Maps and plans

Doc a2.m17

Maps and plans of the Centre Culturel Irlandais' Historical Archives have been digitized and are freely accessible online. They date mainly from the XIXth century and overlap with the administratorship of the Fondation Irlandaise by Charles Ouin la Croix.

Most relate to the Collège des Irlandais, rue des Irlandais no. 5 (near the church of St Genevieve/ Panthéon, arrondissement 5, Paris), but there are cartographic traces also of other properties administered by the Fondation Irlandaise at Arcueil (the country house for the college community of rue des Irlandais), at rue des Carmes (Collège des Lombards, also near St Genevieve, arrondissement 5, Paris), at Nantes and at Bordeaux.

The Irish Colleges and Baron Haussman's "grands projets"

Most of the large-scale maps and plans held by the Centre Culturel Irlandais were created in the context of the urban remodelling that marked nineteenth-century France. The capital, Paris, during the prefecture of Baron Haussmann, was the subject of development on a scale that it is still difficult to grasp. In sixteen years, more than 80,000 workmen constructed 40,000 buildings, created 64km of new routeways, laid down 585km of sewers, planted more than half a million trees…. The interest of the Fondation Irlandaise in map-making is directly tied into the ‘grands projets’ Baron Haussmann and his successors drove for the city of the Seine, and the spread of these urban design principles to other cities and towns across France. Historic properties of the Fondations Irlandaises in Paris, Nantes and Bordeaux happened to be in the way of street widenings and realignments; the cartographic evidence held in the CCI throws light on the dynamic and complex nature of these mid to late nineteenth-century projects. A very real outside threat to the continuation of the Irish College at rue des Irlandais no. 5 was, for example, the extension of rue Thouin proposed by the city of Paris in 1877.

Maps and Plans typologies

Some of the maps are rough drafts or working sketches only, for internal use; others are by professional mapmakers and surveyors and exquisitely finished. Some are on cheap waxed paper (tracing paper) with multiple annotations and crossings-out; others are beautifully-completed, high-quality artistic creations intended to impress. Most are single sheets (loose leaf) but there is one bound volume, the estate atlas of Arcueil. All the maps are to scale, and in most cases a representative fraction and/or scale bar is present. Some are at a large scale, covering a yard or building only; others are at a small scale extending to adjoining streets. Some maps at a small scale are crowded with information while, conversely, some at a larger scale, with ample space, have nothing beyond the basic line work. Almost all are signed or initialled, and dated. Even where this information is missing, there is still sufficient contextual information, in the accompanying correspondence, reports, inventories and accounts that make them valuable in historical research.

Some maps though merely rough sketches, could still be part of the arsenal to oppose a development seen as harmful to the interests of the college community, as in the case of the rue Thouin extension, cutting across the courtyard of rue des Irlandais no. 5 (Collège, travaux, A2.m19, plan 2). Some maps have been commissioned from professional surveyors. Still others are the personal efforts of the administrator (on behalf of the superior and trustees of the college) to understand current challenges and to propose solutions. The purpose of the estate atlas of the property at Arcueil (Arcueil, plans, A4.f3 ) is to persuade its audience (the trustees) of its potential; it is to enable a ‘virtual tour’ of the house and extensive grounds, not just what it is now (1873, practically in ruins) but to imagine what it could yet become.

Maps and plans, precious tools to protect the heritage

Most of the maps and plans held by the archives of the CCI relate to:

  • the protection, maintenance, utilisation and enhancement of the property from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, especially the planned covered gallery
  • ownership and tenancy (Collège administration, A2.b45 ; Nantes, C3.e1 and C3.e2 ; Bordeaux, C1.g1), with state cadastral plans overwritten with information on to establish which properties will be affected by an urban redevelopment plan, and how best to protect the interests of the Fondations Irlandaises.
  • the country house at Arcueil, with a manuscript estate survey, in ink and wash, of the buildings, courtyards, gardens and parklands that comprised the Collège des Irlandais at Arcueil : Recueil complet avec trois plans et un dessin de la façade de la maison de campagne d'Arcueil avec, sur la première page, une note explicative de Charles Ouin-la-Croix, 1872 (Arcueil, plans, A4.f3).
  • the College des Lombards, in Paris (Collège des Lombards, plans, A1.f1), with a map showing the property of the Fondation Irlandaise in rue des Carmes and rue du Clos Bruneau required by the city of Paris for street widening, 1 July 1865.
  • the Irish Colleges in Nantes and Bordeaux : the cartographic records held by the CCI allow the exact location of these properties to be ascertained (Nantes, C3.e2 ; Bordeaux, C1.g1). Extracts from the mid-nineteenth-century cadastral plans produced by their respective city authorities were used to enable redevelopment projects (Nantes, C3.e2 ; Bordeaux, C1.g1), along the principles at least of ‘les grands travaux’ of Paris. The detail and labelling allows the disposition of Irish College buildings and courtyards, access points, boundaries and neighbouring properties, within densely built-up historic areas, to be accurately recreated on the modern street plan.

For insights into why and how these buildings came to be managed by the Fondation Irlandaise at mid-century, and what it did with them, there are a number of associated legal documents (Collège administration, A2.b60).

In some cases associated documents – correspondence, memoranda, reports, inventories, bills – throw light upon the exact purpose for which the map or plan was created, its reception and later use (Collège, travaux, A2.m19 , 2). But even where other documents are not extant, the map in itself has evidential value and is a powerful carrier of meaning.

* Source : "Maps and plans in the administration of the Collège des Irlandais in Paris, in the mid-nineteenth century", Jacinta Prunty (Fellow of the CCI in 2018)