South Presentation Convent

The first Presentation Convent was founded by Nano Nagle in 1775. Born into a wealthy Catholic family in Co. Cork in 1718 she was educated in Europe (in defiance of the penal laws, which did not permit Catholics to be educated abroad). Nagle moved to Cork City in the 1750s where she was shocked by the scale of deprivation particularly among poor Catholics. She was determined to provide education – both religious and practical – for the poor children of the city and she knew that she would have to work in secret to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities. Some time after 1750 she secretly opened her first school in Cove Lane (now Douglas Street).

Top right image: South Presentation Convent in the early twentieth century.
Above: Exterior of the South Presentation Convent showing the original convent building. The original convent was first lived in by the Ursuline Sisters and from 1825 it has been home to Presentation Sisters. The original entrance door can be seen at the top of the stairs on the right.

A permanent structure

Nano Nagle was determined to set up a permanent structure for the schools to ensure they continued long after her death. In the late 1760s, with the encouragement of Fr Francis Moylan (then the local parish priest), she returned to Paris to look for nuns who would continue her work. The Ursuline Sisters trained four young Irishwomen and in 1771 the Ursuline Foundation in Ireland was established. However, the Ursulines’ rule of enclosure meant that they could teach only in the school within the convent grounds.

Above: John Rocque, Map of Cork City, 1773 with location of Nano Nagle’s first convent indicated
Above: John Rocque, Map of Cork City, 1773. Detail showing the first building on the South Presentation Convent site

A new religious society

Nano Nagle decided to establish a new religious society dedicated exclusively to the poor. On Christmas Eve 1775 she, Elizabeth Burke, Mary Fouhy and Mary Anne Collins established their new religious order, Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart. Known later as the Presentation Order, it was the first Irish religious order to be founded in post-Reformation Ireland. South Presentation Convent was the first Presentation Convent and it remains an active convent today.

Above: Eighteenth-century portrait believed to be Nano Nagle