Famous Visitors to Maynooth College

by Sarah Larkin, Archivist, St Patrick’s College Maynooth

St Joseph’s Square in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth

This year St Patrick’s College, Maynooth celebrates 225 years since its foundation in 1795. A series of blog posts over the coming months will highlight some of the interesting and lesser known events and facts of the College’s history. This post focuses on some of the famous people who have visited the College over the years.



1796   Lord Lieutenant Camden lays the foundation stone of the new building on 20 April (Foundation Day). The trustees of the College, along with the Lord Lieutenant, dined in Dublin Castle that evening.

1842   Visit of English author William Thackeray. He recorded his visit to Maynooth in his Irish Sketch Book.

1847   Visit of Daniel O’Connell to the College on 12 January 1847. O’Connell’s health was already failing; he would make his last speech to the House of Commons on 8 February, and would die in Genoa on his way to Rome on 15 May.

1858   Visit of Cardinal Wiseman on 8 September during his tour of Ireland. He arrived in Maynooth by special train, where he was met by a large group of people from the town and College. He presided at pontifical High Mass for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, and in the afternoon met with the students and staff.

Visit of Kind Edward VII and Queen Alexandra at Maynooth College, 24 July 1903.

1868   The Prince of Wales, Edward VII, becomes the first royal visitor to the College.

1877   William Gladstone visits the College.

1879 & 1880   Visits of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. She rode into the College grounds while hunting, and became a friend of the then Vice-President, Dr William Walsh (later to be Archbishop of Dublin).

(Left to right) Msgr Daniel Mannix, Queen Mary, Archbishop William Walsh on the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, 8 July 1911

1903   Visit of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 24 July. They arrived in Maynooth by train and drove by carriage through the town, which had been decorated for their visit. About a hundred guests gathered at the College to receive them.

1911   Visit of King George V and Queen Mary on 9 July. They drove from Dublin Castle, and a ‘vast gathering’ of people greeted them in the College grounds.

1961   Visit of Cardinal Montini of Milan, later to become Pope Paul VI.

Pope John Paul II addressing seminarians in the College Chapel, 1 October 1979

1963   Visit of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

1979   Visit of Pope John Paul II as part of his Irish visit. He blessed the foundation stone for the Pope John Paul II Library, which opened on 7 October 1984 and memorialises this visit.

1986   Visit of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

(Left to right) President Patrick Hillery, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Sofia, Maeve Hillery, 2 July 1986









1990   Mother Teresa gives the annual Trócaire lecture. She held a prayer service in the College chapel and met with staff and seminarians.



5 thoughts on “Famous Visitors to Maynooth College

  1. frseancorkery June 3, 2020 / 12:52 pm

    Dear Sarah, thank you for this comprehensive sweep through history of the College. I recall hearing that Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Tübingen, Joseph Ratzinger – future Cardinal and Pope, attended a summer school in Maynooth in the late 1960s. Could you give some data on this please?. It was mentioned to us by a former spiritual director of the seminary, Fr Myles Riordan, RIP during my time there. This being the case, it would mean that three of the recent Popes visited the College over the last 60 years – either before or after their elections as Successors of St Peter.


    • Special Collections June 10, 2020 / 9:38 am

      Dear Fr Sean,
      Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the blog post. I haven’t come across any mention of Joseph Ratzinger in the archives, but I will definitely keep an eye out.


      • frseancorkery October 16, 2020 / 11:26 pm

        Dear Sarah,
        I have happened upon the lecture I spoke to you about above. According to what Fr Rearden gave us, it is entitled ‘Mediator and Minister of Christ,’ by Joseph Ratzinger, Maynooth 1969 in pages 44-62 of Priest: Person and Ministry. Maynooth Union Summer School 1969. Edited by Gerard Meagher (Gill and Macmillian, 1970). This being so, alongside Cardinal Montini’s visit in 1961, it will permit you to update the famous vistor blog under the category of future Popes. Kind regards, Fr Sean


  2. Yvette Campbell June 4, 2020 / 5:08 pm

    Fantastic blog post Sarah!



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