South Presentation Convent: This convent is located south of the South Channel of the River Lee on sloping ground rising from the river valley. The site forms a triangle bounded by Douglas Street, Evergreen Street Abbey Street and Nicholas Street. It is a place of great historical significance relatively unknown to visitors and the citizens of Cork. Within its enclosed walls it is nothing less than a hidden treasure. Here Nano Nagle started her schools for the education of the poor in the second half of the 18th century. She is buried in a simple grave in the Nun’s graveyard behind the chapel.
The oldest structure on the site was built in 1771 by Nano Nagle for the Ursline order. This building, though much extended, survives at the heart of the present convent, and contains several original spaces such as Nano Nagle’s Parlour at ground level and the former chapel on the first floor. The Heritage Room, overlooking the garden is located in a building built for the Urslines in 1780 where various artefacts and memorabilia are displayed. The site contains many later structures including accommodation for the Presentation Sisters and Brothers, chapels and school buildings giving evidence of the great educational activity which started from this site approximately 250 years ago and has spread to many countries around the world.
The gardens constitute one of the most memorable elements of the site. The tranquillity and expanse of the gardens contrast with the dense enclosed urban fabric of the surrounding area. There are panoramic views of the city to the north.
Nano Nagle’s Grave, Douglas Street: Foundress of The Order of the Presentation Sisters. Her grave can be visited at the South Presentation Convent, Douglas Street, Cork. Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin, Mallow, Co.Cork, in1718, shortly after the battle of the Boyne, where her relatives had fought for Catholic King James, and as a result, were exiled to France. Living in Penal Ireland and attending only the forbidden hedge schools. As a teenager she was smuggled to France for the education forbidden in Ireland. As a young lady in France she was talented, well educated, wealthy and beautiful, with a charming personality. In her own words “a lover of dress and vanity” she delighted in attending balls, masquerades and the theatre. One early morning as she returned home, she saw from her carriage window, a group of people standing outside a church door waiting for early Mass. She thought: “Their lives are useful and unselfish, mine selfish and useless, I must change”. And she did. Nano returned to Ireland, but because of the Penal Laws she felt powerless, and went back to France to become a nun and pray for Ireland. She found no peace in France. Like St. Patrick, God was calling her back. She returned and became the helper of the helpless. She began with the children and although it meant having a price on her head (as Catholic schools were forbidden by law) she founded seven schools in Cork. She was also a cheerful giver. Every evening after school she visited the poor, the sick and the lonely, and spent herself and her money to help them. When she was short of money she became a lowly beggar in the shops and on the streets to provide money to continue her work. A lay apostle, doing unaided what many groups of people do today. Nano Nagle was 57 years old when she founded the Order of the Presentation Sisters and became a nun herself. This was on Christmas Eve, 1775, when with three companions she started on a new venture, in a little cottage in Cove lane, (now Douglas Street). She was convinced that a religious Order was needed to continue her work. She barely had time to establish her Order as she died nine years later, on April 26th 1784.