Monday, 24 September 2018

In search of the well dedicated
to Saint James in Nantenan

Saint James’s Well, in the townland of Ardgoul in Nantenan is said to date back to a time before Saint Patrick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

On my way back and forth between Askeaton and Rathkeale, I have often noticed the site of the holy well at Nantenan, close to Saint James’s Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church and its surrounding churchyard.

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.

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.

Saint James’s Church in Nantenan has been closed since 1972, but it is still structurally sound. In the past, it was linked with the Precentors of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, so it seems appropriate that this church is within my parochial boundaries.

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

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

The graves in the churchyard include those of Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic families in the parish, as well as some of the original Palatine families. The sexton’s house is now in ruins, but it adds to the interest setting of this site.

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

I have often noticed this walled well, but had never visited it until the weekend, when I went walking through the trees and in the fields around behind the crumbling sexton’s house in search of the well.

Searching through the trees for the holy well in Nantenan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

This well, in the townland of Ardgoul, is supposed to date back to a time before Saint Patrick, and it is said it was originally dedicated to a holy man who was a follower of Saint Patrick.

It is believed that the Vikings or the later Anglo-Normans rededicated the well to Saint James.

In a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in 1955, Caoimhín Ó Danachair identified 163 holy wells in Co Limerick, including 23 to Saint Mary or Our Lady, 19 dedicated to Saint Patrick, 12 to Saint Bridget and four to Saint James– in Ballymacave, Nantenan and Tervoe, where there were patterns on 25 July, the Feast of Saint James the Great, and at Ballinlough, where there was no tradition of a pattern.

All four wells named after Saint James may owe their dedication to mediaeval devotions associated with Saint James and the pilgrimage to Compostela. The well at Nantenan is the oldest of only three in Co Limerick with inscriptions dated before 1800, The well at Nantenan is the oldest, dated 1750, and other two are at Sunday Well, Lislaeen (1760), and Saint Lachtain’s, Knocknagranshee (1791).

The carving on the wall of the well, dated 1750, with an image of a fish (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A stone grotto was built over the well to protect it, with just enough room for one or two people to get in to reach the water. According to a plaque on the well, this is the work of Matt Flood in 1750:

S[ain]t J[ame]s [the] gr[e]at

This work was erected
By Mr Matt Flood in
honor of S[ain]t Jam[e]s Ap
ostle 1750


Initially, I thought the carving above represented a shell, an image associated with the pilgrimage to Compostela, but on closer inspection I realised it is a fish. A local legend says there was a large trout in the well, and if seen a cure followed.

It was also said that the well moved if vegetables were washed in it, that water from the well would not boil, and that a local landlord had filled in the well but it sprang up again in a new place close by.

The entrance to the well at Nantenan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The water of the well was recommended for the cure of all diseases, especially for the cure of sore eyes. Other people who wanted to be cured drank the water, a glass of which they bought from two old women who were in charge of the well. This water could not be bought at any time except on Saint James’s Day or on the following Sunday.

Local people visited the well on Saint James’s Day, 25 July, but by the early 20th century this had been changed to the following Sunday. The ‘rounds’ were done, with people circling around the well and saying prayers on the narrow circular path around the well.

A cross from Saint James’s Church, Cappagh, with a small shamrock in the centre, was placed above the well in May 1982. The pattern day was revived in 2016, but was not celebrated this year.

According to Caoimhín Ó Danachair’s paper in 1955, the 163 other holy wells in Co Limerick included two holy wells in the parish of Askeaton and a well near Rathkeale, in Ballyallinan South, known as Saint Bernard’s Well and Saint Beinid’s Well, and close to a ruin called Saint Templebeinid.

Earlier this year, I visited Saint Patrick’s Well in Singland, Limerick. Obviously, I have to go in search of the other wells in this group of parishes.

Saint James’s Well is the oldest of only three wells in Co Limerick with inscriptions dated before 1800, and is one of the four wells dedicated to Saint James (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

A vision to bring three
world faiths together
under one roof in Berlin

The House of One is the vision Pastor Gregor Hohberg, Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci … with the hope of bringing Christians, Jew and Muslims together in one house in Berlin

Patrick Comerford

We have all heard jokes that begin with an opening line like, ‘A priest, a rabbi and an imam walked into a bar …’

But there is no joking about the way a priest, a rabbi and an imam in Germany are planning an interfaith miracle in the heart of Berlin, creating a sacred space for the three Abrahamic faiths under one roof.

The House of One is planned as a shared place of prayer and learning for the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, celebrating the three main monotheistic faiths and what they share and hold in common.

The House of One is the product of a grassroots group. The initial idea came the parish community of St Petri-St Marien, which is working closely with the Jewish community of Berlin, along with the rabbinical seminary, Abraham-Geiger-Kolleg, and the Muslim initiative for dialogue, Forum Dialog e.V.

When it is completed, Berlin’s House of One will bring together a church, a synagogue and a mosque under one roof, in a house of worship shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The sponsors hope the House of One will help to tear down the walls between religions just as the fall of the Berlin Wall removed the barriers between East and West Berlin almost three decades ago.

The House of One will be located at the Petriplatz (Petri Square) in the historical birthplace of Berlin, between Breite Straße and Gertraudenstraße.

The Revd Gregor Hohberg, the Lutheran priest at the Marienkirche or Saint Mary’s Church, first conceived of the idea of an interfaith house of worship in 2009, when archaeologists excavating a section of ground on Museum Island unearthed the remains of Berlin’s earliest church, the Petrikirche or Saint Peter’s Church, and the city’s Latin school, dating back to 1350.

The church was destroyed and rebuilt several times when the East German communist government decided to demolish the church in the 1960s, and more recently the site has been used as a parking lot.

When the archaeologists excavated the area, they ‘quickly agreed that something visionary and forward looking should be built on what is the founding site of Berlin,’ says Pastor Hohberg.

The House of One will be 40 meters tall, with a shared inter-religious space for 380 people at its heart, and a mosque, synagogue and church branching off in different directions.

The Berlin architect Wilfried Kuehn of Kuehn Malvezzi GmbH has designed an interfaith prayer house that has three separate sections, each in a different in style but with certain repeating motifs to emphasise the similarities and the differences between the Abrahamic faiths.

The communal room in the heart of the building linking the three areas and seating 380 people. Each of the worship areas will be the same in size but of different shape, allowing each faith to keep its own identity.

Architect Wilfried Kuehn’s model for the House of One (© Michel Koczy / The House of One)

The first three faith leaders heading the House of One project were the Revd Gregor Hohberg, Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin, and Imam Kadir Sanci.

‘Berlin is the city of the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful coexistence of believers from different faiths – they yearn to understand each other,’ Pastor Gregor says. ‘We have noticed, as a community here in the middle of the city, that a lot of people want to meet people from different backgrounds and religions and that there is a strong desire to show that people from different religions can get along.’

He says the square earmarked for the building has already started to attract worshippers from different religions for side-by-side prayers. ‘This house will be home to equality, peace, and reconciliation.’

‘Berlin is the city of wounds and miracles,’ said Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin of the Pestalozzistraße Synagogue. He has since left Berlin but was one of the three religious leaders behind the project. ‘It is the city in which the extermination of the Jews was planned. Now, the first house in the world for three religions is to be built here.’

‘A place that has darkness in its past has the potential for peace in its future. As a Jew, I associate Berlin with memories of pain and deep wounds – but that is not the end of the story,’ he points out.

‘The city has also been a place of alternative paths, a place of enlightenment and of the development of Jewish life. When the Jews were expelled from Spain, they did not return to the country for 500 years. But in Berlin, when the Second World War ended in 1945, the Jews who had been in hiding and those who had fled to the country immediately began rebuilding a new Jewish life in the city. For me, Berlin is all about remembrance and rebirth.’

‘I believe in the power of dialogue. In the world we live in we have two possibilities: war or peace. Peace is a process and in order to achieve it, you have to talk to each other,’ Rabbi Ben-Chorin said.

Imam Kadir Sanci, the House of One’s Muslim leader, said he wanted the project to encourage a conscious dialogue between different faiths and cultures, which would help prejudices against Muslims to evaporate. ‘We want our children to have a future in which diversity is the norm,’ he insists.

‘It is very important for us to overcome all the negative news in the world,’ says Imam Kadir Sanci. ‘I have the wish, for my children, my family, for myself and for everyone, that diversity becomes a reality and that people will accept each other in their otherness.’

He hopes the project will normalise relations between people of diverse backgrounds. ‘We want our children to have a future in which diversity is the norm,’ he says.

The project is trying to make its dream a reality through a crowd-funding campaign for building the House of One. The goal is to raise €43 million and to finance the project entirely through crowdfunding, by selling bricks for €10 each.

By donating €10 for one brick, you can become a part of the House of One. With every brick, every bit of support and with every person sharing the idea of the House of One, the dream comes one step closer to reality.

As of today, €8,605,695 has been raised for 860.569 bricks, and building is to begin in earnest once the first €10 million has been raised.

You can donate directly HERE.