Rowena McCallum - student profile

Rowena McCallum - photoROWENA McCALLUM

I am a PhD student, studying Medieval History. I studied my undergraduate degree at Queen’s where I first developed a keen interest in Medieval History. Following this I studied a Masters in Medieval History, also at Queen’s. My PhD analyses the relationships between friars and townspeople in Dublin between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries to show how the former expanded out of Dublin and moved to different Irish towns.

Friars were members of one of the mendicant orders founded during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They were not attached to any particular parish, and indeed had no visible means of support. They rejected the monastic ideal of seclusion, and went to live among townspeople and survived by begging. They were bound by a vow of absolute poverty and lived as Christ did. Their survival was dependent on the goodwill of their listeners. It was this way of life that gave them their name ‘mendicant’, derived from the Latin mendicare, meaning ‘to beg’. The main aim of friars was to spread God’s word in urban areas. They were active in community life, teaching, healing and helping the sick, poor and destitute.

My PhD considers the degree to which friars were integrated into towns. Were they popular with the townspeople, and did this change over the course of the late medieval period? Many primary sources, such as wills and property records convey the financial interactions between the friars and the townspeople. Why did towns and their residents donate money, land or gifts to the friars? Did individuals expect friars to save their soul or to preach and teach the Gospels to others? It is also important to understand why townsmen preferred to make financial donations to the friars instead of other monastic institutions or religious fraternities and the tensions this created.

As friars were outside the traditional makeup of towns, my research explores how they were considered by the urban authorities. In particular this thesis examines ideas of space and identity to develop and challenge the current scholarship on the establishment of friars in towns and the socio-economic relationship between the religious orders and urban inhabitants. The use of spatial methodology is an innovative and focal point of this thesis, and by analysing the location of friaries and how friars used the space in these towns, my thesis will show how friars used towns in order to spread their message and attempt to gain supporters. By analysing how friars moved out of Dublin to surrounding towns, my PhD will show how the use of space assisted in friar-town relations and the friars’ development in Ireland across three centuries.