O'Fihely, Maurice (Mauritius de Portu, Mauritius de Hibernia, Flos Mundi) (d. 1513), Franciscan friar, theologian, author, and archbishop of Tuam. The origins and early career of Maurice O'Fihely are obscure and accounts of the period of his life before 1488 are almost entirely speculative. The seventeenth-century Franciscan chronicler Friar Luke Wadding (qv) (1588–1657) interpreted the toponym de Portu as referring to the port town of Baltimore, Co. Cork. Other writers see it as deriving from the Augustinian monastery St Maria de portu puro in the western diocese of Clonfert. Similar confusion surrounds his entry into the Franciscan order and early education. Anthony Wood in Athenae Oxonienses (1692) claimed him as an Oxford graduate, asserting that he entered the Franciscan order at Greyfriars, Oxford, where John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) had formerly been a member of the community. Wood proposes this connection as the inspiration for O'Fihely's later championing of the teachings of the ‘subtle doctor’. Unfortunately he provides no evidence for this statement and there is no contemporary record of O'Fihely ever taking a degree in Oxford. The assertion that he joined the Franciscans in England seems unlikely, given his subsequent close links with the church and the order in Ireland. Millett, accepting Clonfert as his birthplace, suggests that he joined the Conventual Franciscans in Kilnalehin, Co. Galway, and received his initial training in the well organised network of studia operated by the Franciscans in Ireland. Following this model he would have pursued his initial formation in the studium attached to the friary of his entry before moving for further studies to a more advanced studium such as the one established in Galway by 1438.
The first contemporary reference to O'Fihely occurs in 1488, when a Franciscan general chapter meeting at Cremona appointed him regent of the Franciscan studium generale in Milan. This was a prestigious appointment and indicates he had received a thorough higher education either in the Franciscan studia system or at a university, or in a combination of both. It is probable that he had been based in Italy for some time before this. In 1491 he was appointed regent doctor of theology at Padua, in which position he was reconfirmed in 1499, 1504, and 1505. He enjoyed a tremendous reputation for erudition among his contemporaries, being hailed in 1504 by the bishop of Padua, Peter Barozi, as a most learned man, having no peer in Italy save the other prominent Scotist, Anthony Trombeta. He is also thought to have acted as corrector to the Venetian printing presses of Bernard Locatelli and Octavian Schott. According to Wadding, the sweetness of his character earned him the honorific title Flos mundi (‘the flower of the world’).
This sweetness did not, however, prevent him from playing a prominent and vigorous role in contemporary ecclesiastical politics. In 1505 he published his Enchiridion fidei, dedicating it to Gerald FitzGerald (qv) (1456/7–1513), the ‘great earl’ of Kildare. This is the first known dedication of a printed text to an Irish figure. In 1506 he was appointed minister provincial of the Irish Franciscan province and in this capacity attended the capitulum generalissimum of the order in Rome that year. This gathering of the various parties in the order sought to address the divisions between the unreformed or Conventual Franciscans and the reform party or Observant friars, and O'Fihely played a key role in the deposition of the order's minister general, Giles Delfini. In July 1506 he was appointed archbishop of Tuam by Pope Julius II, but continued to reside in Italy and attended the first two sessions of the fifth Lateran council in 1512, signing its acta. He departed for his see in the west of Ireland in 1513 but died shortly after his arrival in Galway and was buried in the Franciscan church there. In recording his death the Annals of Ulster described him as ‘the unique cleric of most fame and consideration that was in east or west during his time’ (AU, iii, 505).
O'Fihely's significance lies primarily in his promotion of the work of the Scottish philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus. Though initially regarded by the Franciscans as an important commentator on the standard theological textbook of the middle ages, the ‘Sentences’ of Peter Lombard, Scotus was later adopted as the basic authority in Franciscan studia. The invention of printing further fuelled this revival of interest in his work, and O'Fihely was responsible for editing a number of his works for the press as well as publishing commentaries on key aspects of his doctrine. His edition of Scotus’ Questiones subtilissme Scoti in metaphysicam Aristotelis (Venice, 1497) has the distinction of being the first work prepared for the printing press by an Irishman. Though his efforts do not seem to have had any direct impact on his contemporary confreres in Ireland, he laid the foundations for the revival of interest in Scotism that was such a feature of Irish Franciscan intellectual activity in the seventeenth century. Friar Luke Wadding and other members of the Irish friary at St Isidore's College, Rome drew extensively on O'Fihely's editions and commentaries in their edition of the Opera omnia of Scotus (12 vols, Lyons, 1639).
Though he is frequently referred to in surveys of medieval philosophy, O'Fihely's work as a Scotist has been largely ignored. His commentaries survive only in early printed editions and he has not been the subject of any extended critical study. Apart from an idealised fresco portrait in the Aula maxima of St Isidore's College, Rome, painted by Fra Emanuele di Como c.1670, no other monument to him survives.