Friday, 23 June 2017

Strolling through the churchyard
beside the old church in Nantenan

Saint James’s Church, Nantenan … closed in 1972 but still standing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On my journeys around these parishes, I sometimes stop to visit churches that were once open in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of parishes.

Last Sunday afternoon, on my way from Tarbert to Rathkeale, I stopped to visit the ruined church in Shangolden and the surrounding churchyard. Half-way between Askeaton and Rathkeale, Saint James’s Church in Nantenan still stands out in the landscape as an elegant building, although it has been closed since 1972.

Like the church in Shanagolden, Saint James’s Church in Nantenan was also linked with the Precentors of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, so it seems appropriate that this church is within my parochial boundaries.

Nantenan is about 5 km south of Askeaton on the road to Rathkeale, on the east bank of the River Deel. There was an old mediaeval church on this site, and its dedication to Saint James probably indicates that this church may have been a late Anglo-Norman church associated with an old pilgrim route.

At one time, there was a spacious green near the church, and fairs were held on the green on 10 July, 5 August and 12 November. Near the Green a well dedicated to Saint James was enclosed by ancient massive stone walls.

According to the historian of this area, Westropp, there was a church here in 1500. According to another local historian Harry Gillard, there were three different church buildings on the present site.

Very little is known of the first church. The church that was standing in 1500 is said to have been small with a thatched roof. Local people used to say that it was destroyed by fire and that part of its foundation wall can still be seen.

Saint James’s Church, Nantenan was rebuilt in 1817-1821 and in 1852 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

It was another two centuries before the next church was built at Nantenan. The present church was built early in 1817-1821, and a tablet on the wall in the porch reads ‘Enter into the courts of the Lord, Anno Domine 1821.’

The Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £800 towards building a new parish church, which was built or rebuilt the Early English style on the site of an earlier church. The architect’s name is unknown. In 1852, the interior was remodelled, with Joseph Welland, giving it is present appearance, while retaining the west tower.

Peering inside Saint James’s Church, Nantenan … closed in 1972 but still standing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The church is built in the Early English style, and many of the original features and materials survive, including the slate roof and the limestone copings. The church includes a four-bay nave, a chancel at the east end, a vestry to the north and a three-stage, square, embattled tower to the west, surmounted by an octagonal spire, and there is a lean-to at the north side. The tower is enhanced by the finely carved, decorative pinnacles and crenellations.

There are pointed arch openings throughout the building, tripartite Y-tracery quarry glazed windows and lancet openings to the nave, west elevation and tower.

The detailed features of the church illustrate high quality craftsmanship. This can be seen particularly in the ornate timber windows, the stone dressings and the carved entrance piers.

Heraldic details on a gravestone in the churchyard at Nantenan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There was once a parochial school with about 30 children, and it supported mainly by Lord Southwell and the rector.

The sexton’s house to the south, the carved headstones in the surrounding churchyard, many with heraldic details, and the barrel-vaulted tombs contribute to making this an interesting site.

The graves include those of Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic families in the parish, as well as some of the original Palatine families. Headstones of note include one in memory of the Revd Thomas Royce of Nantenan House, who died in 1747, aged 43, and a headstone dating from 10 July 1777, in memory of John Welesh, aged 22 years.

Nantenan was a rectory and perpetual curacy in the Diocese of Limerick. The rectory was united from an early date with the rectories and vicarages of Kilfenny and Loughill, the rectories of Shanagolden, Knocknegaul, and Dromdeely, and the vicarage of Morgans. They formed the corps of the Precentorship of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Because the Precentors of Limerick were the Rectors of Nantenan until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, the church in Nantenan was served by curates and perpetual curates or vicars until 1873, when the Revd John Armour Haydn was appointed Rector of Nantenan.

In 1918, Nantenan was united with Rathkeale parish, and they were both united with Ballingarry and Rathronan in 1958. The church was in use until it closed in 1972.

Until disestablishment, the Precentors of Limerick were also the Rectors of Nantenan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Thursday, 22 June 2017

A summer exhibition of icons
in Christ Church Cathedral

‘The Transfiguration’ by Adrienne Lord, inspired by Theophanes of Crete, in the exhibition in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (© Adrienne Lord, 2015, 2017)

Patrick Comerford,

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin,

23 June 2017,

7 p.m., Opening of Exhibition of Icons by Adrienne Lord.


It is a particular, personal pleasure to be invited back to Christ Church Cathedral this evening, having been a canon of this cathedral for ten years before going to Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, as Precentor earlier this year.

Icons have been at the heart of my own spiritual life and journey for three decades, and I am familiar with many of the icons in Crete and on Mount Athos that we are being invited to see, and to engage with, this evening.

However, the word icon is much misused today. Apart from its use in computers and technology – where an icon can be a pictogram used in a graphical user interface, or a high-level programming language – how often do we hear of someone being described as a ‘style icon,’ a ‘movie icon’ or even a ‘political icon’?

And when they come face-to-face with icons, many people often misunderstood their role and purpose. At one end, there is extreme Protestant position that fails to understand the Biblical rootedness of praying with icons, and on the other hand there are these who see them merely as works of art that are pretty or decorative, without appreciating their spiritual role and value.

The Apostle Paul uses the word icon when he describes Christ as the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1: 15). We might translate Saint Paul’s original Greek, ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως as saying Christ ‘is the image [or the icon] of the invisible God.’ In this sense, Christ himself is an icon, indeed is the first icon.

As people, we are also made in God’s image, and so we too are living icons of God.

Saint John of Damascus dismisses anyone who seeks to destroy icons as ‘the enemy of Christ, the Holy Mother of God and the saints, and is the defender of the Devil and his demons.’ This is because the theology of icons is part and parcel of the incarnational theology of the humanity and divinity of Christ, so that attacks on icons have the effect of undermining or attacking the Incarnation of Christ himself as taught by the Ecumenical Councils.

Among the Cappadocian Fathers, Saint Basil of Caesarea, in his On the Holy Spirit, writes: ‘The honour paid to the image passes to the prototype.’

In Eastern Orthodox practice, to kiss an icon of Christ, for example, is to show love towards Christ himself, not the mere wood and paint that have gone into making or writing the icon. Or, as Sister Wendy Beckett says on some of your invitations, ‘Contemplating the icon, with faith and love, draws us out of our material world and into that divine world to which we will only have access after death.’

Icons are not a fashion in art, to attend to today and to move on to other expressions tomorrow. Thirty years ago, as I attempted to ‘buy’ my first icon in Crete, I felt the iconographer Andreas Theodorakis, who had been trained in Stavronikita, was less than co-operative. If I wanted to buy a souvenir icon, there were plant of cheap reproductions available in the tourist shopping streets of Rethymnon.

His icons were, first and last, works of prayer. And so too, with these icons by Adrienne Lord. Which makes it so appropriate that we are viewing her icons in a church setting, and not, as so often happens, as works of art among others.

During many years now, this cathedral has been to the fore in the Anglican theological and liturgical recovery of the tradition of icons and iconography.

Since 2003, the Lady Chapel has collection of icons written by the Romanian icon-writer, Mihai Cucu, who is well-known in Ireland. These icons were presented to the cathedral by choir member Dan Apalaghie and his family.

In 2009, Christ Church hosted the challenging exhibition of ‘Icons in Transformation’ by Ludmilla Pawlowska. That year too, the Dean commissioned the Romanian icon-writer Georgetta Simion to produce an icon of the Trinity, inspired by Andrei Rublev’s ‘Visitation of Abraham,’ and now an important part of the spiritual life of the cathedral.

‘The Holy Trinity’ by Adrienne Lord, inspired by Andrei Rublev’s ‘Visitation of Abraham’ (© Adrienne Lord, 2015, 2017)

It is inevitable then, I suppose, that Adrienne should include in this present exhibition two works inspired by icons by Andrei Rublev in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow: ‘The Holy Trinity,’ of course, and ‘The Virgin of Vladimir.’

Two years ago [2015], Adrienne organised an exhibition here that also included icons by Philip Brennan, Maureen Quinn and Patrick McMacken. Since then, her icon of Saint George the Dragon-Slayer, inspired by an icon in Moscow, has attracted considerable attention in the south ambulatory. And so, it is wonderful to see her back with her own solo exhibition, which includes this icon of Saint George.

It is worth seeing how she works so devotedly and with such care by looking at her YouTube video on the step-by-step process of writing Saint George the Dragon Slayer:



Adrienne is based in Dublin and practised as an architect before qualifying with a degree in Fine Art Painting from NCAD in 2001. In 2008, she started writing icons with Eva Vlaviano and Dick Sinclair as her tutors, working in the Greek Byzantine tradition of tempera and gold leaf.

Over the last few years, she has travelled to Crete and Russia for her research, so this exhibition also contains Icons from these countries.

The influence of traditional iconography on Western art is reflected in her icon of ‘The Blue Crucifix,’ inspired by a well-known processional cross by the Master of the Blue Crucifixes, who worked in the mid-13th century and who is associated with the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

But Adrienne’s work here is primarily continuing in the tradition of the great Greek Byzantine, Greek and especially Cretan icon-writers, that has been strongly influenced by Theophanes the Cretan (Θεοφάνης ο Κρης). He was a leading icon writer of the Cretan School in the first half of the 16th century, and the most important figure in Greek icon-writing at that time.

He was born in Iraklion and worked from about 1527 to 1548, in mainland Greece rather than in Crete, and he trained his sons and several pupils, many from Crete. Theophanes and his sons Symeon and Neophytos become monks on Mount Athos, but Theophanes eventually returned to Crete, where he died in 1559. Many of his works are found in monasteries on the Holy Mountain, and many of these were only seen for the first time by the outside world at the exhibition, ‘Treasures of Mount Athos,’ in Thessaloniki in 1997.

Adrienne’s inspiration by Theophanes and his sons can be seen in her icons of ‘The Annunciation,’ ‘The Archangel Michael,’ ‘The Archangel Gabriel’ and ‘The Transfiguration.’

This icon of the Transfiguration, part of which you can see on many of your invitation cards, is a very good example of how an icon works.

This is an icon of movement, an icon of past present and future. It shows Christ leading the apostles Peter, James and John up the mountain of the Transfiguration before the event; it shows them dazzled, afraid, at the moment of the Transfiguration; and it shows them being led back down the mountainside by Christ afterwards.

In other words, it is an invitation at this very moment in time into the eternal experience of the Transfiguration and of being Transfigured ourselves, to move from the present into eternity.

Two other icon writer from Crete, Andreas Ritzos (1421-1492) and Mikhail Damaskinos, have also been an inspiration for Adrienne, including ‘Saint John leaning on Christ’s Bosom’ and ‘The Archangel Michael.’ Damaskinos was the teacher of El Greco in Iraklion, and so there is a direct connection in these icons these evening between Saint Catherine’s on Mount Sinai, with icon writers in Crete, and through El Greco and his work in Spain with western art that connects right through to Picasso.

As well as the Mountain of the Transfiguration, two other mountains figure in Adrienne’s work – Mount Athos and Mount Sinai – and there are works inspired by icons in Jordan, Russia.

‘Christ Pantocrator’ by Adrienne Lord, inspired by an icon in Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai (© Adrienne Lord, 2015, 2017)

The icon of Christ Pantocrator in the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai is one of the earliest icons we have, and perhaps our earliest image of Christ. Adrienne’s striking interpretation of this icon shows how this sixth century icon in Egypt speaks to us directly and comfortingly today.

Saturday [24 June 2017] is the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. So, I would like to draw your attention this evening to her icon of Saint John the Baptist (24x18, not for sale). This is inspired by a detail on an early 13th century Deesis in the Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, showing Christ with the Virgin Mary on one side and Saint John the Baptist on the other.

This icon is not for sale, but if you would like to see how an icon writer works then look at the five photographs detailing the process of writing this icon in 2015 that Adrienne has posted on Facebook.

But look too at the whole collection of icons this evening. There are images of modern-day, 19th and 20th century Russian saints, including Saint Sergius of Radonezh and Saint Tikhon.

Her ‘Triptych,’ inspired by the 15th century Deesis, by Angelos in the Holy Monastery of Viannos in Petra, Jordan, could attract a price tag of €1,000, but is being raffled. Tickets are on sale and the funds raised at this the raffle will help the work of SPPD, an NGO in India working with communities living in poverty in Tamil Nadu.

The proceeds of sales made during the exhibition are going to a registered charity nominated by the purchaser. Sales of the icons on the opening night will be donated to one of four charities nominated by the artist.

‘Saint John the Baptist’ by Adrienne Lord (© Adrienne Lord, 2015, 2017)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick was speaking Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at the launch of the summer exhibition of icons following a service of choral evensong on 22 June 2017. The exhibition continues until the end of September and there are demonstrations by the artist on the last Friday of each month from 11 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 4 pm.

Copyright notice: the icons in this posting are from the exhibition in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. All images are copyrighted by the artist, Adrienne Lord), and cannot be reproduced for commercial use without the artist’s permission.


Catching the conman who
claims the non-existent thrones
of Montenegro and Macedonia

Pamela Anderson kneels before the self-styled Prince of Montenegro and Macedonia

Patrick Comerford

Two week ago, I wrote about walking around the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, and how I came stumbled across the simple and humble grave of Prince Milo of Montenegro, facing the great west door of the cathedral and looking out onto the banks of the River Shannon.

Prince Milo Petrović-Njegoš (1889-1978) was a prince of Montenegro and was a direct descendant of Radul Petrović, brother of Danilo I (1670-1735), the first Vladika or Prince-Bishop of Montenegro from 1696. After a life of exile in Italy, Shanghai and California, he eventually settled in Ireland, and died in Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick in 1978.

Prince Milo never realised his dream of restoring the Monenegrin throne, which was abolished in 1918. But now, almost a century after the fall of the royal house of Montenegro, newspapers around the world have been reporting in recent days on the arrest of a 57-year-old Italian conman who has been charged with fraud and forgery after posing for years as a member of the Royal Family of Montenegro.

The man, whose real identity has not yet been revealed, calls himself ‘His Imperial and Royal Highness Stefan Cernetic, Hereditary Prince of Montenegro, Serbia and Albania,’ and claims to be a descendant of the Emperor Constantine, and the head of the royal family of Montenegro.

He is such a convincing conman that he has hoodwinked and fooled many royals and celebrities. He travelled across Europe in a luxury black Mercedes flying Montenegrin flags and fake royal insignia, and stayed in luxury hotels, free of charge.

To make his claims even more credible, Cernetic set up a website and several social media accounts, where he regularly posts photographs of himself alongside known royals, like Prince Albert of Monaco, and members of famous aristocratic families, like Savoy, Hapsburg and Hohenzollern.

The website that fronts an elaborate hoax

On his website, Cernetic describes himself as ‘the head of the family that ruled Montenegro, Albania and Serbia from the XIV century to the second half of the XVIII century,’ and has published family trees, photographs and illustrations of medals, seals, coats of arms and ‘legal rulings.’

It all looks impressive until you start reading some of the meaningless babble, such as this paragraph:

His Royal and Imperial Highness, as descendant of S. Constantine the Great and of the Emperor of Constantinople Angelo, Comneno, Ducas, Paleologo, Lascaris, Vatatze is holder and guardian of the heraldic knightly heritage of his House and as such fons honorum, precious evidence of a glorious past, that is alive and propelled to the future, carrying on values without wich (sic) the present has not roots.

If that reads like nonsense, then it is not surprising that Italian police who have been investigating him for more than a year, say his claims are all just ‘nonsense.’

Yet this man’s elaborate charade has been effective for many years. He attends receptions organised by real royal families and pretenders. Earlier this month, he shared a table with Princess Irena of Greece and Denmark, in Athens. He has met bishops in the Vatican, patriarchs in their palaces, and attended lavish parties on yachts.

The mayor of Monopoli in Italy, Emilio Morani, has hosted a reception in his honour, and he managed to get Baywatch star Pamela Anderson to kneel before him two years ago as he bestowed on her the title of ‘countess’ in a solemn ceremony. The Hollywood actress was also named ‘Great Lady of Montenegro’ and her children received the title of knights.

He bestows ‘the nobility titles of Noble, Hereditary Knight, Baron, Viscount, Count, Marquis, Duke, Prince’ to anyone who is silly enough to pay for them. He also doles out five different Chivalric Orders to anyone who is naive enough to pay for them: the Imperial Equestrian Order of Saint Hubert; the Imperial Orthodox Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem; the Dynastic Equestrian Order of Merit ‘Goldener Doppeladler’ (Golden Double Eagle), the Imperial House Cernetic; the Angelico Sacro Imperiale Equestrian Order of Saint George Orthodox Constantinian; and the Cernetic Imperial Order.

It is curious that orders that claim to be Orthodox use Latin lettering on their insignia. But this is probably a minor title for those eager to buy baubles to wear to the ball.

He claims his ‘official residence’ is in Belgrade, some of his Facebook accounts indicate he lives in Monte Carlo, but he seems to spend most of his time in Italy.

His self-styled Highness appointed an honorary consul who travelled around Europe as his royal ambassador. But Maurice Andreoli is a total fake too.

After his arrest Italian police revealed the ‘prince’ is not from the Balkans, but from Trieste and his parents are Italian. He was being paid to attend public events and even had his own brand of wine in Tuscany.

But the royal house of cards began to tumble down last year. While he was staying in the luxurious Italian resort of Fasano, he instructed the hotel to forward his bill to the Macedonian embassy. It was reported that a terse reply came back: ‘Do not send us the bills, we don’t have a prince, and we certainly don’t share one with Montenegro.’

Confusing Macedonia and Montenegro is a laughing matter even in table quizzes in pubs. Confusing them when you are trying to avoid paying your hotel bill and claiming royal status is beyond belief.

Italian police raided the homes of the fake prince and his ambassador, and found several fake titles and awards, diplomatic permits and a royal seal.

His arrest was widely reported last weekend. But by Monday, he was on his way from Milan to Rome by fast train, boasting he was travelling with ‘diplomatic discount’ and ‘Club Class’ Italo. He was in Monte Carlo by Tuesday, it would appear from his Facebook page.

Has he managed to get away with it?

Stefan Cernetic, if that is his name, is not a member of any royal or imperial house, and certainly not the head of one. He has no connections to the royal houses of Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania or anywhere else. The titles and orders he bestows are as bogus as his claims.

A set of claims phrased in true Ruritanian style

On some of the parchments handed out with his gongs he describes himself in true Ruritanian style as ‘His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Stephan Tcherneitch, By the Grace of God, Head of the Imperial and Royal House and Rightful Dynastic Heir to the Historical Crowns of Montenegro, Macedonia, Croatia, Dalmatia, Illyria, Romania, Greece, &c.

That must come as news to the people of Greece, who decided democratically to reject all royalty in 1974, and are still disturbed by another would-be-king who is waiting in the wings.

The ‘&c’ is a little worrying, that I would worry too much about this claimant. If the Macedonian and Montegrin embassies are sending back his hotel bills, is he going to start forwarding them to the Irish embassy in Rome? Perhaps the ‘&c’ may even refer to Royal Meath and the Kingdom of Kerry. Who knows?

Everyone knows Macedonia has no royal family waiting in the wings to accede a throne if the electorate is ever barmy enough to want a king. Count Gyula Cseszneky, a Hungarian-Croatian aristocrat who collaborated with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, was proclaimed Grand Voivode or Grand Duke of Macedonia but reigned for less than two months in August and September 1943. In fact, the former Yugoslav republic only started calling itself Macedonia in recent years, much to the chagrin of the majority of people in Greece. It has only existed as a state since 1991, and when it was part of Yugoslavia, it was also known as Vardar Banovina.

The last king of Croatia, Tomislav II, was an Italian prince who collaborated with Nazi Germany. He became king at the request of Ante Pavelić, the leader of the fascist Ustaše movement in Croatia.

Montenegro, Serbia and Albania have living pretenders who continue to claim they are the rightful royals in those Balkan nations. But Montenegro has not had a royal family since 1918. Nikola II Petrović-Njegoš is the current head of the House of Petrović-Njegoš, making him, in royalist eyes, the true pretender to the throne of Montenegro. He is a second cousin once removed of Alexander II Karađorđević, the current head of the House of Karađorđević and the man who wants to recognised as King of Serbia. Leka II of Albania is the current head of the House of Zogu, the royal house of Albania. He is the grandson of King Zog I and currently works for the Albanian Foreign Ministry.

Someone, someone must be wondering whether Prince Milo is turning in his grave in Limerick.

Prince Milo’s humble gravestone in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Catching glimpses of Tarbert House
during an afternoon in Tarbert Bay

Tarbert House seen from Tarbert Bay during an afternoon sailing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I have often passed Tarbert House during my fortnightly visits to Tarbert, Co Kerry. But my first time to see the house clearly was during my afternoon sailing across the Shannon Estuary yesterday [20 June 2017].

Tarbert House is normally hidden by the large trees that surround it. But as we sailed out of Tarbert Bay, the house came into clear view as it rose up from the surrounding trees and parkland in the distance.

Tarbert House, which dates from 1690, is a Georgian era house built by John Leslie or by James Leslie, Bishop of Limerick, in the Queen Anne style of architecture. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage suggests the house was built ca 1720.

In 1786, Wilson describes it as ‘happily situated on an eminence commanding an extensive view.’ Tarbert House was owned by Robert Leslie at the time of Griffith’s Valuation, when it was valued at £24 10s.

In the past, visitors to the house are said to have included Jonathan Swift, Benjamin Franklin, the Duke of Wellington, Daniel O’Connell, Charlotte Bronte, Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill.

After a visit to Tarbert House, Dean Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wrote: ‘The Leslies have lots of books upon their shelves. All written by Leslies about themselves.’ However, Swift is also said to have written these lines about the leslies of Castle Leslie in Glaslough, Co Monaghan.

John Paul Jones sought shelter for his ship at Tarbert when he was chased by the British navy during the American War of Independence. In order to confuse his pursuers, Raymond McGibney told us in the bay as we looked at Tarbert House, John Paul Jones sent men ashore to place lanterns in the trees, indicating he was still in the bay. Then, under cover of darkness, he sailed silently out to Valentia and on to the US where he founded the US navy.

We were told this story inspired the name of the Lanterns Hotel on the road between Tarbert and Glin.

The US President Benjamin Franklin came to visit Sir Edward Leslie as part of his efforts to rekindle trade between Ireland and America. Franklin presented Sir Edward with a type of rose which, when planted in the gardens of the house, became the inspiration for the famous Rose Pattern that was woven into the curtains that hang to this day in Tarbert House. The pattern has been used since then in curtains as far away as the White House by Nancy Regan, who also visited Tarbert House.

Daniel O’Connell was a friend of the Leslie family and Tarbert House still holds a parchment that is a plea to the House of Commons in 1813 for Catholic Emancipation, signed by bishops, politicians and other notables, including Daniel O’Connell and his brother.

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855), the author of Jane Eyre, spent part of her honeymoon at Tarbert House, although there is no record of her visit. She married her father’s curate, the Revd Arthur Bell Nicholls, in April 1854. She went to West Clare first and then came to Tarbert House, where she spent a night or two. They then went on to Tralee and to Killarney, where she missed her step getting into a boat. It turned out she was pregnant at the time but soon after she had a miscarriage and died as a result.

Lord Kitchener, who was baptised in a font that is now at Saint Brendan’s Church in Kilnaughtin, once lived on the Leslie estate at Ballygoghlan, where his father had a farm. Surviving correspondence tells how, as a boy, he came to the shore to gather seaweed for his mother’s bath to help relieve her arthritis.

Sir Winston Churchill’s aunt Leonie Jerome married a Leslie cousin, John Leslie of Castle Leslie and it is said that as a boy Winston Churchill spent some of his school holidays at Tarbert House.

Tarbert House, which is located in ancient parkland, retains many of its original internal features, furniture, pictures and decorative forms. They are testimony to the importance of this house in Ireland’s architectural heritage.

Although the estate was sold to the tenants around 1904, Tarbert House remains the home of the Leslie family to this day, and is occasionally open to the public during the summer months.

Tarbert House is open this year [2017], from May to August, from 10 am to 12 noon, and from 2 pm to 4 pm, and during National Heritage Week (19 to 27 August) the house is open each day from 10 am to 4 pm. However, it is advised to contact the house directly before making any arrangements to visit.

Tarbert House emerges from the surrounding trees and parkland and rises above Tarbert Bay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

A day sailing out of Tarbert
on the hottest day of the year

Arriving back at Tarbert Island after an afternoon sailing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Who can work through the hottest day of the year?

The temperatures soared as high as 28 or 29 in this part of Ireland yesterday [20 June 2017], and more of the same is promised again today, the longest day of the year.

I had been working a long stretch – at least 10 or 12 days in a row without a break. But early on Tuesday a parishioner rang with an offer she knows I was never going to refuse.

Would I like to go sailing?

Three of packed into a car in Askeaton and headed west for Tarbert, where her friend was waiting for us to join him.

I have enjoyed boats ever since I was taken rowing on Lough Ramor at Virginia, Co Cavan, 50 years ago this summer. But I have never been very active about this pleasure. It has been a more passive form of pleasure for me.

In Cambridge, I regularly enjoy walking along the Backs, watching rowers and scullers alike. I keep in touch on Facebook and on Instagram with the exploits of Sidney Sussex Boat Club. Why, even one of my photographs was used in a fundraising drive by Jesus College Boat Club to find corporate sponsors.

In Greece, I love hopping on and off boats on island-hopping trips and I have had similar pleasures in Turkey and Italy. And there have been occasional trips in currachs and on coastguard floats between Achill Island Inishbiggle.

I have often promised myself in Rethymnon – it seems every year, to be honest – that I am going to take up the offer of a one-day introductory lesson in sailing. But, apart from walking around the sailing clubs in places like Bray and Skerries, and the yacht clubs in Dun Laoghaire, I have never managed to get nearer.

All apart from one memorable afternoon sailing on Tagus estuary in Lisbon late in 2014.

Tuesday’s sailing experience in Tarbert was a dream afternoon and a dream come true.

Three on board on the Shannon Estuary (Photograph: Liliana Montoya, 2017)

We sailed out from Tarbert Island Maritime Club, beside the car ferry pier, where the small and basic clubhouse is a valuable resource for local boat owners.

But it was no small experience. Tarbert is well known for its fast-outgoing tides, and we quickly became aware of the tides as we sailed out from the pier and out across the Shannon Estuary to Shannon Fort in Co Clare, and then across Clonderalaw Bay to Knock.

It was an active afternoon, without a moment’s slacking. I got to raise and lower the sails, navigate take the tiller, monitor the tides and learns how the winds and tides can change all our plans without a moment’s notice.

Tarbert Island Maritime Club takes advantage of the natural amenities of Tarbert Bay. The club has a large membership and the range of activities varies from competitive sailing to leisure activities, including sailing, rowing, swimming and angling. Rowing boats can be rented out, complete with life jackets for those who want to row around the bay or even venture to Glin and beyond.

The club also arranges tuition in seamanship, sailing, rowing, canoeing, power boats and swimming. Dolphin Watch Tours operate from Tarbert Pier, but we never got to see any dolphins. Perhaps they too needed a break on the hottest day of the year.

This was an afternoon that gave me all the experiences I dream of when I look at those offers of a day’s sailing in Rethymnon. We ended up celebrating our afternoon’s fun in the Shannon House by the pier.

Thank you to Rose Fitzgerald, Liliana Montoya and Raymond McGibney for a day of real fun. Yes, I’ll be back. And yes, I’m off to Rethymnon next week.

Blades back in Tarbert Island Maritime Club (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Marking the Reformation:
500 years on – an Irish Anglican perspective

Canon Patrick Comerford contributes the third article in our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

As other Christian communities mark this year as the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the commemorations raise a number of questions for Anglicans:

●When did the Reformation begin?

●When did the Reformation end?

●To what degree did the Lutheran Reformation influence the Anglican Reformation?

● To what extent are Anglicans open to Lutheranism today?

Anglicanism has no one single founding figure, so that there is no single Reforming authority for Anglicans, in the way that Martin Luther has a defining role for Lutherans, or John Calvin for Calvinists and Presbyterians.

Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer are seen as the founding martyrs of Anglicanism; Thomas Cranmer and Matthew Parker are the key figures in drafting the foundational documents of Anglicanism, the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles; and the Elizabethan and Jacobean theologians Richard Hooker, John Jewel and Lancelot Andrewes, and the Caroline Divines, including Bishop Jeremy Taylor, presented Anglican theology in its first articulate and systematic ways in the 16th and 17th centuries.

But Anglicans are neither Lutherans nor Calvinists, despite continuing efforts by some theologians to place us in either camp; nor, for that matter, are we Cranmerites, still less Hookerites.

The Anglican theological position has always been explained in terms of the middle way or via media. Richard Hooker’s Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity is regarded as the classic depiction of this Anglican via media, based on scripture, reason and tradition, although he does not use the actual term via media in his works, which stand alongside John Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.

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

When did the Anglican Reformation begin?

If we accept that the Church is always reforming itself and in need of reform, then we must accept the great reforms of pre-Reformation days too. One of the early reformers is Pope Gregory the Great, one of the Doctors of the Church, who reformed the liturgy and sent Saint Augustine on his mission to England. It is no accident that his image appears in many Anglican churches and cathedral, including a statue on the south porch of Lichfield Cathedral and a window in the nave in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

From the mid-14th century, the Lollards were demanding Reform under the leadership of John Wycliffe who was dismissed from in Oxford in 1381. Wycliffe was a contemporary of Julian of Norwich, as an early champion of women’s voices in the Church. Although she lived and wrote a century before Luther and Calvin, she is seen as an early forerunner of the Anglican Reformation.

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

Did the Lutheran Reformation influence the Anglican Reformation?

William Tyndale, who worked on an early translation of the Bible, was executed before the Anglican Reformation began. His prominence in Protestant folklore sometimes eclipses the influence of Desiderius Erasmus. Erasmus remained a Roman Catholic priest, but through his work on the Greek New Testament in Cambridge while he was Professor of Divinity, he made the Bible accessible to the Anglican Reformers and he helped to stimulate an interest in Luther’s work.

Cambridge became the nursery of the English Reformation, and the White Horse Inn, on a site that is now part of King’s College, became the meeting place of critical scholars, including Thomas Cranmer, Stephen Gardiner, William Tyndale, John Bale (later Bishop of Ossory) and Hugh Latimer.

The Anglican Reformation found another springboard in the thinking of Henry VIII, not because of his demands for a divorce but in his theological intellect, first expressed in a critique of Luther that earned him Papal recognition as ‘Defender of the Faith.’ Indeed, the royal request for a divorce was strongly criticised by Luther, and Cranmer found favour with the king by offering an alternative course of action.

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

When did the Reformation end?

Of course, the Church must always be in a state of being reformed, and the principle of ecclesia semper reformanda is an accepted part of Anglican theology. But this principle, which has been attributed not to the Reformers but to Saint Augustine, is used only for the first time by Karl Barth in 1947, and then adapted by Hans Küng in the 1960s.

For Anglicans, the classical Reformation did not end with the deaths of the martyrs in Oxford in 1555 during the reign of Mary I. By the time the 39 Articles received their final form in 1571., the Puritans were a critical wing on the margins of Anglicanism, so that Calvinism had become a force opposing the via media that would define Anglicanism from the 1570s on.

Elizabeth I often defended her Church’s catholicity to foreigners and emphasised what it held in common with the rest of the western Catholic Church. When she was invited to send bishops to the Council of Trent, she said ‘we only differ from other Catholics in things of small importance.’

A canon of 1571 demands that clergy in their preaching ‘see that they never teach ought in a sermon, to be religiously held and believed by the people, except what is agreeable to the Old and New Testaments, and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops have collected from the same doctrine.’

Elizabeth’s successor, James I, declared in the early 17th century: ‘I will never refuse to embrace any opinion in divinity necessary to salvation which the whole Catholic Church with a unanime [i.e. unanimous] consent have constantly taught and believed ...’

The Cromwellian era (1649-60) threatened but failed to mark the triumph of Puritanism and the end of the Anglican Reformation, if not Anglicanism itself.

Perhaps the classical Anglican Reformation ends not with the translation of the Authorised Version of the Bible, but in the reign of Charles II, with the Act of Uniformity and Great Ejection of Puritans in 1662. This gives a Catholic hue to Anglicanism, and so Anglicanism was defined not by Luther, Calvin or Cranmer, but the Caroline settlement, the Caroline Divines and the rejection of Puritanism. In Ireland, the Caroline Divines included Bishop Jeremy Taylor and Archbishop Bramhall of Armagh.

The Preface to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer rejects any suggested revisions that were seen as ‘secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice … of the whole Catholic Church of Christ.’

Little changed with the William revolution (1688-91), and, indeed, the reign of Queen Anne marked a period of consolidation for the achievements of the Caroline Divines, and the Caroline Divine and Nonjurors, such as William Law, shaped the early sacramental life and spirituality of John Wesley.

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)

To what extent are Anglicans open to Lutheranism today?

Today, the Anglican covenants with Methodists, including the new discovery of a family kinship in Ireland, runs parallel with similar engagements with Lutheran Churches in Northern Europe and North America.

For example, the Porvoo Communion embraces the six main Anglican churches in Europe (Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, Scotland, Spain and Portugal) and those Lutheran churches in northern Europe that have maintained the historic episcopate, but it does not yet include Lutheran churches without the historic episcopate, such as those in Germany and France.

For Anglican identity and ecclesiology, Catholic order remains more important that the historic role of Luther or the importance of the events 500 years ago in 1517.

The Rev Canon Professor Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes in Co Limerick and Co Kerry. He is a former lecturer in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, an adjunct assistant professor in Trinity College Dublin, and a former journalist with The Irish Times. He co-chaired the international conference ‘Martin Luther and Catholic Theology, remembering the Reformation,’ in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, in 2015.


This feature was first published in June 2017 in the Methodist Newsletter, Vol 45, No 487 (Senior Editor, Lynda Neilands; Editor, Peter Mercer), pp 24-25.

The remains of a planned town
that was never built in Foynes

The Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes, designed by William Clifford House, are all that remain of Inigo Jones’s plans for a Market Square (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Adare owes much of it beauty and its attractive streetscape to the benign interest and foresight of the local landlords, the Earls of Dunraven, who lived at Adare Manor.

In a similar way, the Spring Rice family of Mount Trencard, who held the title of Lord Monteagle, tried to develop the estates they owned at the small port town of Foynes and, to a lesser degree, Foynes.

It is as though Monteagle was not to be outdone by Dunraven. Although their tenanted lands were being sold off by the beginning of the 20th century, both families had a keen interest in developing their estate town, and it was a healthy competition that enhanced the lifestyle of their tenants.

Around 1900, Lord Monteagle commissioned an ambitious plan for Foynes, which he thought would eventually replace Limerick City as a port and harbour. He had a vision of transforming Foynes into an urban centre that would be at the centre of the social and economic life of the port and the surrounding agricultural hinterland.

Monteagle commissioned the Francis Inigo Jones (1866-1950), a fashionable architect, artist and garden designer, to bring his vision to daylight. Inigo Thomas was a nephew of Broderick Thomas (1811-1898), one of the principal landscape garden designers in the latter half of the 19th century.

Broderick Thomas was employed by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham. In Ireland, he designed a large parterre at Baronscourt, Co Tyrone, for the Duke of Abercorn, drew up plans for the gardens at Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, for Lord Powerscourt, and was asked by Charles Powell Leslie in the 1860s to decide which trees at Glaslough, Co Monaghan, should be felled to make room for Castle Leslie, which was being rebuilt.

In 1893, Inigo Thomas paid an extended visit to Italy that had a profound influence on his work. He designed outstanding gardens at Athelhampton, Barrow Court (near Bristol), Chantmarle (Dorset), Rotherfield Hall (East Sussex), and, possibly, Parnham (Dorset). As well as designing numerous formal gardens, he illustrated Sir Reginald Blomfield’s book The Formal Garden in England (1892).

Although for many garden lovers his masterpieces at Athelhampton and Chantmarle are among the most exquisite English gardens of their time, Inigo Thomas remains a somewhat shadowy figure.

Thomas trained in the office of the architects George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907) and Thomas Garner (1839-1906). Bodley was a pupil of Sir George Gilbert Scott and he worked closely with William Morris for much of his career. He was one of the most important architects of the Tractarian Movement, and designed or restored over 100 cathedrals and churches in the Gothic Revival style, favoured by AWN Pugin and of whom Scott was among the great exponents.

Bodley’s biographer Michael Hall argues he ‘fundamentally shaped the architecture, art, and design of the Anglican Church throughout England and the world.’ In Cambridge, he is associated with at All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, and redesigned Saint Botolph’s Church on Trumpington Street. His churches in Staffordshire include the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross (1871-1872), the Mission Church, Hadley End (1901), and Saint Chad’s Church, Burton-on-Trent (1903-1910).

Around 1900, working on his commission from Lord Monteagle, Inigo Thomas designed a Market Square for Foynes, with 20 shops and cottages arranged into a symmetrical layout centred on a traditional arcaded market house. This would face a bank and post office, with two pools at the rear.

The buildings were to have the generous, wide-eaved roofs and comfortable horizontal detailing associated with the Arts and Crafts style, with classical formality and detailing for the market house and bridges.

In addition, Inigo Thomas drew up designs for his terraces of cottages to the east of his proposed Market Square.

The Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes, designed by William Clifford House … an attractive example of early 20th century Arts and Crafts style architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Sadly, the scheme was never realised, apart from the building now houses the Post Office and Health Centre in Foynes. This building, which was designed by William Clifford Smith, is an attractive example of early 20th century Arts and Crafts style architecture, and its form, size and scale mark it out in the streetscape.

William Clifford Smith (1881-1954) was an inventive young English architect who came to Limerick in 1902 when he won an international competition to design a new clubhouse for Shannon Rowing Club. This is the oldest rowing club in Limerick City, and was founded in 1866 by the Limerick entrepreneur Sir Peter Tait.

The highly elaborate new clubhouse, which was completed in 1905, was designed by Clifford Smith in the Edwardian Arts and Crafts idiom. This is such a fine example of Edwardian architecture that, as far as I know, it is the only listed sports building in Ireland.

On winning the competition, Clifford Smith decided to stay to Ireland and he settled in Limerick. In 1906, he designed a terrace of small dormered cottages at Fair Green in Adare, Co Limerick, for the 4th Earl of Dunraven. In 1907, Dunraven also invited Clifford Smith to design the Village Hall and Clubhouse in Adare in the Arts and Crafts style.

Around 1910, Clifford Smith designed the former Bank and Post Office in Foynes, Co Limerick, the only building to be completed as part of the vision of Inigo Thomas for a Market Square in Foynes, and Creeven Cottages, a row of cottages at the east end of Foynes.

The Shannon Rowing Club gave impetus to an Edwardian freestyle that marked out the building on Limerick’s riverscape. It is a style that can be seen too throughout the city in suburban houses in Ennis Road, O’Connell Avenue and Shelbourne Road.

The characteristic features of Clifford Smith’s main building in Foynes, now housing the Post Office and Health Centre, include the rusticated arch, projecting bays, the overhanging eaves and the quadripartite windows, which serve to emphasise the long rectangular H-plan form and to underscore the horizontal detailing.

The rusticated limestone walls to the ground floor contrast with the rendered upper floor and give the building an interesting façade.

This detached, H-plan, seven-bay two-storey building, which was built as a post office and bank, was built around 1910. There are recent extensions to the rear or north elevation.

The building has a hipped slate roof with rendered chimney-stacks, over-hanging eaves and timber brackets. The rough-cast rendered walls at first-floor level have rusticated limestone quoins. On the ground floor, the rusticated coursed limestone walls have a rusticated plinth course.

There are bipartite square-headed openings to the projecting end-bays, where the first floor has rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows.

There are tripartite, square-headed openings to the centre bay, the first floor and the projecting end bays, at the ground floor level they have rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows. The quadripartite square-headed openings at the centre-bay on the ground floor have rusticated limestone block-and-start surrounds, mullions, sills and four-over-four pane timber sliding sash windows.

The round-headed opening to the centre-bay has a rusticated limestone surround and an inset square-headed multiple-pane fixed window and a square-headed opening that has a multi-pane over-light above the timber-panelled door. The square-headed openings to the projecting end-bays have multiple-pane over-lights over the timber panelled doors.

Creveen Cottages, Foynes … also designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

At the east end of Foynes, Creveen Cottages form a symmetrical and picturesque terrace of six handsome houses also designed around 1910 by William Clifford Smith. This terrace is distinguished by its distinctive roofline and rendered walls, with well-crafted limestone dressings. The long, low form of the terrace and the broken massing give it a domestic scale.

No 1, which forms a handsome terminus of this terrace, is an end-of-terrace, two-bay, two-storey with a dormer attic house. The hipped slate roof has terracotta ridge tiles, over-hanging eaves, timber brackets and rendered chimney-stacks. The rough-cast rendered walls have a rock-faced limestone stringcourse. The square-headed openings have replacement uPVC windows and rock-faced limestone sills, and there is a replacement uPVC door.

The roughly dressed limestone boundary walls have roughly-dressed cappings and single-leaf cast-iron gates.

No 2 is a three-bay house that retains its original form and some distinctive features, such as the rock-faced limestone dressings and the boundary walls. There is a round-headed slightly recessed niche with rusticated limestone voussoirs and an inset square-headed opening with a replacement uPVC window. There is a limestone lintel over the square-headed opening with timber panelled door and a rock-faced limestone lintel.

Details of Creveen Cottages in Foynes designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There are many interesting shop fronts throughout Foynes. For example, E O’Connor, which was built a decade earlier, around 1900, is a notable example of the tradition of combined dwelling and shop, complete with a finely crafted tripartite shopfront. The various window types and brick dressings make this end-of-terrace three-bay two-storey house and former shop stand out on the streetscape of Foynes.

Meanwhile, by 1911, Clifford Smith was boarding in the home of Elizabeth McCarthy on Ennis Road. He may have served in the Royal Engineers during World War I. But he returned to Limerick after the war, and in 1919 he designed what is now the Belltable Arts Centre at 69 O’Connell Street. He worked from 75 O'Connell Street for much of his career. In 1928, he formed a partnership with Edward Newenham, known as Clifford Smith & Newenham.


E O’Connor’s shop in Foynes … built a decade before the cottages designed by William Clifford Smith (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Monday, 19 June 2017

A sunny summer
afternoon visiting
Shanagolden

Shangolden, with its broad main street and square, in the summer sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

On Sunday afternoon, on the way from Saint Brendan’s Church in Tarbert, Co Kerry, to Rathkeale for confirmations in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale [18 June 2017], two of us stopped for lunch in the village of Shanagolden, nestled in green-and-gold pastureland and basking in the warm summer sunshine.

In recent weeks, I have been trying to visit the towns and villages in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes that once had Church of Ireland parish churches, even if they are no longer standing. The church in Shanagolden is of particular personal interest because this was once closely linked with the Precentors of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick

Shanagolden (Seanghualainn, ‘Old Shoulder’) is on the R521 road between Foynes and Newcastlewest, and has a population of about 300 people. Despite its size, Shanagolden has a long wide main street and a broad square, with the former shops set well back. The streetscape of the village is marked by the chimneystack of the former creamery, the tower of the former Church of Ireland parish church, and the Spring Rice Cross.

Shanagolden claims to be one of the oldest recorded settlements in Ireland. A mile north of Shanagolden, Knockpatrick, said to be the highest land in Co Limerick. On the summit are the remains of an old church said to have been consecrated by Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick’s ‘chair’ in a neighbouring field consisted of five rude unhewn stones. A nearby well, dedicated to Saint Patrick. It is said that on a clear day there are views from the hill that stretch as far as Tipperary, Galway, Cork, Kerry and Clare, and that Limerick and Ennis can be seen from here.

The earliest mention of Shanagolden and the area is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters, which say that in 968, King Mahon of Munster defeated the Vikings of Limerick and Waterford at Sengualainn in a ‘red slaughter.’

The tower is all that remains of the former Church of Ireland parish church in Shangolden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In 1207, Bishop Donat O’Brien of Limerick, granted the church in Shanagolden to O’Melinus, Chantor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

About a mile south of Shanagolden, on the road towards Ardagh, Shanid Castle was once one of the most impregnable castles belonging to the FitzGeralds, Earls of Desmond. Shanid Castle is a tower castle dating from the 13th century. It sits high on a hill with a motte some 35 ft deep. This impressive stronghold boasted circular walls 10 ft thick, with motte and bailey defensives, ditches and banks.

Maurice FitzGerald was granted lands in Limerick by Richard de Clare (Strongbow) after the Norman invasions of 1169. Thomas Fitzmaurice inherited the lands of Shanid. He is said to have built Shanid Castle in 1230, although there are indications it was built before that date.

Thomas Fitzmaurice was the ancestor of the FitzGeralds, Earls of Desmond, and Shanid Castle is said to have been the first stronghold of the Knights of Glin. These Desmond Geraldines went on to build many castles, but Shanid was the strongest.

Shanid Abu (or Shanid Aboo), meaning ‘Shanid Forever’ in old Irish, became the war-cry and motto of the Earls of Desmond and Knights of Glin.

The historian Begley records that in 1480, Gerald de Geraldinis took control of both the churches at Robertstown and Shanagolden.

When the last Earl of Desmond was murdered in Kerry in 1584, the lands of the Desmond Geraldines were divided, and Shanagolden village was laid out during the 1580s as a plantation village. Shanid Castle was still inhabited until 1641, when it was finally burned and destroyed.

One of the earliest recorded nunneries in Ireland, the ‘Old Abbey’ or Saint Katherine’s Abbey, was founded as an Augustinian nunnery in 1298 in a valley about two miles east of Shanagolden. It was dissolved in 1541 with the suppression of the monastic houses at the Reformation.

A pointed arch opening at the base of the ruined church tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

This tower is the only surviving part of the former Church of Ireland church. The living was a rectory and vicarage. The rectory formed the corps of the precentorship of Limerick and the vicarage was in the patronage of the Precentor. The tithes amounted to £200, one-third payable to the vicar and the remainder to the precentor.

The old church was a large and old building. By the early 19th century, the chancel was in ruins, but in 1815 the nave was rebuilt and reroofed with a lofty square tower, with a loan of £450 from Board of First Fruits. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners also granted £101 for its repair.

Two years earlier, in 1813, the glebehouse was built with a gift of £400 and a loan of £232 from the Board of First Fruits in 1813. The Revd George Vincent (1772-1850) lived at Shanagolden House, while J Fitzgerald lived at the glebe-house, about a mile from the church.

The church closed around 1956, and all that remains is the ruined and neglected tower, where pointed arch openings and limestone sills can still be seen, as well as the pinnacles and crenellations to the roof.

The Langford Mausoleum in the churchyard at the former Church of Ireland parish church in Shangolden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The graveyard has many early and well-crafted tombs and headstones, with carved limestone gravestones and carved limestone table-tombs. There is a barrel-vaulted mausoleum to the south, belonging to the Langford family, with a flight of limestone steps to the entrance.

The memorial cross in Shanagolden commemorating Stephen Edmond Spring Rice in (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

By the early 19th century, Shanagolden and much of the surrounding lands belonged to Thomas Spring Rice (1790-1866), Chancellor of the Exchequer and later 1st Lord Monteagle, who lived about three miles away at Mount Trenchard.

The Spring Rice memorial occupies a prominent site in the village of Shanagolden and is a notable feature within the town. The inscription carved in imitation Gaelic script reads: ‘To the glory of God and in memory of Stephen Edmond Spring Rice who died on the seventh day of April 1900 aged 22 years.’

The Hon Stephen Edmond Spring Rice was the eldest son and heir of Thomas Spring Rice (1849-1926), 2nd Lord Monteagle, and his tragic, early death complicated the succession to the family estates and titles.

The monument has been described ‘as one of the last monuments to landlords to be erected in Ireland.’ It is finely carved with high quality lettering, interlace and relief sculpture that are typical of the skills of early 20th century craftsmanship.

Close-by, the brick chimney stack of the old creamery. Shanagolden Creamery is a reminder of the former economic vitality of Shanagolden. The Co-operative Society supplied award-winning butter to London’s most prestigious shops and milk to the Cleeves toffee factory in Limerick. Across the road an old stone building that was once a forge, is the ancestral home of the poet James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849), who wrote My Dark Rosaleen:

All day long, in unrest,
To and fro, do I move.
The very soul within my breast
Is wasted for you, love!
The heart in my bosom faints
To think of you, my Queen,
My life of life, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
To hear your sweet and sad complaints,
My life, my love, my saint of saints,
My Dark Rosaleen!
Woe and pain, pain and woe,
Are my lot, night and noon,
To see your bright face clouded so,
Like to the mournful moon
.

Today, the literary merit of his poetry is questioned by many. He also produced what he claimed were translations from Turkish, Persian, Arabic, and Irish. But he was also known for literary hoaxes, and some of his ‘translations’ are in fact his own work.

A day in Glenstal Abbey,
with its monastery church
and unusual castle

Glenstal Abbey … a working monastery with the word ‘PAX’ above the main entrance arch (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I spent Saturday in Glenstal Abbey at the Ministry Day with bishops, priests and readers from the dioceses of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert and Tuam, Killala and Achonry, in a full day of discussions about how we can resource and develop ministry throughout these two neighbouring dioceses.

Glenstal is known for the school that is run by the Benedictine monks of Glenstal Abbey, on the edges of the Co Limerick village of Murroe. But Glenstal is also an important building architecturally and as a quiet place of spiritual rest and retreat.

The Norman Revivalist castle at Glenstal was designed by the English architect William Bardwell (1795-1890) and was built in 1839 for the Limerick philanthropist and entrepreneur, Sir Matthew Barrington (1788-1861).

The castle has a great gate and a massive drum tower that resembles the one at Windsor Castle. On the top of the tower is a Latin inscription, Bardwell me fecit 1839, ‘Bardwell made me 1839.’ Bardwell gained celebrity status in 1835 by submitting a Norman-style proposal for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

The figures of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor at the main door into Glenstal Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

To emphasise that this castle is in the Norman Revivalist style, and to boost the Barrington family’s claims to royal descent and noble lineage, the figures on each side of the main entrance represent King Henry II of England and Normandy, and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Bardwell’s design is a unique mixture of architectural features, combining the mediaeval past of Ireland and England, with Anglo-Norman and Irish Romanesque influences, and inside there are highly unusual decorative carvings in the Irish Romanesque style. An elaborate Romanesque doorway is a copy of the portal inside Killaloe Cathedral, Co Clare was created.

The Barrington family planning Barrington’s Hospital … a painting by Martin Cregan in the castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

A painting in the castle by Martin Cregan and dating from 1830, shows the Barrington family preparing plans for Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick. The plaque over the hospital door credits Joseph with its establishment, but his son Matthew was the driving force behind the project. Joseph Barrington is standing and pointing to Matthew Barrington, second from the left, recognising his elder son’s major role in the venture and acknowledging him as the future head of the family.

The gardens include the Lady Garden, named after Sir Matthew’s wife, Charlotte, the chapel lake and bridge built in 1860 by the engineer William Le Fanu (1816-11894), and the 17th century Italian-style terraced walled garden, laid out between 1679 and 1681 and reshaped by the Barrington family.

In 1925, Sir Matthew Barrington’s grandson, Sir Charles Barrington, offered Glenstal Castle to the Irish Free State as an official residence for any future head of state. The offer was considered seriously, and WT Cosgrave carried out what he called ‘an exhaustive survey’ of the castle. However, the vice-regal lodge in the Phoenix Park, now Áras an Uachtaráin, was chosen instead, and when Sir Charles and Lady Barrington left Ireland permanently in 1925, the castle and estate were bought by Monsignor James Ryan for a mere £2,000.

Glenstal Castle was bought for £2,000 in 1925 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Some months after he bought the castle, Monsignor Ryan wrote to Celestine Golenvaux, the Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey at Maredsous in Belgium, and invited him to come to Ireland and set up a daughter house in Glenstal.

By March 1927, the first two Belgian monks had arrived at Glenstal to establish a new house. In September 1932, the monks opened a new secondary school with Father Columba Skerret as Headmaster, and an initial intake of seven schoolboys. In 1957, Glenstal became an abbey, dedicated to Saint Joseph and Saint Columba.

Glenstal Abbey is a working abbey known for its simple but warm hospitality, with spiritual guidance available to all visitors.

Over the main arch leading into the abbey, large bronze letters proclaim the Benedictine motto: PAX, ‘Peace.’ As the monks say, a ‘monastery is a place where peace reigns, where the monks practice fraternal charity towards one another and to all with whom they come into contact. A monastery is a place apart, where all may find peace, quiet recollection and ultimately, God.’

The abbey church, designed by Father Sebastian Braun, was built in 1951-1956 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The abbey church was designed by Father Sebastian Braun, an architect and a monk of Maredsous. The foundation stone of the abbey church was laid on 14 October 1951 by Archbishop Jeremiah Kinnane of Cashel, who opened and blessed the church on 24 June 1956.

The church includes some of the work of Brother Benedict Tutty (1924-1996) of Glenstal, including the cross over the altar, the Stations of the Cross and the tabernacle. The stained-glass windows in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel are the work of Patrick Pye.

I made a point of spending part of the day in the icon chapel in the crypt of the main church. This Russo-Byzantine style chapel houses the abbey’s collection of Russian and Greek icons. This is a unique sacred space and it is a reminder that monasticism has its roots in the Christian East.

This chapel, designed by the architect Jeremy Williams, is in the traditional Byzantine style. It takes the shape of a cross in a square with a central circle surmounted by a dome. The altar, in traditional Orthodox fashion, is in a small apse accessed through the ‘royal doors.’ Beneath the dome, in painted glass, the artist James Scanlon has depicted the four figures representing the four Gospel writers.

A Romanesque door inside the castle was inspired by Killaloe Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The abbey follows a daily monastic routine of Matins and Lauds in the morning, the Community Mass at mid-day, Vespers in the evening, and Compline at the end of the day.

In recent years, the monks of Glenstal Abbey have become known for books such as the Glenstal Book of Icons and the Glenstal Book of Prayer, and for their recordings of Gregorian chant and liturgical music.

There was time too for a quiet time in the gardens, with the magnificent arboretum with ancient specimen trees, one of the few remaining parts of the primeval forest that once covered Ireland. Before I left, I spent some time in the Abbey gift shop, buying some books and some cards with icon prints.

Glenstal Castle seen from the abbey gift shop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The ministry of Ordinary people
and the meaning of Ordinary Time

Christ and the Twelve Apostles in statues on Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 18 June 2017

The First Sunday after Trinity


11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: Genesis 18: 1-15; Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; Romans 5: 1-8; Matthew 9: 35 -10: 8 (9-23).

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today is Father’s Day, today is the beginning of Ordinary Times in the Church Calendar, and later today three of our parishioners are being confirmed in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

I want to say something about some of these ideas this morning. But first of all, I want to say something about the awful events in London in recent days. And then I want to say something that brings these very different concepts, and thread them together in some closing thoughts.

Anything I can say in the wake of the latest tragedy is in danger of being crass, perhaps even being trite, in the face of so much suffering and loss, shock and grief, that are giving rise to a heady mixture of fear, frustration and anger.

There needs to be clear and compassionate leadership from politicians, and there is a clear need for accountability. There are people who suffering and grieving who need closure and compassion. But they do not know who has died, and they are not getting answers they need and their dignity demands.

I feel angry when I think that many of these people may not be getting answers because in a rich borough like Kensington they are on the margins: refugees, immigrants, single parent families, members of ethnic minorities.

What happened in the early hours of Wednesday was not an accident. It was caused by political decisions, by spending decisions, by budgetary decisions. Some people decided that on aesthetic grounds it was more important to make these people less visible because they were judged to be less important than other people who lived in the area, they could be hidden behind cheap cladding.

This was compounded by inadequate sprinklers and fire alarms. This too, for these people, must now seem like a form of terrorism, albeit economic terrorism.

Many more people who have been housed in tower blocks now live in fear. But the same fears must haunt people working in and using public service buildings, hospitals and office blocks.

But none of this is without hope. A tight-knit community has been brought together. Those who might too easily have been dismissed as too rich to care have joined everyone else in the area with abundant generosity.

In the wake of the recent attacks in Manchester and London, there is a sombre national mood in Britain this weekend. But people of faith – in churches, synagogues and mosques – have shown that love and hope are at the heart of our faith systems.

I am inspired by those people who show in such practical ways that hope overcomes fear, that faith expresses our humanity despite the efforts to divide and marginalise, that love triumphs over apparent neglect, that light overcomes darkness.

These are extraordinary times indeed. But we have moved into Ordinary Time, the time in the Church Calendar from Trinity Sunday until the beginning of Advent.

It is as though we are saying we have been busy for the past few months … with Epiphany, Candlemas, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Pentecost … and now let us have some Ordinary Time.

Ordinary Time is the longest time in the Church year, and has few significant events; it has a kind of ordinariness that other seasons lack. There are no narrative high points, no showy colours or costumes, not even a signature hymn or two. We enter, as the poet TS Eliot says in Burnt Norton, ‘at the still point’:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is …


Burnt Norton, the first of Eliot’s Four Quartets, is a poem of early summer, air and grace. For Eliot, it is in the movement of time that brief moments of eternity are caught. The revelation of God in Christ is at the intersection between eternity and time. Life can be very ordinary. But life and time, in their ordinary ways, are worth celebrating, time after time, in every ordinary life.

The poem After Trinity by John Meade Falkner (1858-1932) seems to convey something that is very Anglican about this time of the year, this Ordinary Time, when Sunday follows Sunday, through the beauty of creation and following the course of the natural year:

We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.

Christmas comes with plenty,
Lent spreads out its pall,
But these are five and twenty,
The longest Sundays of all;
The placid Sundays after Trinity,
Wheat-harvest, fruit-harvest, Fall.


Ordinary Time lasts these ‘five and twenty Sundays’ or so, for five or six months – until the beginning of Advent. But as Meade Falkner reminds us, some extra-ordinary things happen in this season of ‘placid Sundays.’ We have the long days of summer, the harvest of wheat and fruit, summer holidays and the longest day of the year. For children, it is summer holiday time – time at the beach, time to travel, time to explore, and in all of those times, time to mature and time to grow.

Ordinary Time allows the Church to celebrate the ordinariness of life as summer moves into autumn and as we anticipate autumn moving into winter.

John Keble (1792-1866) captures some of the beauties of this season in our opening hymn this morning, New every morning (Irish Church Hymnal, No 59):

The trivial round, the common task,
will furnish all we ought to ask,
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us daily nearer God.


Do you find yourself being brought nearer to God day-by-day, in a new way each morning, in the ordinary, trivial things of daily life?

My second set of ideas this morning are about the Confirmations we are celebrating in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, this afternoon.

There is a popular saying among theologians, especially Anglican theologians, that Confirmation is a rite in search of a theology.

But the meaning of Confirmation is found in our shared baptism, the foundation of every ministry, which is being affirmed and re-affirmed this afternoon by the three people who are being presented to Bishop Kenneth Kearon for confirmation.

One of these is an adult, two are in their teens, and so for these three it is not a mere rite of passage, or something added on because we forgot to do it at their Baptism. It is a clear, adult decision by these three people to own for themselves the promises made at Baptism on their own behalf and to respond to the call of Christ.

Like Bishops, Priest and Deacons, lay people too have a valid and validated ministry in the Church. We were reminded of the ministry of each and every member of the Church in the discussions at the Ministry Day for this diocese in Glenstal Abbey yesterday [17 June 2017].

Our common, shared baptism is the beginning of every ministry in the Church. We are all ordinary people before God, sharing in common that we are created in his image and likeness, joined in our Baptism in the Body of Christ, and at our Confirmation enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to say ‘Amen’ to Christ present in the sacrament and ‘Amen’ to Christ present in the body of the Church, in each and every one of us, each and every ordinary one of us.

The Twelve Apostles in two sets of icons in the tiny Church of the Twelve Apostles on the island of Gramvousa off the north-west coast of Crete (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on images for full-screen view)

So, how do we draw these disparate ideas together and make connections with this morning’s Gospel reading?

Our Gospel story begins with Jesus in ordinary, everyday situations, going ‘about all the cities and villages’ [Matthew 9: 35] mixing with ordinary people, people who need hope, people who are sick, sore and sorry, people who are distressed, marginalised and suffering, and he has ‘compassion for them, because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ [Matthew 9: 36]. They are ordinary people, indeed, in ordinary places, in ordinary time.

And to answer their plight, to carry out his mission, he chooses 12 disciples, 12 ordinary people, with ordinary backgrounds and careers: Peter, who denies him three times; Andrew his brother, a fisherman; James and John, ‘Mammy’s boys’ who jockey for position, unsure of what the Kingdom of God is about; Philip, who could easily turn away Greek-speaking Gentiles; Matthew, despised as a tax collector; Thomas who doubts him; Judas who betrays him … [see Matthew 10: 2-4].

In our ordinary everyday lives, Christ calls us to follow him, not for our own self-satisfying feeling of being good, but to proclaim the Good News; not for our own advantage and enrichment, but because that is what the suffering world needs.

We are called as ordinary people to do that; our Baptism is our commission to do that; our Confirmation is our ‘Amen’ to that.

And so, may all we think, say and do, be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared the First Sunday after Trinity, 18 June 2017.

The Twelve Apostles on the High Cross at Moone, Co Kildare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Collect:

God,
the strength of all those who put their trust in you:
Mercifully accept our prayers
and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature
we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace,
that in the keeping of your commandments
we may please you, both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Blessing (at Confirmation)

The God of all grace,
who called you to his eternal glory in Christ Jesus,
establish, strengthen and settle you in the faith;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.

‘The long, long Sundays after Trinity/ Are with us at last;/ The passionless Sundays after Trinity,/ Neither feast-day nor fast’ … Trinity College Cambridge and Trinity Lane in mid-summer rain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After Trinity, John Meade Falkner (1858-1932):

We have done with dogma and divinity,
Easter and Whitsun past,
The long, long Sundays after Trinity
Are with us at last;
The passionless Sundays after Trinity,
Neither feast-day nor fast.

Christmas comes with plenty,
Lent spreads out its pall,
But these are five and twenty,
The longest Sundays of all;
The placid Sundays after Trinity,
Wheat-harvest, fruit-harvest, Fall.

Spring with its burst is over,
Summer has had its day,
The scented grasses and clover
Are cut, and dried into hay;
The singing-birds are silent,
And the swallows flown away.

Post pugnam pausa fiet;
Lord, we have made our choice;
In the stillness of autumn quiet,
We have heard the still, small voice.
We have sung Oh where shall Wisdom?
Thick paper, folio, Boyce.

Let it not all be sadness,
Not omnia vanitas,
Stir up a little gladness
To lighten the Tibi cras;
Send us that little summer,
That comes with Martinmas.

When still the cloudlet dapples
The windless cobalt blue,
And the scent of gathered apples
Fills all the store-rooms through,
The gossamer silvers the bramble,
The lawns are gemmed with dew.

An end of tombstone Latinity,
Stir up sober mirth,
Twenty-fifth after Trinity,
Kneel with the listening earth,
Behind the Advent trumpets
They are singing Emmanuel’s birth.