Grateful American® Foundation

Why burnt Ursuline Convent to the ground — and why ?

August 11th

350px-Ruins_of_Ursuline_Convent_1834_RiotsAugust 11, 1834 — The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Mass. lay in ruins today. Late last night, a mob of angry Protestants sacked it and burned it to the ground. The rioters were reportedly poor Yankee laborers who feared and hated Irish Catholic immigrants.

The nuns who lived in the once elegant building — as well as the who lived students at the all-female academy — fled or their lives.

While some of Boston’s wealthiest Protestants sent their daughters to the Ursuline Academy, most Yankees harbored a deep prejudice against Catholics. Long suspicious of “popery,” Protestant Boston was receptive to the malicious rumors that swirled about the convent. The convent burning was a prelude to the fierce anti-Catholicism that would greet the famine Irish who flooded into Boston a decade later.

The convent was never rebuilt. Its charred remains stood for the next 40 years as a reminder of the virulent prejudice against Catholics. The site was leveled in 1875, and the bricks were incorporated into Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Words of Wisdom

It seems strange that a man of sense should be so zealous in the cause of nonsense.

— Boston Minister John Carroll, the first bishop of the United States

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