989. Gill and Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-7171-1466-5. Retrieved 2011-03-10. 
  8. ^ A Short History of Clongowes Wood College by Brendan Cullen, 2011, p. 2
  9. ^ A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce. Chapter 5, 25 March, Morning: "A long curving gallery. From the floor ascend pillars of dark vapours. It is peopled by the images of fabulous kings, set in stone. Their hands are folded upon their knees in token of weariness and their eyes are darkened for the errors of men go up before them for ever as dark vapours."
  10. ^ "LeeMcCullough - Clongowes Wood College". Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  11. ^ Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2008.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "1814 - 1886". Clongowes Wood College S.J. Archived from the original on 2009-12-02. 
  14. ^ "tullabeg-rahan-1818-1968 - Offaly History". 
  15. ^ John O'Sullivan (2001-04-30). "Clongowes on view". Retrieved 2015-10-03. 
  16. ^ Brendan Barrington, ed., The Dublin Review issues 10-13 (2003), p. 15

External links[edit]