26 February 2018

A reminder of sunsets
in the Mediterranean in
an old Kerry church ruin

Sunset seen through the west wall of Kilconly Church in Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Two of us went for a brisk walk on the two beaches in Ballybunion, Co Kerry, after lunch on Sunday afternoon [25 February 2018] in Daroka, where we had a table upstairs looking out at the ruins of Ballybunion Castle and the cliffs on the Atlantic coast.

Although snow is threatening later this week, it still felt like early spring in the afternoon, with a slow setting sun that was glistening on the calm waves and the sand.

Late afternoon sunshine on the beach at Ballybunion on Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The sun was still setting on our way back to Askeaton, when we stopped to look at the church ruins and graveyard in Kilconly, halfway between Ballybunion and Tarbert, and close to Beal Beach.

The church ruins and churchyard nestle in a small field off the Wild Atlantic Way, with a babbling brook running through the sheltered creek as it makes its way to the Shannon estuary and the sea.

The name of Kilconly is linked to Saint Conla, who is said to have built the earliest church at this place. The ruins are said to date from the 12th to 15th century, but it is difficult to know when the church fell into disuse.

The parish is in the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and until the mid-19th century the Treasurers of Ardfert were also Rectors and Vicars of Kilconly. They included Cecil Pery, 1st Lord Glentworth, who was Treasurer (1758-1780) and later became Bishop of Killala and then Bishop of Limerick.

The church ruins at Kilconly (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

However, the parish was too small to afford a resident rector or curate, and pastoral care in the parish was normally in provided by the curate of Aghavallin in Ballylongford, who acted as the curate of Kilconly. The tithes amount to £83.1.5¾ and there are two glebes, amounting to about four acres.

The appointment of a treasurer of Ardfert ceased in 1845. But the church may have fallen into disuse long before that, perhaps even before the Reformation. Today, Kilconly – like neighbouring Ballybunion – is part of the larger Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Paerishes.

Inside the ruins of the church, I caught a glimpse of the sun in the western sky through the west wall. All was silent around me as the sun stayed in place, balancing like a balloon in the sky.

Near the shore are the ruins of the ancient castles of Beale and Lick. Beale Castle belonged to FitzMaurice family, Barons of Kerry and later Earls of Kerry. The fortifications of the castle were demolished around 1600 by Patrick FitzMaurice (1551-1600), the 17th Lord Kerry. That year, Maurice Stack, an officer in Queen Elizabeth’s army, was invited to the castle by Lady Kerry and murdered by her attendants.

In 1633, Beale Castle was named as Beau-lieu in the Pacata Hibernia. The Civil Survey (1654-1658) refers to ‘an old stump of a castle called Licke.’

Litter House, once the home of the Wren family, originally belonged to the Blennerhassett family and passed by marriage to the Wren family.

A seastack near the ruins of Lick Castle is known locally as the ‘Devil’s Castle’ or Caislean an Deamhain.

Kilocnly also has interesting links with Saint John’s Church in Ballybunion, which was built with funds donated by Mrs Mary Young in memory of her husband, John Young. Mary Young was born Mary O’Malley in Kilconly and met her husband John Young, a tea planter, while she was working in Kilkee, Co Clare.

When John Young died, Mary Young inherited his considerable wealth. She used much of her wealth to finance building the convent in Ballybunion in 1887, Ballybunion House, and Saint John’s Church, which cost £8,500.

From Kilconly, we drove on to Beale Beach, with in the west constantly behind us.

As we made our way down to Beale Beach, we caught a last glimpse of the setting sun, as it balanced in the sky, like a Mediterranean sunset. Perhaps it was a promise of summer sunshine in Greece later year; perhaps it was a warning of the coming snow and freezing temperatures later this week.

A Mediterranean-like sunset near Beal Beach on Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 13:
Longford 11: Jesus is
nailed to the cross

Station 11 in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford … Jesus is nailed to the cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral earlier this month and continues throughout Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

For two weeks, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, sculpted by Ken Thompson in Bath stone with chisel and mallet, with lettering inspired by the work of Eric Gill and haloes picked out in gold leaf.

He uses blue to give a background dimension that works almost like a shadow in itself, providing the foreground figures with greater relief. The bright gold leaf haloes establish the central image of Christ as well as his mother and disciples or saints.

Rather than using the traditional title for each station, the text at the foot of each panel is allusive. He has chosen two lines of scripture for each panel, cut them in lettering inspired by Eric Gill, and highlighted them in terracotta.

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

In this station by Ken Thompson in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, four figures are engaged in the crucifying Christ: one for each arm and one for each leg. Terracotta lettering on the arms of the Cross proclaims: ‘Lamb of God.’ The inscription in terracotta capital letters at the bottom of this Station reads: ‘Him Who Takes Away the Sin of the World.’

A similar idea is found in the Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of the Church of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London, where the Cross is placed between the words: ‘Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the Sins of the World.’

At the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, Saint John the Baptist proclaims the arrival of Christ with the proclamation: ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1: 29). In the closing narrative of this Gospel, when Christ is before Pilate on trial, the people cry out: ‘Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!’ (John 19: 15).

Now that Christ has been taken away, he is being crucified, and is to take away the sin of the world.

The Byzantine-style crucifix by Laurence King (1907-1981) in the crypt of Saint Mary le Bow on Cheapside in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Stabat Mater:

Lord Jesus, crucified, have mercy on us!
Holy Mother, pierce me through!
In my heart, each wound renew
Of my Saviour crucified.


Cold steel. Warm flesh
Nails rip through tendon and muscle.
Blood soaks into splintered wood.
Jesus responds:
‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’


Merciful Redeemer, you declared your forgiveness from the cross, showing love to those who killed you and to the thief dying alongside you. Help us to know and count the cost of our forgiveness, bought at so great a price. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

You are stretched out on the cross you have carried so far. The soldiers take big nails and drive them into your hands and feet. You feel abandoned by the people you loved so much. People seem to have gone mad. You have done nothing but good, yet they drive nails through your hands and feet.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross.

Yesterday’s reflection