Colgan, John (DNB00)

COLGAN, JOHN (d. 1657?), hagiographer, was a native of Ulster, and a member of the Irish Minorite convent of St. Antony of Padua at Louvain. He was also professor of theology in the university of that place, but it appears that he retired from that office before 1645. He projected a colossal work on the sacred antiquities of Ireland, in six volumes. In 1645 he published at Louvain the third volume of this work, containing the lives of the Irish saints in the order of the calendar from January to March. The lives of the saints for the remaining months of the year were intended to be comprised in the three succeeding volumes. Colgan's countryman, Wadding, whose bibliography of the Minorite writers was published in 1650, says that the fourth volume, extending to June, was in the press when he wrote, but it never appeared. The portion of the work beginning with the third volume has the separate title of 'Acta Sanctorum Veteris et Majoris Scotiæ seu Hiberniæ.' The first volume, which was to consist of a general introduction to early Irish history, was not published, but the second volume, entitled 'Trias Thaumaturga,' and containing lives of the three Irish saints, Patrick, Columba, and Bridget, appeared in 1647. Colgan was an accomplished Irish scholar, and his large use of early documents in that language gives great importance to his work, which displays much critical sagacity. In 1655 he published at Antwerp a small volume on the life of John Duns Scotus, 'the subtle doctor,' in which he maintained that the great schoolman was of Irish, and not Scottish birth. He is also said to have published in 1639 a volume of his theological lectures delivered at Louvain. Colgan's enormous industry as a student and as a writer is the more remarkable as he suffered constantly from severe ill-health. In the 'Bibliotheca Franciscana' he is said to have died in 1647, but this is a mistake, as his book on Scotus contains a note signed by him and dated 30 Aug. 1655. The authors of the supplement to Wadding conjecture that the date 1647 is a misprint for 1657.

[Wadding's Scriptores Ordinis Minorum (ed. Rome, 1806), p. 136; Sbaralea Supplementum ad Scriptt. trium Ordinum S. Francisci, p. 405; Bibliotheca Universa Franciscana (Madrid. 1732), ii. 145.]

H. B.