Irish ecclesiastical historian; b. Cashel, County Tipperary, 1758; d. Finglas, near Dublin, July 7, 1828. He was the son of Thomas Lanigan, a schoolmaster, and Mary Anne Dorkan. In 1776 Archbishop Butler of Cashel sent him to the Irish College, Rome, where he was ordained. One of his professors in Rome had been Pietro Tamburini, on whose advice he went to the University of Pavia, where he became professor of Hebrew, Sacred Scripture, and ecclesiastical history. In 1786 he was pressed to attend the synod of Pistoia, where Tamburini played a very prominent part, but he refused. He continued to teach at Pavia, and published some books on Scripture studies, of which the most significant was Institutionum Biblicarum pars prima (1793). In 1794 the university conferred on him its doctorate of divinity.
He returned to Ireland when Napoleon's troops occupied Pavia in 1796. Because of his associations with Tamburini he was suspected of jansenism by some Irish bishops, and was refused assistance in the Diocese of Cork, where he had landed, and in his native Diocese of Cashel. He made his way to Dublin, where he was helped by a fellow student of his Roman days, Martin Hugh Hamill, the parish priest of Francis Street, and by the Capuchins in Church Street.
In 1798 he was offered the chair of Sacred Scripture in St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, on the proposal of Archbishop O'Reilly of Armagh, seconded by Abp. John T. Troy of Dublin. However, Bishop Moylan of Cork, with what certainly seems to have been excessive zeal, demanded that he be asked to subscribe to an anti-Jansenist formulary then commonly tendered to French refugee clergy. Lanigan was resentful of this demand, and the proposed appointment fell through.
On May 2, 1799, he was appointed "translator, editor and corrector of the press" by the Royal Dublin Society, and in 1808 he became its librarian. In this same year he was one of the founders of the short-lived "Gaelic Society of Dublin." The fruit of his personal studies was An Ecclesiastical History of Ireland from the First Introduction of Christianity among the Irish to the Beginning of the Thirteenth Century, published in four volumes in 1822. Lanigan wrote his work despite failing health. It showed his wide reading and trenchant style and judgment, and marked a great advance on anything previously published on the subject. Although recent scholarship has dated it, it is still useful.
Bibliography: t. cooper, The Dictionary of National Biography from the Earliest Times to 1900 (London 1885–1900) 11:576–578. w. j. fitzpatrick, Irish Wits and Worthies: Including Dr. Lanigan, His Life and Times (Dublin 1873). h. f. berry, A History of the Royal Dublin Society (London 1915).
[p. j. corish]