Sunday, 16 June 2019

The love and joyful dance of
the Trinity are at the heart
of understanding God’s love

An image of the Trinity in Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos in Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Trinity Sunday, 16 June 2019.

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

The Readings: Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31; Psalm 8; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15.

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

The comedian Brendan Grace has given us the urchin-like Dublin street child he names ‘Bottler.’ He once told of a confirmation in a Dublin church, involving a pompous bishop and poor little Bottler.

The bishop is presented with the children about to be Confirmed and asks each in turn a question from the Catechism: ‘Who is God?’ … ‘Who made the world?’ … and so on.

When he comes to Bottler, he asks the poor child to explain the Trinity.

The child snuffles and shuffles, scratches and sneezes, looks around, and finally spits out an answer in rapid fire.

It is so quick, and so mumbled that the bishop asks again: ‘Tell me about the Trinity.’

Once again, Bottler mutters and mumbles in a speed and an accent that the bishop fails to grasp.

He asks a third time.

Bottler repeats in rapid-fire mumbles, but now he is unnerved and the answer is bawled out at greater speed.

The bishop is perplexed.

Having failed three times, he exclaims with exhaustion: ‘I don’t understand.’

‘You’re not supposed to,’ Bottler spurts out. ‘It’s a mystery.’

Today is Trinity Sunday. And sometimes I wonder if as theologians and priests we have made the Mystery of the Trinity a concept that is beyond the understanding of children and adults alike.

The Book of Common Prayer may have compounded this by encouraging the tradition on Trinity Sunday of using ‘The Creed (commonly called) of Saint Athanasius, also known as the Quicunque Vult,’ on Trinity Sunday (pp 771-773).

To appropriate a saying by the writer Dorothy Sayers, for many Christians the Trinity is incomprehensible, and has nothing to do with daily life.

But the starting point, and the finishing point, like so many other parts of life and belief in the Church, would be much easier if we began and finished with love.

The late Professor Thomas Hopko (1939-2015) of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary has argued that if God were not Trinity, God could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow God’s love.

This love or communion of God as Trinity is extended to us in the communion of the Church. It is not just the Trinitarian faith into which we are baptised, but the love and fellowship of the Trinity.

Throughout the Church, the concept of the Trinity often appears irrelevant, because of poor teaching in many churches and what may be a prevailing anti-intellectual climate.

Because of this, too many of us on Trinity Sunday are reduced to explaining away the Trinity as a ‘mystery’ that we need not to grapple with.

There is a general decline in the Trinitarian character of worship, theology and life in the Church today that parallels a decline in rigorous intellectual thinking. This is mirrored in the decline in social emphasis in our time, typified in the claim by one politician some decades ago that there is no society, that there are only individuals.

But we can only be human through our relationships; we can only have self-respect when we know what it is to respect others.

The Church is primarily communion, a set of relationships, exactly as we find in the Trinitarian God. Christianity is not a private religion for individuals; personal piety is only truly pious and personal when it relates to others and to creation.

Today, the Church needs to recover a teaching of the Trinity that is not divisive and yet is relevant, that shows how the Trinity is a communitarian, inclusive, embracing, co-operative model of God.

Sometimes, because of poor teaching, people are in danger of being left with the notion that the Trinity is a concept invented by men, male leaders on their own, at later Councils of the Church.

Yet our Epistle reading (Roman 5: 1-5) is one of the great and succinct Trinitarian passages in the New Testament. Here, the Apostle Paul writes that union with God comes through faith, and Christ is our entry point to God’s grace.

Similarly, in the Gospel reading (John 16: 12-15), we have a succinct Trinitarian passage, when Christ promises the disciples at the Last Supper that the ‘Spirit of truth’ is coming as gift from God the Father.

In our Old Testament reading (Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31), we have a beautiful image of Wisdom like a town crier calling out aloud at the gates and through the streets of the city, proclaiming the good news of God’s creation, and the role of the Holy Spirit in that creation.

In this reading, Wisdom is personified as a woman. She pre-exists the world. She was present at creation, as a witness, she came to know God’s secrets in creating the heavens and the earth, she was ‘beside him’ at the time of creation, had an active role in creation.

It all reminds me of the creation account in Genesis 1, where the Spirit of God hovers over formless void and darkness (Genesis 1: 2; cf John 1: 32).

Authoritarian or monist models have dominated the Church for centuries, providing male, authoritarian images of God. But in the New Testament and in the Early Church, the words used for the Spirit (pneuma, πνευμα), wisdom (Sophia, Σoφíα) and the Holy Trinity (Aghia Triadha, Αγία Τριάδα) are neuter and feminine nouns.

Monist models of God help to confirm men, particularly men with power in the Church, in their prejudices. The Trinity is inclusive rather than exclusive of human images.

During the Nazi era, the German theologian Erik Peterson (1890-1960) argued that monist theologies tend to legitimise absolutist and totalitarian political and social orders, while Trinitarian theologies challenge them.

The Trinity means that as humanity is created in the image and likeness of God, then it is not just as individuals that we reflect God’s image, but that when we are a community we are most human and most like God. In the true community, each is valued, each takes account of the other, each has an equal place, contribution and voice. True community cannot concentrate sole authority, privilege and infallibility in one gender alone, let alone one member.

A recovery of the reality implies respect for diversity and seeks a communal form of unity that respects, desires and even encourages diversity in the community of faith.

Compared with the great social and political challenges facing the Church, discussing the Trinity may seem to many as relevant as debating the number of angels on the head of a pin. Yet the Trinity is not only the archetype of all created reality, but without a fuller understanding of the nature of the Trinity, the Church will never be able to apprehend the truth of the infinite goodness of God.

The love and joyful dance of the Trinity is at the heart of our understanding of God’s love for us and for creation, of our fellowship and communion with God and with one another, and of our understanding of the ministry and mission of the Church.

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

Trinitarian truths expressed in a stained-glass window in Michaelhouse, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 12-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

Wisdom cries out ‘beside the way … at the crossroads … beside the gates in … the town, at the entrance’ (Proverbs 8: 2-3) … Toby jugs in the image of town criers once seen in a front window in Beacon Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White (Green in the weekdays)

Penitential Kyries:

Father, you come to meet us when we return to you.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, you died on the cross for our sins.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit, you give us life and peace.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
Keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
for you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Peace to you from God our heavenly Father.
Peace from his Son Jesus Christ who is our peace.
Peace from the Holy Spirit the Life-giver.
The peace of the Triune God be always with you.
And also with you.


God the Holy Trinity
make you strong in faith and love,
defend you on every side,
and guide you in truth and peace:


321, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty (CD 19)
323, The God of Abraham praise (CD 19)
468, How shall I sing that majesty (Track 25, Disc 2, Life of Faith)

The Visitation of Abraham or the ‘Old Testament Trinity’ … a fresco in the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex, interprets a Trinitarian and Eucharistic theme (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

A mediaeval fresco of the Holy Trinity in the south choir aisle in Lichfield Cathedral … severely damaged by 17th century Puritans (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saturday, 15 June 2019

An Orthodox prayer before
Holy Communion on Sunday

The Last Supper on the Romanian icon screen in Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday [16 June 2019], and in the morning I am leading Morning Prayer and preaching in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, at 9.30 and presiding at the Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) and preaching in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, at 11.30.

As I prepare for tomorrow morning’s worship and liturgy, I have before me a prayer I found during the past week in Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in the centre of Galway.

The church is also used by the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church.

In the south aisle, I came across this prayer from the Romanian Orthodox tradition, in both Romanian and English.

A prayer before receiving Holy Communion:

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy on me and forgive me my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting, Amen.

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.

May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of my soul and body. Amen.

The Romanian Orthodox and Russian Orthodox Churches worship in Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Lynch’s Castle recalls
a ruling family among
the 14 ‘Tribes of Galway’

Lynch’s Castle in Galway is a striking example of a castellated and fortified mediaeval townhouse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During our family walk-around Galway earlier this week, we stopped twice to admire Lynch’s Castle on the corner of Shop Street and Upper Abbeygate Street in Galway, a striking example of a castellated and fortified mediaeval townhouse.

The castle is four storeys high with embellished carved windows, gargoyles and ornamental mouldings and cornices. It was built by the Lynch family, one of the ‘14 tribes’ or ruling families of Galway, and parts of the castle may date back to the 14th century, although the bulk of it was built in the 16th century.

The 14 ‘Tribes of Galway’ were the Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D’Arcy, Deane, ffont, ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerritt families.

The Lynch family features prominently in the history of Galway. Members of the Lynch family held the position of Mayor of Galway on 84 occasions between 1484 and 1654, and there are many monuments to members of the Lynch family in the Lynch Chapel in Saint Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.

Dominick Lynch FitzJohn, commonly called Dominick Dubh, procured a royal charter for Galway from Richard III in 1484, giving it city status and the right to elect a mayor. His brother, Pierce Lynch, who was elected the first Mayor of Galway and Dominick Lynch was the second mayor. His son, Stephen Lynch, received the Papal Bull from Innocent VIII that established Galway as an autonomous ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the Warden of Galway.

The profusion of highly elaborate carving on the walls and windows of Lynch’s Castle is very rare in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Lynch’s Castle was first built of limestone blocks as a townhouse in the 1300s. However, most of the original building has been replaced, and what is seen today dates back about 400 or 500 years. The profusion of highly elaborate carving on the walls and at the windows in Lynch’s Castle is very rare in Ireland.

The eye-catching features on Lynch’s Castle include the coat of arms of the Lynch family and the coats of arms of King Henry VII and the FitzGeralds of Kildare. The gargoyles keeping watch over the castle function as waterspouts to redirect runoff rainwater from the roof. Spanish decorative motifs can be seen on the stones.

A carved panel on the first floor at the front has a decoratively carved chamfered frame, with shields to inner chamfer. It bears the royal coat of arms of King Henry VII (1485-1509). The Latin inscription in Gothic letters reads ‘Long live the King of England, France and Lord of Ireland.’

The frame is surmounted by a carved finial, and below is a carving of an ape holding a child in his paws, representing a legend associated with the FitzGerald family, Earls of Kildare.

There are carved round limestone panels on the front and side elevation, between the middle floors. The panel facing Shop Street shows the Lynch coat of arms with a carved lion below that has a human face, and black letter script beneath. A similarly carved coat of arms on the side elevation represents the FitzGerald family of Kildare, and it has a similarly carved lion below, with a black letter inscription on the stonework below the lion.

The Lynch coat of arms on the Shop Street front of Lynch’s Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The main walls of the building may have been completely refaced, and many of the square-headed window openings repositioned or their lower halves remodelled, with evidence of only two original openings on the side wall.

There is a blocked, incomplete two-over-two light mullioned and transomed window between the top floors of the front elevation, with cusped ogee heads, decorated spandrels, moulded mullion and surrounds, a moulded label with a decoratively carved soffit and decoratively carved stops with vegetal panels below.

A blocked single-light window on the side elevation has a cusped ogee head, decorated spandrels, a moulded chamfered surround and a moulded label. Other original window openings have similar labels and decoratively carved stops, and other features include arrow-loops on the east corner, and corbel supports of machicolation at the side, and a garderobe chute at the north-east corner.

A large extension was added in 1808. The building was originally of five storeys, but the floor levels were changed ca 1820, when the present late Georgian windows were inserted.

Some indication of the original floor levels can be gained from the surviving loops at the corner of the building and the blocked windows between the floors.

Lynch’s Castle was bought by the Munster and Leinster Bank – later Allied Irish Banks – in 1930. The bank restored the castle in 1933, and cut limestone arcade-like treatment was inserted on the ground floor. This includes two round-headed doorways, the main doorway has a block-and-start surround, engaged columns with decoratively carved bands, ornately carved capitals, hood-moulding with carved stops depicting human faces.

There are round-headed windows with single openings flanking the main door and a triple window on the south-west side of the other door.

Today, you can visit the ground floor during bank opening hours where panels explain the history and architecture of the building. Here a fine chimneypiece has a keystone that is carved with the IHS monogram, initials and the date 1629.

Work on Lynch’s Castle, involving specialised steam cleaning and the repair of one of the window boxes, was stalled in 2013 when damage to some of the key archaeological features was detected.

Local lore claims James Lynch FitzStephen, the Mayor of Galway in 1493, hanged his own son for the murder of a Spanish sailor.

On the fateful morning Walter Lynch was to be hung, the Mayor and bailiffs tried to escort him to the gallows. But a large crowd, sympathetic to the young man, had formed to prevent the hanging. So the Mayor, still holding his bound son, took him into their house nearby and on reaching an upper window overlooking the street, he fastened a rope around his son’s neck and launched young Lynch from the window, hanging him in full view of the ‘Lynch mob’ assembled below.

The Lynch Window on Market Street has a plaque the continues the legend.

Although other castles and townhouses associated with the 14 tribes survive – including Blake’s Castle, and houses or parts of houses and carved heraldic panels associated with the Kirwan, Martin, ffrench and other families – this remains the best preserved and most visible example of a high-status townhouse in Galway.

The royal coat of arms of Henry VII on the Shop Street front of Lynch’s Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Friday, 14 June 2019

Praying with poems by
a Jewish poet recalled
in a square in Córdoba

Plaza de Juda Levi in Córdoba recalls the Spanish Jewish doctor, poet and philosopher, Judah Halevi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Plaza de Juda Levi in Judería, a tiny square that I noticed in the old Jewish Quarter of Córdoba last week, is named in honour of the Spanish Jewish doctor, poet and philosopher, Judah Halevi (1075/1086-1141), also known as Yehuda Halevi or ha-Levi, or Judah ben Shmuel Halevi.

The 10th to 12th century in Muslim Spain is regarded as the ‘Hebrew Golden Age.’ Like many Jewish intellectuals in Muslim Spain at the time, Halevi wrote prose in Arabic and poetry in Hebrew. Many regard him as the greatest of all the mediaeval Hebrew poets and he has been described as the ‘most important poet in Judaism of all times.’

He is celebrated both for his religious and secular poems, many of which appear in present-day Jewish liturgy. His greatest philosophical work was The Kuzari. His work includes panegyric odes, funeral odes, poems on the pleasures of life, gnomic epigrams, and riddles. He was also a prolific author of religious verse.

Judah Halevi was born in Spain, probably in Toledo, in 1075 or 1086. In his youth, it appears, he moved to Granada, then the main centre of Jewish literary and intellectual life at the time, where he found a mentor in Moses Ibn Ezra. He was educated in traditional Jewish scholarship, in Arabic literature, and in the Greek sciences and philosophy, and as an adult he was a medical doctor and was active in Jewish communal affairs in Toledo.

He seems to have lived at times in Christian Toledo, at other times in Islamic Spain. Eventually, his religious convictions compelled him to leave Spain and to move to the Holy Land. His personal piety intensified as he aged, leading him to want to devote himself entirely to religious life.

When Halevi arrived in Alexandria on 8 September 1140, he was greeted enthusiastically by friends and admirers. From there, he went to Cairo, where he visited several dignitaries, including the Nagid of Egypt, Samuel ben Hanania, and his friend Halfon ben Nathaniel Halevi.

He left Alexandria again on 14 May 1141. Legend says that as he arrived in Jerusalem Halevi was killed when he was run over by an Arab horseman.

In Egypt, he wrote his ‘swan-song’:

Wondrous is this land to see,
With perfume its meadows laden,
But more fair than all to me
Is yon slender, gentle maiden.
Ah, Time’s swift flight I fain would stay,
Forgetting that my locks are gray.

Judah Halevi is also noted for composing riddles that often have religious themes. One example is:

What is it that’s blind with an eye in its head,
But the race of mankind its use can not spare;
Spends all its life in clothing the dead,
But always itself is naked and bare?

After living a life devoted to worldly pleasures, Judah Halevi experienced a kind of awakening or conversion that changed his outlook on the world. Like the authors of the Psalms, he gladly sinks his own identity in the wider one of his people, so that it is not always easy to distinguish the personality of the speaker.

Often his poetic fancy finds joy in the thought of the return of his people to the Promised Land, and he believed that perfect Jewish life was possible only in the Holy Land.

This vision of the night, however, remained but a dream. Yet he never lost faith in the eventual deliverance of Israel, and in the eternity of his people. On this subject, he has expressed himself in poetry:

Lo! Sun and moon, these minister for aye;
The laws of day and night cease nevermore:
Given for signs to Jacob’s seed that they
Shall ever be a nation – till these be o’er.
If with His left hand He should thrust away,
Lo! with His right hand He shall draw them nigh.

His longest, and most comprehensive liturgical poem is a Kedushah, calling all the universe to praise God with rejoicing, and its ends in Psalm 103. It is said there is scarcely a synagogue in which his songs are not sung in the course of the service.

Judah Halevi also wrote several Sabbath hymns. One of the most beautiful of them ends with the words:

On Friday doth my cup o’erflow
What blissful rest the night shall know
When, in thine arms, my toil and woe
Are all forgot, Sabbath my love!
’Tis dusk, with sudden light, distilled
From one sweet face, the world is filled;
The tumult of my heart is stilled
For thou art come, Sabbath my love!
Bring fruits and wine and sing a gladsome lay,
Cry, ‘Come in peace, O restful Seventh day!’

The songs that accompany his pilgrimage are known as Zionides. The most celebrated of these is commonly heard in synagogues on Tisha B’Av:

Zion, wilt thou not ask if peace’s wing
Shadows the captives that ensue thy peace
Left lonely from thine ancient shepherding?
Lo! west and east and north and south – worldwide
All those from far and near, without surcease
Salute thee: Peace and Peace from every side.

Judah Halevi’s vision of a God that is accessed through tradition and devotion, and not philosophical speculation, dominates his later work. He tried to liberate religion from various philosophical systems and he defended Judaism against attacks by non-Jewish philosophers, Aristotelean Greek philosophers and against those he viewed as heretics.

Judah was recognised by his contemporaries as ‘the great Jewish national poet.’ The union of religion, nationalism, and patriotism that was characteristic of post-exilic Judaism, reached its acme in Judah Halevi and his poetry.

Three of his poems are included in Service of the Heart, the prayer book edited by Rabbi John D Rayner and Rabbi Chaim Stern. I have been using this prayer book in my night prayers for some weeks now.

‘To You the stars of morning upward sing’ was translated by Olga Marx and was included in The Language of Living Faith, edited by Nahum H Glatzer:

To You the stars of morning upward sing,
From You the sources of their radiance spring.
And steadfast in their vigils, day and night,
The sons of God, flooded with fervour, ring
Your praise; they teach the holy ones to bring
Into Your house the breath of early light.

‘Lord, where shall I find you’ was translated by Chaim Stern:

Lord, where shall I find You? Your place is hidden and high;
Yet where shall I not find You? Your glory fills all space.

For space is Your dominion, yet You dwell in the soul of man;
You are the Refuge of the near, the Haven of those far-off.

You are enthroned in Your house, though unconfined by the heights;
Your hosts will praise You, but You are beyond their ken;
No space contains You, still less an earthly house!

Yet though exalted above us in high and lonely majesty,
You are closer than the flesh of our frames and the spirit within us.

‘Let me run to meet the spring’ was also translated by Chaim Stern:

Let me run to meet the spring of true life,
For I loathe a life that is vain and empty.

I long only to see the face of my King;
Him alone will I fear, none other will I worship.

If I could but see him in a dream –
I would sleep for ever, never stirring!

If I could but see his face within my heart –
My eyes would never ask to gaze beyond!

A Menorah seen in a shop window in Judería, the old Jewish quarter of Córdoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Let us, the flock of Christ,
… cry out: Remember us all,
who sing your praises!

The new Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, Metropolitan Nikitas (Lulias) of Dardanelles

Patrick Comerford

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has appointed a new Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain. At a meeting in Constantinople this week [12 June 2019], Metropolitan Nikitas (Lioulias) of Dardanelles was elected unanimously.

At the same time, the Holy Synod decided thanked the former Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain, Archbishop Gregory, who has retired after many years of ministry due to advanced age.

Metropolitan Nikitas takes over a large diocese with more than 100 churches and monasteries in England, Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.

Metropolitan Nikitas has served in numerous capacities in the Orthodox Church worldwide, and more recently he has been the Director of the Patriarchal Institute of Orthodox Theology in Berkeley, California.

Before that, he was appointed Metropolitan of Hong Kong in 1996, a Metropolis that was created by the Ecumenical Patriarchate a year earlier to help expand the Orthodox presence in Asia.

His appointment completes what many in Orthodox circles are calling the ‘shake up’ of the three As, all large regions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate where the senior bishops were advanced in age and or where there had been public controversy – England (Αγγλια), America and Australia. Metropolitan Makarios was elected Archbishop of Australia last month, and Metropolitan Elpidophoros will be enthroned Archbishop of America in New York on 22 June.

All three jurisdictions have new archbishops who have been appointed unanimously by the synod of bishops at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Metropolitan Nikitas was born in Tampa, Florida, in 1955. He studied at the University of Florida, where he received his degree in Religion (1976). He then attended the Theological School of the Holy Cross of Boston, where he graduated in 1980, and completed his postgraduate studies at the Theological School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1982).

He was ordained a Deacon in 1985 by Archbishop Jacob of America and in the same year was ordained priest.

He served in the Church of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen in Merriville, Indiana, and in 1987 became the secretary of the Diocese of Chicago. In 1988 he received the office of Archimandrite and became a Protosyncellus in the same diocese.

He completed his studies in History and Russian language in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Later, he taught courses in Orthodoxy at the Loyola University of Chicago.

On 2 December 1996, he was unanimously elected the first Metropolitan of Hong Kong and South-East Asia, and he was ordained bishop at the Patriarchal Church of Saint George.

When he moved to California as Director of the Patriarchal Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, he was also appointed Metropolitan of the Dardanelles Metropolis in 2007.

We first met at San’Anselmo, the Benedictine abbey and university in Rome, when I was chair of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission and took part in a conference in Rome in September 2005 on the Church in China.

We met again when I accompanied the then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Neill, on a visit to China and Hong Kong in 2006 to meet Church leaders, visit theological colleges and to build links between the Church of Ireland and the Church in China.

In Hong Kong, Archbishop Nikitas presented me with a scroll that says in rich Chinese calligraphy:

The Apolytikion of the Chinese Saints Martyred 11 June 1900 at the Boxer Uprising, Tone Three:

Let us, the flock of Christ, with love and piety now glorify with hymns and truly joyous odes the faithful Martyrs of the truth who suffered for Christ in China. For having confessed the Faith, they all bravely went unto death as lambs which were sacrificed for our Shepherd and Master Christ. And therefore to the Martyrs we cry out: Remember us all, who sing your praises!

With the Revd Dr Alan McCormack (then Dean of Residence, Trinity College Dublin, and Metropolitan Nikitas of the Dardanelles (then Archbishop of Hong Kong) at the conference on the Churches and China in Rome in September 2005

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Saint Nicholas … a 700-year-old
city church at the heart of Galway

The Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas, Galway … the largest mediaeval parish church in continuous use in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

During the family visit to Galway yesterday [12 June 2019], seven of us visited the Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas in Galway, which is the largest mediaeval parish church in continuous use as a church in Ireland. It is the Church of Ireland parish church in Galway city, and was built in 1320 on the site of an earlier chapel.

The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Myra, best-known today as Santa Claus. Galway is a major port, and in the Middle Ages Saint Nicholas was revered as the patron saint of sailors and seafarers.

The Collegiate Church of Saint Nicholas is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship. The earliest parts of the church, the chancel, nave and transepts, date from the foundation of the church.

An icon of Saint Nicholas of Myra in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Local legend claims Christopher Columbus worshipped there when he visited the city in 1477.

The church was given the status of a collegiate church by Donatus Ó Muireadhaigh, Archbishop of Tuam, on 28 September 1484, the same year Galway received a Royal Charter and the right to elect a mayor. This collegiate status was confirmed on 8 September 1485 by a papal bull issued by Pope Innocent VIII (Super Dominicum Gregem).

Inside Saint Nicholas’ Church, Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

With the grant of collegiate status, the City of Galway and some surrounding parishes were separated from the Archdiocese of Tuam, and the priests of the city formed a College of Vicars, with the senior member of the college known as the Warden of Galway.

The Warden of Galway held a position that was unique in Irish Church history. The wardens were elected every year in August by the mayor and members of the Corporation or city council. The members of the College of Vicars were elected for life from among the secular clergy of the city. They were to be learned, virtuous and well-bred, and were to observe the English rite and custom in the Divine Service. The Archbishop of Tuam retained visitation rights.

For many years the triennial elections of the mayor and corporation were held within the church.

The pulpit commemorates James Daly, the last Warden of Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The church was extended in the 16th century, when Galway’s prosperity was at its height. The additions included the south transept, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and the belfry.

After the Reformation, two Wardens – one Church of Ireland and one Roman Catholic – continued in office. The College House, which stood near the west end of the church, was demolished in 1836.

After Disestablishment, the position of Warden of Galway was discontinued in the Church of Ireland and replaced by the Rector of Galway. In the position of Warden came to an end and the city and a large area of its hinterland formed a new Diocese of Galway.

Galway was captured Cromwell in 1652 after a nine-month siege. Tradition says the Cromwellians destroyed many of the features in the church, and used the building to stable their horses.

Inside Saint Nicholas Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The chancel is one of the oldest parts of the church, incorporating part of an older church that stood on the site. Features in the chancel include the stone seat or sedilia, the small piscina, and the canopied bishop’s seat. The stained glass East Window commemorates members of the Persse and Fleetwood-Berry families.

The chamber above the crossing holds a peal of ten bells, originally ranging in date from 1590 to 1898. They were recast in the 1930s with levers instead of ropes to enable music to be played on them.

The pulpit commemorates the Very Revd James Daly, who was the last Warden of Galway.

The organ in the former Saint Patrick’s Chapel is by Norman and Beard (1912) is in the former Saint Patrick’s Chapel. It contains pipework from the earlier Walker organ (1845).

The ‘Crusader’s Tomb’ in the Chapel of Christ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Chapel of Christ, off the south transept, includes the ‘Crusader’s Tomb’ dating from the 13th or early 14th century. It is decorated with an elaborate cross, and the inscription is in Norman French. It may have been moved from a nearby Chapel of the Knights Templar that was destroyed in 1324.

Part of the Lynch memorials in the South Transept (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Lynch family extended the south transept in the 16th century, and ever since it has been known as the Lynch Chapel. In the wall, near the Chapel of Christ, is a long, 16th century gravestone.

The elaborate Lynch window tomb bears the coat of arms of the Lynch family and the figures of two angels, defaced by Cromwellian troops in 1652. A plaque commemorates Stephen Lynch, the ‘darling’ and ‘terror’ of the city: ‘Stephen Lynch of illustrious lineage, the darling of his soldiers and the terror of his enemies, in years still a young man, but old in valour, of whom the world was not worthy, was exalted to heaven 14 March 1644.’

The Transfiguration window in the Lynch Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In the corner of the south transept is the tomb of James Lynch, the first Mayor of Galway. A local – but unfounded – legend says he hanged his own son, giving the English languages the verb ‘to lynch.’

The Transfiguration window in this chapel is by John Francis Hogan (1948) and a fine example of Irish stained glass.

The ‘Apprentice’s Column’ in the south-east of the nave differs in design from the other columns. Its name comes from a tradition that an apprentice mason had to produce a ‘masterpiece’ before being recognised as a master craftsman.

The freestanding ‘beniter’ or holy water stoup in the north aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Among the unusual features of the church, a freestanding beniter or holy water stoup in the north aisle dates from the late 15th or early 16th century.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is off the north aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel takes its name from the mediaeval custom of reserving the sacrament in a side chapel. The features in the chapel include a stone desk that once stood in the college house, a piscina made of a reused gravestone.

The banners hanging at the entrance to this chapel are the Battle Standards of the Connaught Rangers used in the Peninsular Campaign during the Napoleonic Wars.

The large Celtic cross in the north-west corner is a memorial to parishioners who died in World War I.

The Baptismal font displays carvings of three fleur-de-lys, a royal heraldic symbol (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

At the west end, near the south porch, the Baptismal font dates from the late 16th or early 17th century, and is beautifully carved. One side displays carvings of three fleur-de-lys, a royal heraldic symbol, a triskele and a dog.

The vaulted south porch and doorway date from the 15th and 16th centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The vaulted south porch, used as today’s entrance to the church, dates from the 15th century, and the doorway was inserted in the 16th century. The small room above was once used for meetings of Galway Corporation, and later as the sexton’s residence.

High above the entrance to the church, a series of gargoyles display a number of animals, including a monkey and an eagle. The decorative windows around the windows on the outside include a dragon, two mermaids, a lion and Jacob with his ladder.

Inside Saint Nicholas Church, looking towards the West End (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The church was used by the Augustinian community of nearby Saint Augustine’s Church when their church was being refurbished in April-December 2005. The church is regularly used for worship by the Romanian and Russian Orthodox Churches, and the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.

Since September 2018, the Very Revd Lynda Peilow has been the Rector of Galway. The church marks its 700th anniversary next year.

The church is also used by the Romanian and Russian Orthodox Churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Comerford House in
Galway looks neglected,
but all is not lost … yet

Comerford House … looking a little neglected beside Spanish Arch in Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

I spent much of yesterday [12 June 2019] with family members and cousins visiting Galway. Our walking tour of the city brought us through Eyre Square, to Saint Nicholas’s Collegiate Church, Shop Street, Kirwan Lane, Lynch’s Castle, Blake’s Castle, the King’s Head and the Spanish Arch, as well as many other historic sites in the centre of the city.

There was music and lively busking on the streets, and it was good to show first-time visitors to Galway from England that the ‘West is Awake.’ But it was sad to see the sorry, neglected state of Comerford House, beside Spanish Arch and the banks of the River Corrib, which was donated to Galway City by the Comerford family many years ago and which, for a time, had been the home of the Galway City Museum.

Spanish Arch, a 16th century part of the city walls, between Comerford House and the River Corrib (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Comerford House, beside the Spanish Arch in Galway, was home to the Comerford family for a number of generations before being donated to Galway Corporation. It has been an award-winning city museum and the name of Comerford House recalls close links between Galway City and the Comerford family.

William James Valentine Comerford, a solicitor from Tuam, Co Galway, was born in 1903. He qualified as a solicitor in February 1924, and started to practice in Tuam as Henry Concanon & Co. In 1954, he moved the practice to 9 William Street, Galway. At that time, he was in partnership with Frank Meagher.

William Comerford was also a well-known local historian in Co Galway, and he believed his branch of the Comerford family was descended from the Comerford family of Inchiholohan, Co Kilkenny. His historical papers included: ‘Some notes on the Borough of Tuam and its records, 1817-1822,’ in the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society, vol 15, Nos 3 and 4 (No 19), pp 97-120 (no date, ca 1932-1933), and he was a founding member of the Old Tuam Society in 1942. He was the author also of an unpublished autobiography, ‘Harp sheds Crown.’

Bill Comerford moved to Comerford House, beside the Spanish Arch, in the 1950s, but when he retired in the 1970s he moved to Dublin, where he died.

Bill Comerford married Elizabeth Meagher and their children included: Dr Francis Rory Comerford, Vice-Dean of the Medical Faculty at University College Galway (now National University of Ireland Galway), and the father of Judge Francis Comerford, President to the Circuit Court; and Henry Comerford (1936-2016), a well-known Galway solicitor, a member of the Radio Éireann Players, who had two plays produced in the Peacock Theatre, and a Fine Gael candidate in the 1981 General Election.

Comerford House in Galway forms part of a National Monument site, the Galway City Walls, which is within a ‘Zone of Archaeological Notification.’

Comerford House in Galway is a detached three-bay, two-storey house with an attic storey, and was built ca 1800 as a private residence. It has a full-height, projecting square-plan entrance bay and a later flat roofed single-bay two-storey addition to south-west end of the façade.

Galway’s old City Wall forms a boundary to the small yard behind the house, and the south-west end of house is built onto and incorporates two of the northern arches of Spanish Arch, one of a series of arches of mediaeval gateways.

The Venetian-style windows at the end bays date from 1947. The entrance doorway has a carved limestone doorcase that includes panelled pilasters with plinths, a supporting moulded lintel and an open-bed pediment with a plain fanlight, and a replacement timber panelled door. The square-headed door at the addition has fluted flanking piers with plinths, and one pier retains a finial with acanthus leaves and a barley-sugar cone.

Clare Sheridan, a sculptor and cousin of Winston Churchill, lived in the house from 1948 to 1952 and converted one room into a private chapel. The doorcase came from Ardfry House.

A flood warning on the walls of Comerford House, close to Galway Bay (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Connacht Tribune reported late last year [17 September 2018] that unless Fáilte Ireland came up with at least €5 million towards the refurbishment and extension of the Galway City Museum into Comerford House and onto the top of the Spanish Arch, the flagship 2020 project would be dead in the water.

The cost of the project is significant because of the complexity of the site beside Spanish Arch, which is a national monument, Comerford House, which is a listed building and the River Corrib and looking out onto Galway Bay.

Graffiti on the corner of the walls of the house in the name of Extinction Rebellion warns how global warming and rising waters in the River Corrib and Galway Bay threaten the future of Comerford House.

However, there was some good news at Comerford House yesterday. A year-old site notice by Galway City Council on the building outlines the latest plans for Comerford House that include refurbishing the house, providing exhibition spaces, visitor and staff facilities, flood protection measures, a new attic storey, a new three-storey building north of Comerford House that would provide additional space for exhibitions, storage and visitors to Galway Museum, as well as new landscaping for Museum Square and in front of Comerford House, Spanish Arch and the Fish Market.

All hope is not yet lost for Comerford House in Galway.

Comerford House in Galway was built an attic storey, and was built ca 1800 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

‘The Future of Religious Minorities
in the Middle East’: a book review

The Future of Religious Minorities in the Middle East

John Eibner (ed), Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2018, pp 276. ISBN 978-14985-6196-9

A new report commissioned by the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, shows that the persecution of Christians is pervasive in parts of the Middle East, sometimes amounting to genocide, and has prompted an exodus in the past two decades. Millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes throughout the Middle East, and many have been killed, kidnapped, imprisoned and discriminated against. The report also highlights discrimination across south-east Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and in east Asia – often driven by state authoritarianism.

The interim report is based on work by Bishop Philip Mounstephen of Truro, makes for sobering reading. It says ‘the inconvenient truth’ is ‘the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.’

The Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa stood at 20% a century ago. In recent years, this proportion has fallen to less than 4%, or roughly 15 million people. In countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage, according to the report. The Arab-Israeli conflict has caused the majority of Palestinian Christians to leave their homeland, so that the population of Palestinian Christians has dropped from 15% to 2%.

For people reflecting on reports such as this, it is all the more disturbing that the persecuted and persecutor all share religious belief-systems that not only share so much in common but all three major monotheistic religions originated in the fertile crescent of the Middle East.

What is the future for religious minorities in the Middle East?

Do they have a future?

These are questions that have been asked in Constantinople and throughout the Middle East since the seventh century. But perhaps, as Taner Akçam of Clark University points out, modern ‘ethnic cleansing’ can be traced to the genocide of Armenians in 1915, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the forced ‘population exchanges’ between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s.

These questions are asked yet again in a fresh way in a new book edited by John Eibner, a Swiss-American historian who is runs the Middle East programmes of the human rights organisation Christian Solidarity International (CSI). He has brought together essays by 20 scholars, journalists, human rights activists and political practitioners who spoke in Switzerland and the US on the topic. Now they have been published together in book form.

The contributors are from diverse political, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Each draws a deep wellspring of scholarship and experience as they seek to understand the threat to religious minorities and social pluralism. The one Irish contributor is the journalist Patrick Cockburn; the one Anglican is Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali.

The future of religious minorities in the Middle East is an issue for more than Christians and Muslims. Jewish communities have all but vanished apart from within Israel. Groups such as the Alawites, the Yezidis, Druze, Kakais and Mandaeans, like Christians, struggle for survival.

In recent years, the West has focused on the threats posed by jihadist terrorism. But the delicate fabric of inter-communal relations in the Middle East has been unravelling for the past century, at the expense of religious and ethnic minorities.

As early as 2011, CSI was warning of a genocide against religious minorities and called for action. The warning followed similarly dramatic appeals by then president of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, and the former president of Lebanon, Amine Gemayel, one of the contributors to this collection. At the time, the warning was scarcely heeded. Yet, since then, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) carried out a systemic genocide, targeting Christians, Yazidis, and Shi'ite Muslims

During a recent visit to Tangier, when I visited churches and synagogues in the Moroccan port city, I tried to convince myself that there is still hope in the Middle East and North Africa. In these papers, some of the contributors still express hope for the future, but others view the situation more pessimistically. As John Eibner writes, there are few ‘silver linings around the dark clouds … the future is grim indeed.’

Patrick Comerford

This book review is published in the current edition of ‘Search: A Church of Ireland Journal’ (Vol 42.2, Summer 2019), pp 151-152.

This biographical note is included on p 155:

Patrick Comerford is priest-in-charge of Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin (Diocese of Limerick & Killaloe), Precentor of Limerick and Killaloe cathedrals, and a former Foreign Desk Editor of The Irish Times.

One of the oldest, and
one of the newest
churches in Málaga

The Church Sacred Heart is in a small corner near the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Málaga (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

As I moved between Málaga and Córdoba last week, I visited two churches in Málaga – one that is one of the newest churches in the city, and one that is among the oldest churches in Málaga.

The Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón or Church Sacred Heart is tucked into a small corner of San Ignacio de Loyola Square, just behind the Carmen Thyssen Museum in the Old Town of Málaga.

This Neo-Gothic church was built for the Jesuits in 1920, and was designed by the architect Fernando Guerrero Strachán.

Between them, two members of the Strachan family were responsible for some of the most emblematic buildings in Malaga built at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.

Fernando Guerrero Strachan (1879-1930) was the nephew of another prominent architect Eduardo Strachan Viana-Cardenas. He was known as ‘the Gaudí of Málaga’ and was a pioneering architect. He left Málaga a wonderful legacy of beautiful buildings, with a long list of 72 catalogued buildings.

His works include Málaga City Hall, the Calle Larios, Hotel Miramar, the Banco Hispanoamericano building on the Alameda Principal and the Neo-Baroque Ayuntamiento Building. He was also the Mayor of Málaga between 1928 and 1930.

His son, Fernando Guerrero Strachan Rosado (1907-1941), was the architect behind the City Hall, the original Rosaleda stadium and the restoration work on the Gibralfaro Castle and the Alcazaba Fortress.

Between them, the father and son designed countless other stunning façades either created from scratch or refurbished for their clients.

An ornate rose window sits above the arches of the main doors (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The elder Strachan’s design for the Jesuit Church of the Sacred Heart was inspired by the cathedrals in Ávila and Burgos in northern Spain. This elegant church was built in the neo-Gothic style.

The eye-catching façade in soft biscuit stone, topped with two spires and covered in Gothic-style tracery. An ornate rose window sits above the arches of the main doors. This cream and yellow façade is a long way from the dark stone used previously for churches.

Inside, the interior of the church is just as impressive as the exterior, is refreshingly bright and airy. It is built on a basilica plan, divided in three naves and covered by a rib vault. The crossing on an octagonal plan has a star-shaped vault. The choir is at the end of the central nave, which is higher and wider than the side aisles.

Oranges growing in the courtyard of the Sacred Heart Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Neo-Gothic High Altar is the work of the the artist Adrian Risueño. A sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the work of the artist Antonio Maumon and dates from 1940.

Paintings on either side of the High Altar depict the Jesuits Saint Ignatius de Loyola and Saint Francisco de Borja.
The narrow stained-glass windows are by the renowned French firm of Mauméjean in Pau, and feature scenes from the lives of the saints.

The tower of Santiago Church on Calle Granada (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

On the other hand, the Santiago Church or Church of Saint James the Apostle on Calle Granada is the oldest church in Málaga. The church was founded in 1490, it became a parish in 1505 and was built in 1509 on the site of a former mosque.

The central entrance in the Mudéjar style is all that remains of the original façade, but the building retains Islamic, gothic and baroque elements. The square tower in the same style was conceived as a separate minaret and was attached to the church in the 16th century.

The central entrance in the Mudéjar style is all that remains of the original façade of Santiago Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside, the church has three naves and valuable works by Alonso Cano and Niño de Guevara, as well as significant items that include a 16th century chalice with a star-shaped foot and a six-sided body. The main altarpiece dates from the 18th century, and came from the church of a Dominican convent.

A sign outside reminds passers-by that the artist Pablo Picasso was baptised in this church on 10 November 1881.

Symbols of Saint James and the Camino to Santiago at the door of the Santiago Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

How Málaga Cathedral
became known as
‘The One-Armed Lady’

Málaga Cathedral at night … it is known as ‘La Manquita’ or ‘The One-Armed Lady’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

My visit to Spain last week began and ended in Málaga, where I visited the cathedral once again, having first visited it five years ago, during Holy Week 2014.

The cathedral stands within the line of former walls of the mediaeval Moorish city, close to Málaga’s Moorish Alcazaba or citadel.

Málaga was re-conquered by the Christians on 18 August 1487. Initially, the Aljama mosque was converted into a cathedral and consecrated with a dedication to Santa Maria de la Encarnación (Saint Mary of the Incarnation).

The minaret of the mosque became the bell tower of the cathedral, and the site of this first cathedral is more or less where the present-day sacristy, museum and gardens are located.

But the chapter or canons of the cathedral soon proposed building a new cathedral. Because of the restrictions of the site, the new cathedral was built on a north-south axis. The door of the main façade was built in Gothic style about 1510 and this is the sacristy door that today leads into the gardens.

The fountain in the Plaza del Obispo, the square in front of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The cathedral was built on or near the site of an early Almohad mosque in the Renaissance style between 1528 and 1782, following plans by Diego Siloe (ca 1495-1563), the Burgos-born architect who also designed the cathedrals in Gaudix and Almería.

The cathedral is built on a rectangular plan, with a nave and two aisles. The nave is wider than the two side aisles, but they are of the same height.

The façade, unlike the rest of the building, is in Baroque style and is divided into two levels. On the lower level are three arches, and inside these arches are portals separated by marble columns. Above the doors are medallions carved in stone. Those on the side doors represent the patron saints of Málaga, Saint Ciriaco and Saint Paula, while the medallion over the centre depicts the Annunciation.

The north tower is 84 metres high, but the south tower remains unfinished (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The original plans envisaged two towers. The north tower is 84 metres high, making this the second-highest cathedral in Andalusia, after the Giralda of Seville.

The south tower remains unfinished. A plaque at the base of the tower says the funds raised by the parish to finish the south tower were used instead to help the former British colonies that became the United States to gain independence.

However, church records show the money may have been used to renovate the roadway called the Way of Antequera, which began in the present street Calle Martinez Maldonado.

Because only one tower was ever completed, the cathedral is known as La Manquita, or ‘The One-Armed Lady.’

Inside the Cathedral of Málaga (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside, the interior of Málaga Cathedral shows influences of the Renaissance and baroque styles.

Only the cathedrals of Granada and Seville, which have similar proportions, and the immense Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba can rival the architectural splendour of the interior of Málaga Cathedral.

The Gothic altarpiece in the Chapel of Santa Barbara is the oldest altar in the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Gothic altarpiece in the Chapel of Santa Barbara is the oldest altar in the cathedral and is the only altar to survive from the time the mosque was converted into Málaga’s first cathedral.

There are 16th century tombs in the Chapel of San Francisco.

The High Altar in Málaga Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Chapel of the Incarnation has a neoclassic altarpiece (1785) designed by the sculptor Juan de Villanueva and carved by Antonio Ramos and Aldehuela. A group of figures representing the Annunciation and sculptures of Málaga’s two patron saints, Saint Ciriaco and Saint Paula, were carved by Juan Salazar Palomino in the 18th century.

‘The Beheading of Saint Paul’ by Enrique Simonet Lombardo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

‘The Beheading of Saint Paul,’ a painting in the Chapel of La Virgen de Los Reyes, was painted by Enrique Simonet Lombardo (1866-1927) during his visit to Rome in 1887.

‘El Convite del fariseo’ or ‘The Banquet of the Pharisee’ by the Flemish painter Miguel Manrique (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

‘El Convite del fariseo’ or ‘The Banquet of the Pharisee’ (ca 1635), a large painting in the Chapel of San Julián, is the work of the Flemish painter Miguel Manrique, a disciple of Rubens.

The choir with its carved choir stalls has been described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The 17th century choir stalls, carved in mahogany and cedarwood, were designed by Luis Ortiz de Vargas. After his death, 42 finely carved statues of the saints were completed for each stall by Pedro de Mena y Medrano (1628-1688), one of the most celebrated sculptors and woodcarvers in Spain at the time and a pupil of Alonzo Cano (1601-1667).

The 18th century painter and essayist Antonio Palomino described the choir with its stalls as the ‘eighth wonder of the world.’

Some of the chapels leading off the side aisles also exhibit works by Pedro de Mena and his tutor, Alonzo Cano, the architect who designed the façade of Granada Cathedral.

The two cathedral organs are considered to be among the best of Spanish baroque organs. They were built in the 1770s by Julián de Orden, the organ-maker from Cuenca.

The Chapel of the Sagrado Corazón or the Sacred Heart (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Despite the standing of the architects who initially designed the cathedral, building work continued at a slow pace throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. In the late 1700s, the Bishop of Málaga, José Molina Larios – who gives his name to Málaga’s main shopping street – commissioned José Martín de Aldehuela (1729-1802), an architect from Aragon, to rebuild and repair the cathedral. He had designed other buildings in Málaga province, including Ronda’s New Bridge.

The Portal of the Patio de los Naranjos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Portal of the Patio de los Naranjos joins the doorway also known as the Puerta de las Cadenas. The Holy Week and Easter processions in Málaga enter the cathedral through this doorway.

Until the mid-20th century, the cathedral was attached to surrounding houses. They have since been demolished, and the cathedral stands on its own in the centre of the old town, one of Spain’s most impressive unfinished buildings.

The small Cathedral Museum is reached by a wooden staircase in the cathedral shop.

The 16th century Gothic doorway is all that survives from the original church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Beside the cathedral, the Iglesia del Sagrario was founded in the 15th century on the site of a mosque. The church has an unusual rectangular shape, and the 16th century Gothic doorway is all that remains of the original church, which was rebuilt in 1714.

The gardens include a number of interesting items in the so-called Museo al Aire libre de la Cathedral de Malaga.

The oft-photographed cathedral gardens on Calle del Cistner also include a strange monument of unmarked crosses to victims of the Spanish civil war.

Leaving Málaga Cathedral in the bright June sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

In the square in front of the cathedral, the Bishop’s Palace is a series of buildings, some dating from the 16th century, that were joined together to form one large block in the 18th century, with a Baroque façade facing the Plaza del Obispo.

The façade in red white, pink and grey marble was designed in the 18th century in the late Baroque style by the architect Antonio Ramos, master builder of the cathedral.

The Bishop’s Palace has an 18th century Baroque façade that faces the Plaza del Obispo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)