Saturday, 31 December 2016

As we face into 2017, we should
never forget the faces of 2016

The sun is setting on 2016 … sunset seen from the lawn of Askeaton Rectory this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

The sun is setting on 2016, and while it has been another good year personally, this has been one of the worst years I have lived through in terms of international politics and the deterioration in the global political climate.

Donald Trump has been nominated by Time magazine as its ‘Man of the Year,’ although this not necessarily an accolade to covet – the same title was once awarded to Hitler, who was illustrated on the front cover in a similar pose.

This has been the year Trump and of Brexit, and there is a connection between these populist votes in the United States and the United Kingdom and the rise of the far-right in France, Austria, Hungary and other parts of Europe, and further afield in places such as the Philippines.

I was in Britain many times during the run-up to the referendum on British membership of the European Union, and it was disturbing that the murder of Jo Cox did nothing to stem a campaign that had no shame in appealing to racism and xenophobia. The disgusting photograph of Nigel Farage in front of a line of refugees did nothing to shame the ‘Brexit’ campaigners, and the British voters have still to face the reality that the relationship of UKIP to far-right violent movements is parallel to the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

The result of both the US Presidential election and the consequences of the ‘Brexit’ referendum are a challenge for Western concepts of democracy. In the year to come as he takes office, we must remember that as Donald Trump takes office he actually lost the election by a whopping margin of three million votes, and that as Teresa May continues to insist ‘Brexit means Brexit’ nobody actually voted for her as Prime Minister – she was not elected at a general election, and as her opponents faded away as one stabbed the other in the back, there was no actual leadership vote when push came to shove in the Conservative Party.

With Canon Malcolm Bradshaw of Athens at the USPG conference in Swanwick

Throughout the year, the refugee crisis has continued in the Mediterranean, and the few heroes to emerge on the international stage in terms of response to this crisis include the crews of Irish naval vessels involved in search and rescue operations in the waters between Italy and Libya, and the NGOs working on the Greek islands and on the streets of Athens.

I was inspired, in particular, by the work of Valerie Cox and her family and friends on the Greek islands, and the work of Canon Malcolm Bradshaw of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in Athens, which is supported by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Meanwhile, the fighting and killings continue in Aleppo, Mosul, Yemen, and other parts of the Middle East, where the victims are generally not the combatants and the masters of ideology who manipulate them, but civilians, especially women and children.

The fake coup in Turkey has emboldened the Erdogan regime in Turkey, adding another destabilising and worrying element to the equation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sometimes it seems European concerns are awakened only by the violence we have seen cities such as Berlin and Nice. One of the first lessons about terrorists who seek out civilian targets is that there is no political solution to the terror they create. In all this, despite her failed attitudes to the economic crisis in Greece, Angela Merkel stands out as the only European political leader who has spoken with courage and principle about the refugee crisis – she alone occupies the moral high ground in Europe, and she and Jo Cox stand out as the only people who might have been acceptable candidates for the front cover of Time.

Nor should we forget that this sort of violence is not always perpetrated by Islamic militants. In Florida, Omar Mateen (29) killed 49 people and wounded 53 others on 12 June in a gay nightclub in Orlando. Was it a terrorist attack or a hate crime? It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in the US. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Mateen swore allegiance to but reports have shown he was once a patron of the nightclub and used gay dating websites and apps, and the CIA found no links between him and Islamic State.

In Burma/Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, who campaigned vigorously to stop the military silencing her voice, has been deafening in her silence as the military continues a purge of the country’s Muslim ethnic minority. Amnesty International has described it as a ‘callous and systematic campaign of violence.’

Nor should we forget either that the largest number of victims of any Islamic-linked violence are Muslims themselves, once we start counting the victims of violence in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, or that the greatest number of refugees and displaced people in the Middle East are being hosted in Middle East countries, including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

In the midst of this violence and these humanitarian crises, Europe seems to have forgotten the economic, political and social problems that continue to worsen in Greece and to threaten the fragile stability and very fabric of Greek life.

The Olympic Games in Brazil may have been an embarrassment for Ireland when it comes to arrests and allegations of ticket-touting and tickets for events, and intervention of the Sports Minister Shane Ross has failed to caste any bright light on this murky and soiled episode.

However, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016 must be remembered in Ireland for the comeback of the men’s field hockey squad after a century-long absence and return to diving after nearly seven decades. But the most memorable performances were by Gary and Paul O’Donovan, who won Ireland’s first-ever medal in rowing, and became internet sensations as the brothers who ‘pulled like a dog,’ and the Laser Radial sailor Annalise Murphy won a silver-medal in the Laser Radial class, ending Ireland’s 36-year medal drought in this sport.

For the first time in 12 years, Ireland failed to collect a single medal in boxing, which raises questions about why so much Government funding goes into boxing, and none goes into rowing or sailing.

In Rugby, Ireland defeated the All Blacks 40-29, and this is the first time I remember Ireland defeat of New Zealand, Australia (27-24) and South Africa (26-20).

The Irish soccer performance at the UEFA ‘Euros’ was also exciting, with the 1-0 victory over Italy at Stade Pierre-Mauro enriched by the behaviour of Irish fans, from both North and South, in France throughout the competition – behaviour that was in sharp contrast to the often racist and violent activities of many English fans.



I was involved in working on liturgical material in the Church of Ireland to mark this year’s centenaries of both the Easter Rising in 1916 and the Battle of the Somme in 1916. As a chapter member of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, I was vociferous in decrying plans for the Easter 1916 commemorations that threatened to close the cathedral on Easter Day, the most sacred day for Christians and the most important day in the calendar of the Church.

Perhaps the 1916 commemorations were marked appropriately and with dignity, remembering all, both combatants and non-combatants, men and women, adults and children. Thankfully, the events were not hijacked politically by Sinn Fein, but waiting will only tell whether there is going to be any political fallout from the way these centenaries were marked.

I was invited to speak about 1916 in a number of places, including a public lecture in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, being one of the keynote speakers at the Rubicon Conference in Holy Trinity Church, Rathmines, and preaching at the 1916 commemorative services in Christ Church, Taney (Dundrum), and Saint Nahi’s Church, Churchtown, Dublin.

I found balance to the commemorative events this year, remembering that 100 years ago in 1916 my grandfather returned from Thessaloniki in Greece with malaria, having taken part in the Gallipoli landings in 1915 and the allied push into Bulgaria the following winter.

If the 1916 Proclamation promised that ‘all children of the nation’ would be cherished equally, then the recent occupation of Apollo House showed how this has never been realised in the new Ireland. The protest was never going to solve the housing and homelessness problem, but it has succeeded in drawing attention to the way the state has managed to shore up the banks and financial institutions but has failed families and people on the streets abysmally.

A float in the Good Friday procession in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

I spent Easter in Barcelona, and was deeply moved by the Easter commemorations and celebrations, especially the street processions on Good Friday, and by the architectural heritage of Gaudi, especially in the Basilica of Sagrada Familia.

The May bank holiday weekend was spent in Wales, where I stayed in Beaumaris on the coast of Anglesey, and visited the site of the prison camp in Frongoch, where Sergeant Joe Doyle had been a prisoner in 1916, the architectural achievements of Clough Williams-Ellis in Port Meirion, the monastic ruins at Penmon, and Bangor Cathedral.

Dining on the beach at sunset at the Poseidon Restaurant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Summer holidays were three weeks back in Rethymnon, on the north coast of Crete, which I have known since the 1980s. I stayed at Julia Apartments in Platanes, just 300 metres from the long sandy beach that stretches for miles east of Rethymnon.

There were days at the beaches, islands and lagoons at Gramvousa, Balos, Elafonisi and Panormos, visits to monasteries, churches and cathedrals, a day with friends in Iraklion, and a return visit after many years to Piskopiano and Koutoulafari in the hills above Chersonnisos.

But as I hopped around between boats and islands and beaches and lagoons in the Mediterranean waters, I kept being reminded that Syrian refugees were not having the same experiences and the same pleasures just a short distance away.

As the year began to come to a close, I spent some time in November in Kraków, where I stayed in Kazimierz in the old Jewish Quarter. I visited the former concentration camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau, and in Kraków I visited at least seven synagogues, a number of Jewish museums, cemeteries and bookshops, the former ghetto, the former Schindler factory, and ate in many kosher restaurants.

A summer stroll through the fields in Comberford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

There were return visits to Lichfield, in March, twice in May, and again in June, with new challenges to read the poetry of Philip Larkin yet again, and there was even some talk about moving back to Lichfield. There were two visits to Tamworth that included a visit to the Comberford chapel in Saint Editha’s and the former Comberford family home at the Moat House.

On one sunny, summer Sunday afternoon, I was on my own and spent countless hours walking through the fields and farms of Comberford, photographing the scenery and the buildings. I was lost only in the bliss of the beauty of the countryside, and by the time I realised it was time to organise my return journey to Lichfield in time for dinner I had already walked almost 20 km.

There were many visits to London for board meetings of the trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG, United Society Partners in the Gospel, in February, April, September and November. During those visits, I spent some time enjoying an exhibition on South Bank by Britain’s leading sculptor, Emily Young, who in her teens inspired Pink Floyd’s hit See Emily Paly.

During the November meeting, I stayed at the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in the East End, and visited Cable Street, the scene of the Battle of Cable Street 80 years ago in 1936, and some of the churches associated with the Anglo-Catholic slum priests of the East End.

This year, the USPG conference took place in Swanwick, which I had first stayed in 40 years ago in 1976. Here I was able to meet up again with Canon Malcolm Bradshaw from Athens, and there was palpable joy at the conference when the decision was taken to return to using the familiar and well-loved initials USPG.

Sunshine on King’s Parade, Cambridge, at the corner with Bene’t Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Once again, I spent study leave this year in Cambridge in August and September, taking part in the annual conference of summer school at Sidney Sussex College organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies.

I stayed the weekend before in in Clare College before moving on to Sidney Sussex for the summer school, and each morning attended church in Saint Bene’t’s. The week also included a day’s retreat in the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex.

In Ireland, there were return visits to Wexford and Bunclody, and to Ballybur Castle between Kilkenny and Callan, and I stayed at different times in the Maritime Hotel in Bantry, Co Cork, the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny, the Ferrycarrig Hotel in Wexford, the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare, Co Limerick, and the Maritime Hotel in Bantry, Co Cork.

I took part in the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synod meetings in Athy, Co Kildare, and Greystones, Co Wicklow, the clergy conference in Kilkenny, and a retreat on Ash Wednesday in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

There were walks on the beaches in Cushendun, Co Antrim, Annagassan, Co Louth, Bettystown and Laytown, Co Meath, Skerries, Rush, Loughshinny, Portrane, Donabate, Malahide, Portmarnock, Sandymount and Blackrock, Co Dublin, Bray, Greystones, Kilcoole, Wicklow and Silver Strand, Co Wicklow, Ballyomoney and Courtown, Co Wexford, Schull, Altar and Barley Cove in Co Cork, and the beaches in Barcelona, Crete and Anglesey, as well as walks by the coast at Dunluce, the Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede in Co Antrim, in Carlingford, Howth, Dalkey, Killiney, Dun Laoghaire, and Mizen Head.

I was invited to a return visit to Gormanston Castle, at my old school outside Drogheda. The school is facing up to a new mode of existence that offers challenges and opportunities. It is still sad, though, the Franciscan friars are leaving Gormanston Castle, and that the Augustinian friars too are leaving Orlagh.

I took part in the Darkness into Light walk in Marlay Park in May and there were walks in the Phoenix Park, the grounds of Farmleigh House, and Marlay Park, and country walks in Bohernabreena, Co Dublin, Maynooth, Castledermot, Johnstown and Naas in Co Kildare, and in Antrim, Cork, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Wicklow and Wexford. In England, there were country walks in Staffordshire, Essex, Derbyshire, and outside Cambridge.

Winter sunset on the banks of the estuary of the River Nanny near Laytown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on image for full-screen view)

There were river-side walks by the Liffey in Lucan and in Dublin, the Dodder in Firhouse, Rathfarnham, Rathgar, Churchtown and Ballsbridge, the Nanny in Julianstown and Laytown, the Slaney in Bunclody, Enniscorthy and Wexford, the Nore in Kilkenny, the King’s River in Kells, the Barrow in Carlow, the Boyne in Trim, the Shannon in Foynes, Limerick, Killaloe and between Longford and Roscommon at Tarmonbarry, the Maigue in Adare and the Deel in Askeaton, the Tame in Tamworth, the Thames in London, and the Backs and the River Cam in Cambridge, canal-side walks by the Grand Canal in Portobello and at Baggot Street, by the Royal Canal in Castleknock, and lake-side walks in Virginia, Co Cavan, and by Stowe Pool and Minster Pool in Lichfield.

For the first time, I visited the Powerscourt Demesne near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, the Dark Hedges in Co Antrim, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Co Antrim, Sion House and Sion Mills in Co Tyrone, Bellingham Castle, Co Louth, Trim Castle, Co Meath, and the Bluebell Forest near Rathangan, Co Kildare. I quickly fulfilled a New Year’s resolution to do something new at least once a month.

In June, I went sailing in Dublin Bay, from Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin to Dun Laoghaire, and from Dun Laoghaire to Howth. Although there were fewer opportunities to watch some rowing, apart from Carlow, Cambridge, Bray and Skerries, there were a few boat trips in Crete, and there was a little more time for cricket last summer.

There were family weddings in Ballmagarvey, Co Meath, Lisnavagh House, Co Carlow, and Macreddin Village near Aughrim, Co Wicklow, and there were funerals too, including my former colleague on the Foreign Desk of The Irish Times, Declan Burke-Kennedy.

I continue to teach on the MTh course at CITI. I have been an external examiner this year for Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, on the MTh in church history and on the certificate-level course in theology. But after five years, my lecturing at Mater Dei on the BA, BEd and BTh courses has come to an end as the Mater Dei Institute for Education moves to Dublin City University.

My contributions to new books include two chapters in Death and the Irish, A miscellany edited by my friend and colleague, Dr Salvador Ryan, Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the Faculty of Theology at Saint Patrick's College, Maynooth, and published by Wordwell. My contributions tell the story of the Revd Henry Francis Lyte, the former curate of Taghmon, Co Wexford, who wrote the hymn ‘Abide With Me,’ and the stories of two Irish people, JJ Murphy from Cork and Richard Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, who died in Italy and in India, and whose bodies had to be shipped back to Ireland in unusual conditions – one in an upright piano for burial in Co Cork and one in a barrel of rum for burial in Co Kildare.

My photograph of a sculpted head of Brian Boru features in Tara, The Guidebook, a new book on Tara by Mairéad Carew and published by the Discovery Programme.

My contributions to the annual report of the Friends of Lichfield Cathedral this year included papers on the composers Frederick Oakeley and John Alcock, who both lived in Lichfield, and it was a pleasure to be cited in Joss Knibb’s new book, Lichfield in 50 Buildings.

Speaking at the National Famine Commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery with President Michael D Higgins

I addressed the National Famine Commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery, sharing a platform with President Michael D Higgins, spoke at meetings of Affirming Catholicism, and once again spoke at the annual Hiroshima Day commemorations in Merrion Square, Dublin, as President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and there were radio and television interviews with RTÉ and local stations.

I continue to write my monthly column for the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory), also writing occasionally for Search, on Orthodox Spirituality, for Koinonia on Samuel Johnson and on the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg, and or Reality on Anglican understandings of the Eucharist. I also continue to write for the Church of Ireland Gazette and The Irish Times.

I was at ordinations in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, Saint Gobhan’s Church, Seagoe, Portadown, Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, and Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, the installation of a new dean in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and of new prebendaries in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and the institutions of new rectors, including Belturbet, Co Cavan, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, and Drumcondra and North Strand in Dublin.

I preached and presided at the Eucharist throughout the year in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Saint John the Evangelist, Sandymount, and I also preached in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, Christ Church Taney, Saint Nahi’s Church, Dundrum, Saint Brigid’s Church, Stillorgan, All Saints’ Church, Blackrock, and Christ Church, Delgany, Co Wicklow.

There were graduations in Trinity College Dublin, and committee meetings too, and there was joy too when the external examiner from Cambridge recommended the publication of a student’s dissertation I had supervised.

I was invited twice to join the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral for a speaking part that made use of my bass voice, and I also visited Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, to see the restoration work and the new Baptismal font and Stations of the Cross installed after a fire some years ago.

This year, my online Lenten reflections drew on the work of Samuel Johnson, and I led a Lenten retreat for Lay Readers on the themes of Saint Patrick and Celtic Spirituality.

My Sarcoidosis and my B12 deficiency, with worrying growths and skin patches on my skull and my nose led to a new round of holiday tests in the Hermitage, Lucan, and Tallaght Hospital. But once again I have received an ‘all clear’ and my walks on beaches, by rivers and lakes and in the countryside boost of my feelings of wellbeing. As I say so often, I may have sarcoidosis, but sarcoidosis does not have me.

There are new and exciting moves in 2017 as I prepare to move into the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick as Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes, which includes four churches: Holy Trinity, Rathkeale, Saint Mary’s, Askeaton, and Kilcornan (Castletown, Pallaskenry), Co Limerick, and Saint Brendan’s, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry. As the New Year unfolds there are exciting new opportunities to take up in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.

It is pointless repeating the names of celebrities, artists, composers, singers, politicians and sports people who died this year. But the death of Leonard Cohen leaves me sad that I shall never be at another of his concerts. ‘The Favourite Game’ has come to an end for one of the ‘Beautiful Losers.’

I have often said that when my coffin is carried into church for my funeral – hopefully later than sooner – that I expect to hear his If it be your will, and as it is carried out I want to hear Dance me to the end of love.

When it comes to facing my own death in the future, I hope I face God with the same resignation and trust he shows in the title track of his final album, You Want It Darker.



It is dark, but those who reach into the dark depths that are met on the most intense journeys in spirituality know that this too is accepting the majesty of God and the inevitability of death.

The Hebrew word Hineni which Cohen repeats in this song literally means: ‘Here I am.’ When it is uttered by Abraham and repeated by other Biblical figures, it is an assertion of moral responsibility: Here I am. I am not running away. Here I stand.

The word Hineni is also the title of the Cantor’s Prayer on Yom Kippur, in which the cantor confesses to being unworthy to represent the congregation and stand before the Almighty. It is almost as if Cohen is making a similar confession. I may be a poet, a hero, and a star, but You know as well as I do that I am unworthy of all that. I am here before You – ready for You to take me.

This was an 82-year-old poet at the end of a long and deeply spiritual life. It is not surprising, therefore, that this song echoes the language and rhythm of the Kaddish, the prayer for mourners that reaffirms faith in God.

‘Time’ could have chosen a better Face of 2016 than that of Donald Trump

If 2017 brings us deeper into the ‘Post-Truth’ era, we need to name it for what it is: ‘Post-Truth’ is an Orwellian world filled with lies, disinformation and misinformation, where we are instructed to ignore facts, dismiss the experts and live by standards that even Goebbels never managed to impose.

Yes, of course, Time could have chosen a better Face of 2016 instead of Donald Trump.

But for me, the faces of 2016 are the faces of Auschwitz, the faces that lined the corridors of the prison blocks in the concentration camp, black and white photographs of mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, friends, lovers, strangers, work colleagues … Jews, gypsies, gays, priests, communists, professors, workers, Poles, Slavs … tiny children and babies. Many were anonymous, their names forgotten because those they knew and loved had died too. But they should never be forgotten. They looked so like the people I know and the people who know me, the people I love and the people who love me.

If we forget them, then we forgot how extremism plants its cancerous and deadly roots, using the unsuspecting, who become the unquestioning, and then become complicit, first passively and then actively.

But we must remember, as Dr Razvan Porumb reminded us as he introduced the writings and thoughts of the Romanian theologian and writer, Father Nicolae Steinhardt’ at the summer conference in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge: ‘If evil is bottomless, so goodness too is boundless.’

The faces I saw in Auschwitz are going to remain my strongest memory from 2016 … and the most difficult challenge as I face into 2017 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Visiting four favourite buildings in Dublin
by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (5)

The former Kildare Street Club, on the corner of Kildare Street and Leinster Street, designed by Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this week, I am visiting some of my favourite buildings in Dublin designed by the architect Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-1899), who worked in a Dublin-based partnership with Benjamin Woodward (1816-1861).

In October 1853, Woodward and Deane set up an office at No 3 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. They developed a Gothic style based on the naturalistic principles laid down by John Ruskin, and their practice also played an important role in the Gothic revival in England. Their two most important buildings are the Museum in Trinity College Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford Museum (1854-1860).

When Deane died in 1899, his practice was continued by his son, Thomas Manly Deane.

Deane’s best known works in Dublin include the National Library and the National Museum in Kildare Street, bookending Leinster House. However, this week I am looking at four of his buildings that are among my favourite works of architecture in Dublin:

1, The Museum Building in Trinity College, Dublin;

2, No 46-47 Dame Street, which was built in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co;

3, The Allied Irish Bank, formerly the Munster and Leinster Bank, at 7-10 Dame Street Dublin;

4, the former Kildare Street Club on Kildare Street.

Join me this week as I visit these four buildings, all within walking distance of each other.

The former Kildare Street Club, Kildare Street, Dublin:

The Kildare Street Club was designed by Deane and Woodward in the Italian Gothic style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

My final visit this week is to the former Kildare Street Club, on the corner of Kildare Street and Leinster Street, on the south side of Trinity College Dublin.

The Kildare Street Club was founded in 1782, at the height of Grattan’s Parliament in Dublin. The club’s first home was a house in Kildare Street built by Sir Henry Cavendish on land bought from James FitzGerald, 20th Earl of Kildare, later 1st Duke of Leinster. In 1786, the club expanded its premises acquired an adjoining house also built by Cavendish, and completing its original club house.

The club was formed after William Burton Conyngham was black-balled at Daly’s Club in Dame Street, which stood on the present site of the Central Bank. Many members left Daly’s, and the new club soon became more fashionable.

Many of the earliest members, including Sir Jonah Barrington, opposed the Act of Union.

In a famous incident in 1806, Francis Mathew, 2nd Earl Landaff, a supporter of Catholic Emancipation, denounced the 85 scoundrels who had blackballed his brother, Montague James Mathew, and stalked out of the club, never to return.

By 1840, the club had 650 members, ‘a large and elegant card-room, coffee, reading, and billiard-rooms.’ The original premises at 6 Kildare Street soon became too small for the members’ needs, and in 1858 it was decided to build a new club house.

In 1859-1860, the new club house was built, designed by Thomas Newenham Deane and Benjamin Woodward. The new building replaced three existing houses on Kildare Street and one on Leinster Street, which were demolished, giving an L-shaped new building, with an internal plan similar to that of the Reform Club in Pall Mall, London.

The club had planned to move from the old to the new building in 1861, but on 11 November 1860 there was a disastrous fire at the old club house. Three maids died, and a fourth was saved because at the time she was in the bedroom of the club accountant and she was rescued. All the club pictures and furniture and a library of 15,000 books were destroyed, and the club moved into the new building before it was completed.

Woodward was commissioned to design new premises, but died in Lyons in France before the new building was completed. The project was then taken over by his partner Deane, who also designed the National Library and the National Museum further along Kildare Street.

The contractor was Gilbert Cockburn, who worked with Deane and Woodward on many of their buildings. Work began in February 1859, the club was built to first floor level by that November, and it opened in November 1861. The building costs came to more than £25,000.

The Kildare Street Club is built mainly of red brick with large arched windows divided by thin columns (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Deane and Woodward designed the Kildare Street Club in the Italian Gothic style, following the principles set out almost a decade earlier by John Ruskin. However, the club committee altered their original Italian Gothic design, insisting on large arched windows divided by thin columns, and the outcome was later described as Italo-Byzantine.

In their designs, Deane and Woodward were following the London fashion of drawing on Italian palazzi for inspiration for gentlemen’s clubs. In 1860, The Building News pointed to Pall Mall, where the Reform Club House was based on the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, the Travellers’ Club on the Pandolfini Casa d’Este in Florence, the Carlton on Sansoviuo’s Library of Saint Mark in Venice, while the Army and Navy Club was inspired by a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice.

It building is built mainly of red brick, with stone cornice, strings, and columns. The simple façade is broken only on the ground story by the projection of the balconied portico. The columns of this ripple-arched portico are executed in green and red marbles alternately, and the capitals are carved elaborately.

On the Leinster Street side, there is a handsome, two-storey, canted bay window. The window openings segment-headed, single on the Leinster Street side and on the Kildare Street side paired on the ground floor, paired and tripled on the piano nobile and single on the attic storey.

The interior was described as one of the finest interiors of 19th century Dublin, with its entrance hall, grand stair hall and reception rooms.

A greyhound chases a hare at the Kildare Street Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A notable feature of the building is the extravagant external sculpture and carvings around the window columns, with rich foliage, birds, mice, a greyhound chasing a hare, and monkeys playing billiards.

The monkeys playing billiards are a particular favourite: one is lining up his cue with the ball on the table, another is chalking his cue, while a third is watching on.

Who carved the monkeys playing billards? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These carvings were badly damaged some years ago during an over-zealous cleaning of the façade. For many decades, architectural circles have debated who were the sculptors of the external mullions, the playful monkeys and other animals. The three main candidates are the O’Shea brothers, Charles W Harrison and Charles William Purdy of Purdy and Outhwaite.

The O’Shea brothers were also responsible for the carvings in the Oxford Museum as well as at the nearby Museum in Trinity College Dublin, which we visited on Wednesday [28 December 2016].

James and John O’Shea were the sons of a stone carver from Ballyhooley, Co Cork, who may have been a member of a family from Callan, Co Kilkenny. They worked for Deane and Woodward on the museum at Trinity College, Dublin (1853-1857) and with Edward Whelan they worked on the University Museum, Oxford (1854-1861).

At Oxford, it is said, some of their work was removed in the fallout from Darwin’s publication of the Origin of the Species. The O’Sheas had carved monkeys on one of the window surrounds that was removed because some Oxford dons could not accept that man was related to monkeys in any way.

After finishing their work at the Oxford Museum, all three carried out other commissions in England, but the O'Shea brothers may have returned to Dublin to work on the carvings on the Kildare Street Club in 1859. And so, it is said, the O’Shea brothers kept their monkeys at the Kildare Street Club.

According to local tradition in Callan, James and John O’Shea returned to Callan, and James O’Shea and his son Edward O’Shea were active in Callan from the late 1860s until the early 1880s. Edward O’Shea (1853-1910) later carried on the business in Kilkenny, and he was the Mayor of Kilkenny from 1904 to 1906.

On the other hand, Harrison did the carvings of snakes, snails and butterflies on the staircase, but many of the external and internal carvings were the work of Purdy and Outhwaite, Dublin-based architectural sculptors.

Charles William Purdy and John Henry Outhwaite came from England to Dublin and set up in business at 206 Great Brunswick Street around 1859 or 1860. The firm moved to Westland Row later in 1860, but their successes the business went bankrupt in June 1861. Purdy may have then moved to Belfast, while Outhwaite seems to have found work with another employer and is credited with executing the ‘exquisite’ font in Henry Hill’s church of Saint Edmund (Church of Ireland) in Coolkenure, Co Cork (1865).

The rival Saint Stephen’s Green Club was associated with Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party, while the Kildare Street Club was seen as Conservative and Unionist.

After partition in 1921, and again after World War II, the Kildare Street Club found itself in decline. The building was divided around 1954, and on 4 May 1967 a fire swept through the top floor of No 1 Kildare Street. causing extensive damage. Planning permission was refused for its demolition that year, but with a decline in membership the club decided in 1976 to merge with the University Club at 17 Saint Stephen’s Green as the Kildare Street and University Club and moved out.

The building was divided up in 1971 so that little remains of the once-elegant interiors. In what Christine Casey calls ‘the most singular act of architectural vandalism in recent Dublin history,’ Woodward’s fine staircase with its stone balustrades, the hall with its fine vaulted arcades, the drawing room, and the morning room were all destroyed and office space inserted into the building.

Extravagant foliage in the carvings at the former Kildare Street Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The former club house of Kildare Street Club is now leased to the Heraldic Museum and Genealogical Office, the Manuscripts Reading Room of the National Library, and the Alliance Française.

The main exhibition space of the Heraldic Museum demonstrates the scale and grandeur of the original interiors, while a hint of what may have been can be found by visiting the ‘Byzantine’ interior of the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin.

Monkeys on the coat of arms arms of the Duke of Leinster, as emblazoned by Michael Medvedev

As for those monkeys, and their supposed Darwinian associations, the Heraldic Museum and the club’s location on Kildare Street, close to Leinster House, may provide an alternative narrative.

The coat of arms of the Dukes of Leinster derives from the legend that John FitzGerald, 1st Earl of Kildare, as a baby in Woodstock Castle, was trapped in a fire when a pet monkey rescued him. The FitzGeralds then adopted a monkey as the crest on their coat of arms, and later as heraldic supporters, and they occasionally used the additional motto Non immemor beneficii (‘Not forgetful of a helping hand’).

Mice in the house ... part of the carvings at the former Kildare Street Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(7): 31 December 2016

‘Give thanks for the work of the Anglican Church in the Holy Land as it reaches out to people of all faiths and from all walks of life’ … with Archbishop Suheil Salman Dawani of Jerusalem in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, earlier this month

Patrick Comerford

We have reached the end of the month, the end of an old year, and New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and the Christmas season continues. Each morning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, I am using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), for my morning prayers and reflections.

This week, the prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary focus on the needs of mothers and children in Palestine and Israel.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Saturday 31 December 2016:


Give thanks for the work of the Anglican Church in the Holy Land as it reaches out to people of all faiths and from all walks of life.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

I John 2: 18-21; Psalm 96: 1, 11-13; John 1: 1-18.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
Grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow

Friday, 30 December 2016

Three Victorian terraces and
a Roman burial site in Bray

Evening lights at Esplanade Terrace … the site of a Roman burial ground (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

The mild, bright winter means there are surprising blossoms on some trees, and there is a beautiful perfume from the apple blossoms on the trees in the grounds of No 1 Florence Terrace on Florence Road, Bray, Co Wicklow.

We stopped there this afternoon on our way to a walk along the seafront and before a late lunch.

Florence Terrace is terrace of 13 houses that may have been designed by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon, the architectural partnership formed in Belfast and Dublin in 1860, when Charles Lanyon and William Henry Lynn were joined by Charles Lanyon’s eldest son, John Lanyon, as their junior partner.

The Dublin branch office at 64 Upper Sackville Street, Dublin, was run by John Lanyon until 1867. In Bray, they also designed Prince of Wales Terrace and Ardmore House on Herbert Road. The partnership was dissolved when Lynn took a court action against the Lanyons.

Florence Terrace is one of Bray’s most complete and most impressive 19th-century groupings. This is a relatively uniform but non-identical row of 13 house, built in stages from 1870 to about 1875.

Late blossoms at No 1 Florence Terrace … one of Bray’s most complete and most impressive Victorian groupings (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

No 1, Florence Terrace, also known as the Mayfair Hotel, is an end-of-terrace three-bay two-storey over basement former house, built in 1870. The basement level has since been greatly extended to all sides.

The asymmetrical front elevation shares a projecting full-height gabled bay with No 2 Florence Terrace, the neighbouring house to the west, with the combined properties originally forming a symmetrical ‘palace front.’

To the east elevation there is a full-height canted bay, while to the rear there is a two-storey over basement return. The façade is finished in painted plain and rusticated render with moulded quoins, string courses, and a parapet with a projecting eaves course, while the bay has a pediment-like gable.

The hipped roof, which is largely hidden behind the parapet, is covered in slate and has shared rendered chimney-stacks with pronounced corbelling.

The entrance is set within the bay and consists of a partly glazed timber door, jambs with decorative brackets, projecting entablature, and a plain semi-circular fanlight. It is reached by a flight of stone steps.

The windows are flat-headed, and have one-over-one and two-over-two timber sash frames, with some replacement uPVC frames and top-hung timber frames to the basement extension. There are cast-iron rainwater goods. The hotel signage to the front and east elevations dates from the 1970s and 1980s.

The building faces onto a street, but is separated from it by a relatively large garden, largely enclosed by decorative cast-iron railings and a matching gate.

Next door, No 2 Florence Terrace is a terraced, three-bay, two-storey over basement house. The asymmetrical front elevation shares a projecting full-height gabled bay with the neighbouring house to the east, with the combined properties forming this symmetrical palace front.

The façade is finished in painted plain and rusticated render with string courses, and a parapet with projecting eaves course, whilst the bay has a pediment-like gable.

The hipped roof, which is largely hidden behind the parapet, is covered in slate and has shared rendered chimneystacks with pronounced corbelling. The entrance is set within the bay and consists of a panelled timber door, jambs with decorative brackets, and a semi-circular fanlight with decorative tracery set behind the glass. It too is reached via a flight of stone steps with decorative cast-iron railings.

The windows are flat-headed, and have replacement timber frames, and there are cast-iron rainwater goods. Here too, the building faces onto the street, but is separated from it by a relatively large garden, enclosed by decorative cast-iron railings and a matching gate.

Mount Norris Villas, Bray … James Charles Wilmot once lived at No 4 (left), an elegant Victorian villa (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

On the sea front, my eye was caught by Mount Norris Villas, tucked away at the top of a narrow laneway between the Strand Hotel and the Esplanade Hotel. This is a set of four paired semi-detached villas with stuccowork and shared niches on the façades that hint at their former Victorian elegance.

I have been unable to find any details of these villas in architectural archives, and I wonder whether they were designed by the Dublin architect, John Charles Wilmot (1856-1912), who once lived at No 4.

Wilmot was a son of Dr Samuel George Wilmot, sometime president and fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He was born in Monkstown, Co Dublin, and went to school in England at Saint Paul’s College, Stony Stratford. He first practised as an architect in London and Windsor but returned to Ireland in 1887, when he set up his own practice in Dublin.

He lived at No 4 Mount Norris Villas, Bray, until 1900, and then at 4 Sidmonton Square, Bray, 2 Milward Terrace, Bray, and then at 3 Galtrim Road, Bray, until he died in 1912.

Esplanade Terrace, Bray, stands on the site of a Roman burial ground (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Nearby, the houses on Esplanade Terrace on the seafront, beside the Esplanade Hotel, were probably built by Isaac Farrell in 1861-1862.

Farrell first appears in the directories in 1833 and continues to be listed until 1877 or 1878. His works include several Methodist churches in Dublin and elsewhere, and the Presbyterian Church in Adelaide Road, Dublin.

Some decades before Farrell designed Esplanade Terrace, in 1835, workers building piers for a gate for George Putland’s house, uncovered several skeletons that had been placed side-by-side on the site, separated from each other by stone flags. They were buried with a number of Roman copper coins, some with the image of the Emperor Hadrian, and others with the image of the Emperor Trajan.

They are believed to be the bodies of the crew of a Roman trading ship. Perhaps their ship was shipwrecked nearby, or perhaps the Romans had a small trading post in Bray. Perhaps we shall never know, for any further evidence that may have survived is buried beneath this Victorian terrace of houses.

We went back to Carpe Diem for an Italian lunch and a glass of Italian wine.

Visiting four favourite buildings in Dublin
by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (4)

The former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

During this week, I am visiting some of my favourite buildings in Dublin designed by the architect Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-1899), who worked in a Dublin-based partnership with Benjamin Woodward (1816-1861).

In October 1853, Woodward and Deane set up an office at No 3 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. They developed a Gothic style based on the naturalistic principles laid down by John Ruskin, and their practice also played an important role in the Gothic revival in England. Their two most important buildings are the Museum in Trinity College Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford Museum (1854-1860).

When Deane died in 1899, his practice was continued by his son, Thomas Manly Deane.

Deane’s best known works in Dublin include the National Library and the National Museum in Kildare Street, bookending Leinster House. However, this week I am looking at four of his buildings that are among my favourite works of architecture in Dublin:

1, The Museum Building in Trinity College, Dublin;

2, No 46-47 Dame Street, which was built in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co;

3, The Allied Irish Bank, formerly the Munster and Leinster Bank, at 7-10 Dame Street Dublin;

4, the former Kildare Street Club on Kildare Street.

Join me this week as I visit these four buildings, all within walking distance of each other.

Allied Irish Bank, Dame Street, Dublin

Deane’s design of the former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was influenced by his design of the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

This morning, I am visiting the Allied Irish Bank building on the south side of Dame Street, on the corner of Palace Street, opposite the Olympia Theatre and close to the east entrance to Dublin Castle.

The former Munster and Leinster Bank on Dame Street was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane in 1870-1874. The shape of this site was irregular and challenging. Work began in 1870, and was the building was completed in 1877.

Deane based his design on the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin, which he designed two decades earlier and which we looked at on Wednesday [28 December 2016].

Like the Museum Building, the bank is designed like a Venetian palazzo, and built in the Lombardo-Romanesque style. It too shows the influences of John Ruskin’s ideas on Deane’s work, and although it is less elaborate than it is similar in many ways to the Crown Life Office at 46-47 Dame Street, which we looked at on Thursday [29 December 2016].

For this bank, Deane designed a handsome, two-storey building with a canted entrance, rows of three and four large round-headed windows and polychromic stone surrounds, and a deep-bracketed eaves cornice.

The building materials include Ballinasloe limestone for the walls, Portland stone for the carved capitals, the medallions are of Portland stone with polished green bosses, the colonettes are of polished limestone and ink granite. Deane’s initials can be seen on a roundel on the Palace Street façade.

The clerk of works was Thomas Butler, and the building contractors were John Nolan and his son, Francis Nolan.

The carvings are the work of the architectural sculptor, Charles William Harrison (1834-1903), from Cottingham, Yorkshire. There is great variety and imagination in the carving of the capitals, with fantastical foliage and beasts.

Harrison may have come to Ireland around 1859 to work on the carvings on Deane and Woodward’s Kildare Street Club, which I am looking at tomorrow.

In the early 1860s, Harrison was in partnership with Charles Abbey, working from 27 Great Brunswick Street. Later, he worked from 126 Great Brunswick Street, by 1871 he had moved to 178 Great Brunswick Street, and in 1874 his business was at 177 and 178 Great Brunswick Street.

Among those who worked for Harrison was James Pearse, the father of the Pearse brothers of the 1916 Easter Rising. Four of Harrison’s sons were sculptors too.

Harrison died in 1903 at his home at 8 Herbert Road, Sandymount, and was buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery. He was an active member of Saint Mark’s Church of Ireland Church in Mark Street, where he was a churchwarden for 14 years. The business which he founded continued until the 1970s.

The former Munster and Leinster Bank is designed like a Venetian palazzo and was built in the Lombardo-Romanesque style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Inside, the banking hall is magnificent and is one of the most impressive in Dublin, with a vast soaring vaulted ceiling dwarfing customers and bank staff. This is a tall, double-height space with a deep coved and coffered ceiling. In the cornice, there are gilded shields showing the coats-of-arms of the principal cities and towns of Munster.

The plasterwork is by James Hogan and Sons, ornamental plaster-workers, who worked from 168 Great Brunswick Street from the 1850s until the 1880s.

The bank was enlarged in 1927-1928, when the architect was William Albert Dixon (1892-1978), and the stone carvings and marble work were executed by CW Harrison & Sons.

Originally, the facades on Palace Street and Dame Street were of equal length. In 1958-1959, the Dame Street façade was extended by McDonnell & Dixon, the architectural partnership formed by WA Dixon, and the contractors were John Sisk and Son. The main façade was sympathetically extended along Dame Street, using a more grey Ardbraccan limestone. However, the extension of the interior was less successful.

The shape of the site on the corner of Dame Street and Palace Street was irregular and challenging (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Tomorrow: The former Kildare Street Club, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(6): 30 December 2016

‘Pray for the churches of Palestine and all Christian NGOs who reach out to people of all faiths with God’s love’ … ‘Our Lady who Brings Down Walls,’ the concluding display from Bethlehem at the Elias Icon Exhibition in Lichfield Cathedral in 2014 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Christmas season continues, and each morning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas I am using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), for my morning prayers and reflections.

This week, the prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary focus on the needs of mothers and children in Palestine and Israel.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Friday 30 December 2016:


Pray for the churches of Palestine and all Christian NGOs who reach out to people of all faiths with God’s love.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

I John 2: 12-17; Psalm 96: 7-10; Luke 2: 36-40.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
you have given us your only-begotten Son
to take our nature upon him
and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin:
Grant that we, who have been born again
and made your children by adoption and grace,
may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow

Thursday, 29 December 2016

500 years after Wittenberg,
what was Luther’s impact on
the Anglican Reformation?

Martin Luther … what was his influence on the Anglican Reformation in England?

Patrick Comerford

The year 2017 sees the fifth centenary of the Lutheran Reformation and the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther (1483-1546) setting in process the Reformation when he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church of Wittenberg on 31 October 1517.

But for Anglicans, what is the legacy of Martin Luther, and what are his lasting influences on Anglicanism? How Lutheran was the Anglican Reformation, what were the Lutheran influences on the Reformation in the Church of England Lutheran, and how did Cambridge become known as ‘Little Germany’ and the ‘Birthplace of the English Reformation’?

Key figures in the story of the Anglican Reformation depicted in a window in Trinity College, Cambridge, from left (top row): Hugh Latimer, Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley, Elizabeth I; (second row): John Wycliffe, Erasmus, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Long before Luther is said to have nailed his theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg in 1517, Desiderius Erasmus was at Queens’ College, Cambridge. There between 1511 and 1514, Erasmus translated his new Greek and Latin versions of the New Testament that would inspire the kind of Bible study that created an interest in Luther’s writings and theology.

In 1520, Luther wrote The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, challenging the traditional sacramental system. Incensed by Luther’s attack, King Henry VIII of England published his reply, An Assertion of the Seven Sacramentsm in 1521. Henry VIII earned Papal approval for his refutation and was honoured as ‘Defender of the Faith. The exchange between the English monarch and the former monk was an important factor in the history of the English Church and Luther’s uncharitable and injudicious invective closed the door to Henry’s later acceptance of the Augsburg Confession.

The Martyrs’ Memorial at the south end of Saint Giles’ near Baliol College, Oxford … Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake near this spot on 16 October 1555 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Although books were burned in Cambridge in 1520 and 1521 in efforts to supress sympathies for Wycliffe and the Lollards and for Luther, English merchants trading between London and Antwerp became a source for Luther’s writings, which were soon read widely in the universities in Cambridge and Oxford.

‘Little Germany’ in Cambridge

The moon dial at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where Erasmus lived while he taught Greek in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1521, the Archbishop of Canterbury received complaints that Oxford was infested with Lutheranism. But Cambridge became the nursery of the English Reformation, and many of the English reformers and some of the early martyrs were students and scholars there. The White Horse Inn, on a site that is now part of Chetwynd Court at King’s College, Cambridge, became the meeting place for these young scholars. Because of their interest in Luther’s writings and theology, the White Horse Inn became known as ‘Little Germany.’

The Cambridge scholars who met at the White House from 1521 came to include Thomas Cranmer, future Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Barnes, Prior of the Austin Friars in Cambridge and future martyr, Thomas Bilney, who would change Latimer’s views about the Reformation, Stephen Gardiner, later Bishop of Winchester, Miles Coverdale, translator of the Bible into English and future Bishop of Exeter, Matthew Parker, later Archbishop of Canterbury, William Tyndale, Bible translator, Nicholas Shaxton, later Bishop of Salisbury, John Bale, later Bishop of Ossory, and the martyr Hugh Latimer.

A plaque at King’s College, Cambridge, marking the site of the White House Tavern or ‘Little Germany’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Many of this group were influenced both by the new edition of the New Testament produced by Erasmus and by the ideas of Luther. Many in this group also preached at the Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr, close to King’s College. This Cambridge church played a unique role in the early days of the English Reformation, and was closely associated with the Austin Friars, whose priory stood on the site of Corpus Christ College. The North Chapel of the church had been built for the use of Trinity Hall and the South Chapel for the use of Clare Hall (now Clare College).

In 1522, Hugh Latimer of Clare College was nominated as university preacher and university chaplain. When he received the degree Bachelor of Divinity (BD) in 1524, Latimer publicly defence of the Pope’s authority and refuted the new Reformation ideas on the Continent, in particular the opinions of Philip Melanchthon, who would become the leading Reformer in Germany after Luther’s death in 1546.

However, Thomas Bilney, one of the White Horse group, came privately to Latimer in his study. Latimer was convinced by Bilney’s arguments and soon became one of the leading advocates of the Reformation. He began to preach publicly on the need for a translation of the Bible into English.

The Church of Saint Edward King and Martyr, where many of the early English reformers preached (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the Midnight Mass in Saint Edward’s in Christmas 1525, Robert Barnes preached what was probably the first openly evangelical sermon in a church in England, proclaiming the Gospel and accusing the Church of many heresies. And so Saint Edward’s became ‘the cradle of the Reformation’ in England, and the pulpit from which Latimer preached is still in use.

Barnes was forced to make a recantation, Bilney was forced to make humiliating penance for his offences, and Latimer was prohibited from preaching in the university or in the Diocese of Ely. However, the pulpit of the Augustinian Friars in Cambridge – now part of the site of Corpus Christ College – was outside episcopal control. There Robert Barnes was the prior, Myles Coverdale, translator of the Bible, had joined the community in 1523, and Erasmus was close to the community while he was at Cambridge in 1511-1514.

In 1528, Cardinal Wolsey admonished Latimer, but then gave him a special licence to preach throughout England. In December 1529, Latimer preached two sermons that caused a turbulent controversy in the university. But it was reported to King Henry VIII that Latimer favoured the king’s demand divorce, and he was invited to preach before Henry VIII in Lent 1530.

Hugh Latimer’s pulpit in Saint Edward’s Church, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prompted by Christian II, the exiled king of Denmark, Luther sent a letter of apology to the king in September 1525. But a royal letter of ridicule and rebuke followed 10 months later. By 1527, however, Henry’s views were changing. He wanted a male heir and also wanted to marry Anne Boleyn in the hope that she would become the mother of a male heir.

Luther concluded that the king was bound under pain of eternal damnation to retain the wife he had married. But the divorce issue was settled for Henry in 1533 when Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, dissolved the marriage to Catherine of Aragon and declared the king lawfully married to Anne Boleyn.

Secure in Henry VIII’s protection, Latimer wrote a letter on the free circulation of the Bible. Latimer left Cambridge in 1531 to become a vicar in Wiltshire. But in in March 1532, he was censured, excommunicated and imprisoned. He was freed through the intervention of the king and confessed he had erred not only ‘in discretion but in doctrine.’

Cranmer finds favour

Jesus College, Cambridge … Thomas Cranmer was a student here and later a fellow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, another member of the White Horse group was finding favour with the king too. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was six years Luther’s junior, and was martyred 10 years after Luther’s death. As a student in Cambridge, Erasmus was one of his favourite authors, but it was Luther who drew his attention to the Scriptures.

He found favour with the king in 1529, when he suggested that the king’s divorce was a problem to be settled by theologians and not by canon lawyers. The king sent Cranmer as his representative to the Italian universities and to the Emperor. In Germany, he made his Lutheran connections, and married a niece of Andreas Osiander of Nuernberg.

When Cranmer returned to England, he left his wife behind in Germany and became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533. One of his first acts as Archbishop was to declare Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon void and to validate his marriage to Anne Boleyn. After Cranmer’s consecration, Latimer’s fortunes changed, and he became Bishop of Worcester, in succession to four Italian absentee bishops who had been placed in the diocese, one after another.

In 1534, Henry VIII formally repudiated the authority of the Pope. Latimer began to advise Cranmer and Cromwell on legislative measures, and became the royal chaplain to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. That year, Convocation called for a translation of the Bible into English, and the Ten Articles in 1536 mark the beginning of doctrinal reform. Since Tyndale was considered a heretic, Myles Coverdale was enlisted as the translator of the Bible. His translation, edited by John Rogers, was printed in Antwerp under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, and a new edition was published in 1540, with a preface by Cranmer.

Meanwhile, Latimer was forced to resign as Bishop of Worcester when he opposed Henry VIII’s Act of the Six Articles in 1539, and was imprisoned. Cranmer, however, continued to enjoy Henry’s favour until the king’s death in 1547. Henry VIII died before Latimer’s final trial could take place, but Latimer declined to return to Worcester. Instead, he became a court preacher in the court of Edward VI.

The Lutheran influence that was dominant in the early Reformation in England diminished during the reign of Edward VI, when England became a haven for religious refugees, including Martin Bucer from Strasburg, who had once tried to bring Luther and Zwingli together and who influenced Calvin’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.

Cranmer invited Melanchthon and Calvin to England for a conference to discuss a united confession but that conference never took place. The Lutherans were unfriendly to these exiles because of their denial of the real presence, and the heirs of exiles were among the later Puritans rather than among the Anglicans.

Martyrs in Oxford

Thomas Cranmer's memorial in the chapel of Jesus College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When Edward VI died, his sister, Mary I, came to the throne in 1553. She hated Cranmer, who by annulling the marriage of her mother Catherine of Aragon to Henry VIII had declared her illegitimate.

In 1554, papal commissioners began to examine Latimer, Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley, former Bishop of London. The commissioners tried to demonstrate that Latimer did not share the same faith as the Early Fathers, but Latimer replied: ‘I am of their faith when they say well … I have said, when they say well, and bring Scripture for them, I am of their faith; and further Augustine requireth not to be believed.’

Latimer was burned at the stake in Oxford on 16 October 1555, alongside Nicholas Ridley, outside Balliol College. As the flames rose, Latimer is said to have said to Ridley: ‘Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man, for we shall this day light such a candle in England as I trust by God’s grace shall never be put out.’ It was said he ‘received the flame as it were embracing it. After he had stroked his face with his hands, and (as it were) bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeared) with very little pain or none.’

Cranmer had outlived Luther. In the hope of saving his life, Cranmer signed a recantation, but he was deceived, and he too was also burned at the stake at the same place in Oxford on 21 March 1556. On the day of his burning, he publicly recanted his recantation, confessed his faith, and thrust into the fire the offending hand that he said had ‘written contrary to his heart.’

Of almost 300 people burned during Queen Mary’s reign, the most famous are the Oxford martyrs. The Martyrs’ Memorial in the city centre, near the site of their execution, commemorates the ‘faithfulness unto death’ of these three martyrs.

Cranmer drew on Lutheran catechisms, litanies, and liturgies as he compiled the Book of Common Prayer, Tyndale gave England its Bible, and Barnes gave it a Lutheran theology. No English denomination ever emerged that could call itself the Lutheran Church. But the 39 Articles were strongly influenced by phrases and sentences in the Augsburg Confession, and the Lutheran imprint is impressed on The Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican form of worship. Like the Lutheran Reformers, Cranmer and his heirs combined music and a polished vernacular prose style to achieve new heights of grandeur in the service of God in worship.

Hugh Latimer (right), depicted in a window of the Chapel in Clare College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford lectures in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin.

This feature was published in the Christmas 2016 edition of ‘Koinonia’ (Kansas MO), Vol 10, No 32, pp 12-16.

Visiting four favourite buildings in Dublin
by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (3)

No 46-47 Dame Street was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

During this week, I am visiting some of my favourite buildings in Dublin designed by the architect Sir Thomas Newenham Deane (1828-1899), who worked in a Dublin-based partnership with Benjamin Woodward (1816-1861).

In October 1853, Woodward and Deane set up an office at No 3 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. They developed a Gothic style based on the naturalistic principles laid down by John Ruskin, and their practice also played an important role in the Gothic revival in England. Their two most important buildings are the Museum in Trinity College Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford Museum (1854-1860).

When Deane died in 1899, his practice was continued by his son, Thomas Manly Deane.

Deane’s best known works in Dublin include the National Library and the National Museum in Kildare Street, bookending Leinster House. However, this week I am looking at four of his buildings that are among my favourite works of architecture in Dublin:

1, The Museum Building in Trinity College, Dublin;

2, No 46-47 Dame Street, which was built in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co;

3, The Allied Irish Bank, formerly the Munster and Leinster Bank, at 7-10 Dame Street Dublin;

4, the former Kildare Street Club on Kildare Street.

Join me this week as I visit the four buildings I have selected, all within walking distance of each other.

No 46-47 Dame Street, Dublin (Crown Life Assurance Co):

Sir Thomas Newenham Deane designed No 46-47 Dame Street in the Lombardo-Romanesque style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

On the corner of Fownes Street and Dame Street, No 46-47 Dame Street was built in 1869-1871 for the Crown Life Assurance Co. The building was designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane in 1868 and was modelled on the London head office of Crown Life, which was designed in 1858 by his former partner, Benjamin Woodward.

This part of Dame Street is along a busy traffic route and on the edges of the Temple Bar area. For tourists it is a pedestrian thoroughfare, linking Christ Church Cathedral with the Bank of Ireland Trinity College Dublin or leading into the Temple Bar area.

These factors mean it is generally difficult to catch a view that offers opportunities to appreciate the Dame Street façade of this building. It is often easier to appreciate the building around the corner, beside the ‘Foggy Dew’ pub, where the Fownes Street façade faces the Central Bank Plaza.

Venetian-style arched windows and balconies on the Dame Street side of the building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Like the Museum Building in Trinity College Dublin, Deane designed this building was built in Portland stone in the style of a Lombardo-Romanesque palazzo, drawing on the principals set out a decade earlier by John Ruskin in The Stones of Venice.

The builder was Gilbert Cockburn was the builder, who also built the Museum Building in TCD, and the total cost was £4,000.

On the Dame Street façade, there are Venetian-style arched windows and balconies. On the ground floor, we can see stilted segment-headed openings to the former public offices on the ground floor. The main entrance originally stood at the east end of this façade, on the viewer’s right.

The romantic features on the Fownes Street façade include stepped, round-headed windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The romantic features on pretty side elevation on the east or Fownes Street façade include five Ruskin-influenced stepped, round-headed windows, three grouped together in an ascending arcade, on the staircase.

Slender colonnettes frame the angle of the building, and deep bracketed cornices create strong horizontals at the piano nobile and eaves levels.

The Portland stone used by Deane is offset by a granite plinth, a frieze, still and impost courses of red sandstone, polished pink granite colonnettes to the windows, and capitals of grey and white limestone.

This building was rebuilt by James Franklin Fuller in 1917, and the builders for this renovation were Farmer Brothers of Nottingham Street, Dublin.

Venetian-style balconies on the Dame Street side of the building (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

I first got to appreciate the exterior of this building and to know the interior when I was training as a Chartered Surveyor, because at the time the building housed the Dublin Corporation Planning Office.

This was an ironic use of the building in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for the planners almost allowed it to be lost to Dublin. It was saved from demolition because Skidmore Owings Merrill, in the masterplan for the area they submitted to CIE in the 1970s, identified it as one of two buildings worth saving in the Temple Bar area.

Since then, this building has been renovated, the interior has been greatly remodelled, and this is now part of a larger hotel.

The Crown Life Building was almost lost to Dublin due to planners’ decisions in the 1970s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Tomorrow: The Allied Irish Bank, 7-10 Dame Street Dublin.