Habits worn by the sisters at Nano Nagle since 1805 remained unchanged for over 140 years.

Making a habit of it

This summer, Nano Nagle Place will celebrate 250 years as a convent with a special exhibition looking back to the construction of the site’s oldest building in 1771.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Changing Habits: 250 Years of Convent Life’ will chart the convent’s long and fascinating history, starting in the 18th century as a home for the Ursuline Sisters who Nano Nagle had invited to Cork from Paris.

From there, the exhibition goes on to look at foundation of the Presentation Sisters and the changing ways of life on the site up to the present day.

The exhibition was developed using the rich archival records of the Ursuline and Presentation sisters and will include precious artefacts from the collection of objects held by the Presentation Sisters.

Organisers have also strived to recreate certain objects that did not survive the years such as complete set of habits that would have been worn by the sisters.

The oldest kind of habit, worn by the Presentation Sisters from 1805, changed very little for over 140 years.

Then several changes came in quick succession. The habit was made shorter and its sleeves became detachable. Also, the bandeau and the guimpe, once made of starched linen, were changed to celluloid.

As part of the exhibition, Nano Nagle Place has worked with dressmaker Sam Wynn and the resident sisters to recreate what the “changing habits” look like over time.

Illustrator Brian Gallagher was also commissioned to create images of important historical moments of which no photographs exist such as the Ursuline Sisters arriving at the convent for the first time.

‘Changing Habits: 250 Years of Convent Life’ will run at Nano Nagle Place from 1 August – 30 November.