13 July 2021
The final stop on the road back to Askeaton at the end of last month’s ‘road trip’ or ‘staycation’ in Kerry and West Cork was in Millstreet. I wanted to check out the provenance of a church window attributed to Harry Clarke, and of two windows erected in Saint Patrick’s Church in memory of my great-grandparents.
The large-scale form and the setting of Saint Patrick’s Church make it a notable and imposing feature on the streets of Millstreet. The fine façade marks out this church as the most accomplished historic building in the town.
The dressed sandstone walls and the limestone dressings create a pleasant textual and visual contrast. The quality of craftsmanship can be seen throughout the church, outside and inside, and the bellcote, urns, niches and other elements all show artistic quality.
The church, built in 1833-1835, was designed by the Revd Michael Augustine Riordan (1783-1848), a priest-architect from Doneraile who founded the South Presentation Monastery (1828) in Cork. His best-known work is probably Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen, which I also visited during last month’s ‘road trip.’ He also designed churches in Bantry, Blackrock, Dunmanway and Kinsale.
Saint Patrick’s Church is aligned on a south-north axis, rather than the liturgically traditional east-west axis. Outside, the classically-inspired façade is typical of its time and the symmetrical form incorporating varying heights adds further to the striking appearance.
Inside, the Corinthian detailing, the carved reredos and altar, and the stained-glass windows combine to create an ornate interior, making this church an important part of the region's architectural heritage.
Saint Patrick’s has a gable-fronted nave with a slightly projecting entrance bay, two lower and slightly recessed single-bay porches fronting the slightly higher six-bay flat-roofed side aisles, slightly projecting one-bay transepts, a single-bay chancel, pedimented rectangular-plan confessional projections and porch projection to aisle elevations.
There is a three-bay, single-storey flat-roofed block at the south-west side, a single-storey sacristy, and a single-bay single-storey flat-roofed extension.
The gable front has carved limestone bellcote, a carved limestone plinth with decorative scrolled edges and incised lettering in the centre, a carved limestone frieze below with incised lettering, and a round-headed bell opening flanked by triple pilasters.
The circular render panel in the middle of the pediment has a carved limestone surround and a decorative Celtic cross motif in relief. There is a pair of carved limestone round-headed niches flanking the upper level of entrance bay.
The main door is square-headed with a moulded limestone surround with moulded cornice and fluted frieze incorporating a panel having cross and floral motifs, and double-leaf timber panelled doors.
The west front porch has a timber panelled double-leaf door, stepped-profile carved limestone surround with plinths and Celtic interlace decoration in relief.
Above the door, the carved limestone dentillated pediment has cross finial, and a render, relief panel bears a crucifixion scene between an image of the Good Shepherd and a scene of Saint Patrick baptising Saint Aonghus at Cashel.
The east front porch has a moulded archivolt with scroll keystone, all set into a carved limestone doorcase with carved limestone panelled pilasters, decorative capitals and a carved limestone open-bed pediment with cross finial.
Above the timber panelled double-leaf doors, the tympanum has a render scene depicting an outdoor Mass, perhaps at a penal rock.
Inside, Saint Patrick’s has a shallow barrel-vaulted ceiling in the nave and flat ceilings in aisles, all with decorative stucco work, coffered to side aisles. Colonnade of fluted Corinthian columns separate the nave and each aisle and there are fluted Corinthian pilasters on the outer walls.
The chancel area has a carved marble altar table and steps, Corinthian columns flank the chancel window, and there is a carved marble reredos and a supporting open-bed segmental pediment.
There is a gallery and an organ loft above the entrance end of the nave.
I also wanted to visit Saint Patrick’s Church to look again at a window attributed to Harry Clarke, and that I had written about in the past, to see two windows erected in memory of my maternal great-grandparents Denis and Margaret Crowley.
A stained-glass window that featured on Christmas stamps some years ago depicts the Adoration of the Magi and has been attributed to Harry Clarke. The window is in memory of Denis nd Mary Brosnan and a photograph of angels in the window by Bill Power from Mitchelstown was selected by An Post for stamps in 2014.
However, the window dates from 1940, Harry Clarke had died in 1931, and the window is not included in the recent and definitive work on Harry Clarke windows – Lucy Costigan and Michael Cullen, Dark Beauty: Hidden Detail in Harry Clarke’s Stained Glass (Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2019).
Drawings in the Library in Trinity College Dublin show the window was designed between 6 August and 31 December 1940, and is the work of the Harry Clarke Studios. It was designed by William J Dowling (1907-1980), who had succeeded Richard King as manager of the studios in 1940, and Terence Clarke (1917-1968).
Terence Clarke was a nephew of Harry Clarke; he entered the family studios as an apprentice in 1930, and died in 1968. Dowling had succeeded Richard King as the manager of the studios in 1940 and remained manager until the studios closed in 1973.
Two stained-glass windows in the church were presented by the Crowley family. Saint Oliver Plunket is depicted in the first window in the East Aisle (liturgical north) and has inscription: ‘Erected to the memory of Denis and Margaret Crowley of Millstreet by their son Cornelius. 1944.’
Facing it, the first window in the west aisle (liturgical south) depicts the Apparition at Lourdes and has the same wording: ‘Erected to the memory of Denis and Margaret Crowley of Millstreet by their son Cornelius. 1944.’
This pair of stained-glass windows was made by Clement Watson & Co of Youghal, the studios founded by Michael JC Buckley and that had created the stained-glass windows in Saint Finbarr’s Oratory in Gugane Barra, which two of us had visited earlier that same day.
James Watson bought out Buckley’s Youghal studios in the mid-1890s and his descendants continued to make stained glass windows there until 2012.
James Watson was born in England ca 1860, and family tradition says he came from a long line of English stained-glass makers at York Minster. After working in London for Cox and Son, he moved with his wife Mary and his sons Hubert and Maurice to Youghal in 1888 to work with Buckley.
Watson took over the business from Buckley in 1894 and changed its name to James Watson & Co, also known as The Art Works.
His sons Maurice and Clement worked with their father in the business, which passed to Clement and then to Clement’s six sons. One of these sons, Cecil, became the principal artist; another son, James, set up a stained-glass business in Belfast. The Youghal firm passed eventually to Cecil’s grandson, Peter Watson, who died in August 2004.
Both the Watson studios and An Túr Gloine, set up by Sarah Purser, came to prominence to form the golden age of Irish stained glass, although the Watson windows remained more traditional than those coming from An Túr Gloine or the Harry Clarke studio.
The Watsons worked mainly in Catholic churches and convents in Munster, although they also worked in Church of Ireland Methodist churches too. Their major themes include the Sacred Heart, the Immaculate Conception and the Apparition at Lourdes, the Good Samaritan and both local Irish and universal Catholic saints. Their use of Irish script for Latin text may suggest a symbiosis between faith and motherland.
Another theme in the Watson windows is Christ the Light of the World, with perhaps a dozen large windows based directly on Holman Hunt’s painting. This theme is found in Watson windows in Saint Brendan’s Church, Bantry, Co Cork, and in Christ Church, Sapnish Point, Co Clare,which I visited last weekend, and they place Watson glass in the Pre-Raphaelite tradition.
In the last decade of his ownership of James Watson and Co, James Watson produced a suite of windows for the Church of the Holy Rosary in Murroe, Co Limerick, depicting the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.
The two Crowley windows were donated by Cornelius D Crowley (1879-1972), of Finnstown House, Lucan, Co Dublin, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and originally from the Rectory, Millstreet, and then Coole House, Millstreet. He was anxious to be remembered in his native Millstreet, and so he erected these window to his parents, Denis and Margaret Crowley, in Saint Patrick’s Church, in 1944.
Cornelius ‘Con’ was one of my great-uncles, a brother of my grandmother, Maria (Crowley) Murphy (1882-1953) of Millstreet, Co Cork. For many years, Con Crowley was a director of the Roscrea Meat Company with his brother Jeremiah D Crowley of Wallstown Castle, Castltownroche, Co Cork – the other directors included Robert Briscoe TD and G Fasenfeld.
The saints in other windows in Saint Patrick’s Church include Saint Bridget, Saint Charles Borremeo and Saint Dominic.
Out in the churchyard, on the east (liturgical north), I stopped briefly to visit the grave of those great-grandparents. Denis Crowley died on 8 March 1912 at the age of 59 at Drishane Rectory, Liscahane, Millstreet, the home of his son Con Crowley – so, you could say, I am the third generation in four in my family to live in a rectory. Margaret Crowley died at the home of her daughter, my grandmother Maria Murphy, on Main Street, Millstreet, on 9 March 1923 – her death certificate says she was 75, her gravestone says she was 79.
During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:
1, photographs of a church or place of worship;
2, the day’s Gospel reading;
3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).
This week, my photographs are from seven cathedrals or former cathedrals in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe. Earlier in this series, I have looked at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, and Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert. My photographs this week are from Aghadoe, Ardfert, Emly, Gort, Kilfenora, Kilmacduagh and Roscrea.
Since my appointment as Precentor of Limerick, Killaloe and Clonfert in 2017, I have tried to visit all the cathedrals and former cathedrals in the diocese. This morning (13 July 2021), my photographs are from the former Cathedral of Saint Alibeus in Emly, Co Tipperary.
The small village of Emly is 14 km west of Tipperary town. Local lore claims Emly was recorded by Ptolemy under the name of Imlagh as one of the three principal towns of Ireland.
Although it is a small town or village today, Emly once gave its name to a separate diocese. In the Roman Catholic Church, it has been subsumed into the Diocese of Cashel, while in the Church of Ireland Emly has been part of the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe since 1976.
Although there is no cathedral in Emly today, there is the site of the former Church of Ireland cathedral, and an interesting Roman Catholic parish church, designed in the Gothic Revival style by Ashlin and Coleman.
Saint Ailbe founded a monastery in Emly in the sixth century, although he is often claimed as the principal ‘pre-Patrician’ saint, alongside Saint Ciarán of Seir-Kieran, Saint Declan of Ardmore, Saint Abbán of Moyarney and Saint Ibar of Beggerin near Wexford.
He is venerated as one of the four great patrons of Ireland, and his feast day is 12 September. However, little that can be regarded as historically factual or accurate is known about Saint Ailbe.
In some Irish sources from the eighth century, he is regarded as the first bishop and later patron saint of Emly. Later Welsh sources say he baptised Saint David and some late Welsh sources give him a local Welsh genealogy, making him an Ancient Briton.
The life of Saint Ailbe is included in the Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, a Latin collection of the lives of mediaeval Irish saints compiled in the 14th century. Professor Richard Sharpe of Oxford suggests the Life of Ailbe was originally composed in the eighth century to advance the claims of the Éoganacht Church of Emly and that the Law of Ailbe (784) may have been a response to the Law of Patrick and the claims of Armagh.
Some accounts say Munster was entrusted to Saint Ailbe by Saint Patrick, so that he is called a ‘second Patrick and patron of Munster’ (secundus Patricius et patronus Mumenie). Many sources say he died in the year 527, and after his death, it is said, there was a succession of Abbots of Emly, some of whom were consecrated bishop.
Some of those abbots or bishops also exercised secular power at Cashel as Kings of Munster, and the cathedral and round tower were burned or pillaged in successive waves of attacks between 845 and 1192.
Olchobhair Mac Cionoatha, who succeeded in 847 as Bishop of Emly also became King of Munster with the support of Lorcan, son of the King of Leinster. He killed 1,200 Vikings who had plundered the monastery in 845, and another 1,700 Vikings were slain in a subsequent battle in which Olchobhair was killed.
The Diocese of Emly was one of the 24 dioceses established in Ireland at the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1118. When Moelmorda was Bishop of Emly, the abbey was plundered in 1123 and the mitre of Saint Ailbe, which had been preserved for many ages, was burnt.
The Diocese of Emly survived, however, and it remained the Metropolitan See of Munster until 1152. Its primacy was supplanted by Cashel in 1152, when its boundaries were formally marked out at the Synod of Kells, consisting of a small portion of present-day west Co Tipperary, east Co Limerick and south-east Co Clare.
Bishop Christian, who succeeded in 1236, was a benefactor to the cathedral church. But by 1363, the cathedral was in a bad state of repair. The diocese was neglected in the 15th century, when at least three of the bishops were absentees, spending their time in England as suffragan bishops, including Robert Windell, who was an assistant bishop in the dioceses of Norwich, Worcester and Salisbury, and Robert Portland and Donatus Mac Briain, who both assisted in the Diocese of Worcester.
Bishop Thomas O’Hurley (1505-1542), who swore the oath of Supremacy in 1539, erected a college of secular priests in the cathedral.
Raymond de Burgh or Burke was the last Bishop of Emly (1553-1562) before it was united with Cashel. He was appointed by the Pope in 1552, and he is recognised in both the Church of Ireland Roman Catholic successions. He died in 1562, and the diocese remained vacant till 1568, when Emly was united by an act of parliament to the Archbishopric of Cashel.
After the Diocese of Emly was united with Cashel, the town of Emly, once a market town, gradually declined, until it became a village.
The cathedral was in ruins in 1607, and although an order was made to rebuild it in 1611, not much work had been carried out by 1615. The nave was still in ruins in 1620, further damage was caused during the rebellion of 1641, when the Precentor of Emly, Robert Jones, was robbed of his books and property and dispossessed.
By 1680, the cathedral was still only partly roofed, and by 1693 it was described as being in a bad state of repair.
Once again, an order was made in 1715 to repair the cathedral, including the erection of a pulpit, a throne for the Archbishop of Cashel, and four stalls for the cathedral dignitaries. New windows were inserted in 1780, and a new glebe house was built close to the cathedral in 1782-1784. By then, the floors of the cathedral were well flagged on the north side, but there was an earth floor on the south side, there were no pews, and soon damp was seeping in through the ceilings and the walls and the plaster was flaking off.
Sir Richard Morrison submitted estimates for repairs to the cathedral in 1790, and by 1792 it was said to be in ‘elegant order.’ But the structural repairs were only temporary, and in 1811 the decayed roof and ceiling were beyond repair.
The Dean and Chapter decided to pull down the old cathedral and replace it with a new building. The old cathedral was pulled down, and services were held in the rectory while the Limerick-based architects, the brothers James Pain (1779-1877) and George Richard pain (1793-1838) rebuilt the cathedral in 1826-1827.
This was ‘a handsome structure of hewn stone, in the later English style, with a lofty spire’ at a cost of ‘£2,521.11.9., defrayed from a surplus of the economy fund, which had been for several years accumulating for that purpose’ (Samuel Lewis).
The work on the Pain brothers’ cathedral was supervised by the Tipperary-based architect Charles Frederick Anderson (1802-1869), who also designed Saint Patrick’s College, Thurles. He later became a Roman Catholic and emigrated to the US.
In the first half of the 19th century, the chapter of Emly consisted of a dean, precentor, chancellor, archdeacon, treasurer, and the four prebendaries of Dallardstown, Killenellick, Doon, and Lattin, and the diocese had 17 benefices, of which nine were unions of two or more parishes, and eight were single parishes.
Under the Church Temporalities Act, Cashel and Emly was united with Waterford and Lismore in 1833.
But Emly Cathedral was damaged in a storm in 1839, and although it was repaired in 1853, it was no longer functioning as a cathedral or even as a regularly used parish church.
The last Dean of Emly was William Alexander (1824-1911), who was dean in 1864-1867. However, this was a sinecure, and he and his wife, the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), never lived in Emly, living instead at their rectory in Strabane. He resigned as Dean of Emly in 1867 when he became Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and was a strong and vocal opponent in the House of Lords of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland. Later he became Archbishop of Armagh (1896-1911).
Meanwhile, no new Dean of Emly was appointed, and by 1876, the cathedral was completely disused.
The local Roman Catholic Parish priest, Canon Maurice Power, offered to buy the empty cathedral for £2,000, but his offer was rejected by Bishop Maurice Fitzgerald Day. Instead, the cathedral was demolished in 1877, and in 1880-1883 Canon Power built a new Roman Catholic parish church, dedicated to Saint Ailbe, beside the grounds of the cathedral.
With the reorganisation of dioceses in the Church of Ireland in 1976, the Diocese of Emly was transferred to the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe.
There is very little to see of the former cathedral today, although rising ground in the old graveyard beside Canon Power’s church marks the site of the cathedral.
In their book The Parish of Emly, Michael and Liam O’Dwyer write, ‘Despite the complete obliteration of the layout of the original site we may presume that the monastic enclosure coincided with the present graveyard. The presence of a well and an inscribed cross, both tradition ally associated with Saint Ailbe, and the fact that successive cathedrals occupied the area near the middle of the graveyard, are sufficient evidence for this assumption.’
A large sandstone cross in the churchyard with a rough marking is known as ‘Saint Ailbe’s Cross’ and is said to mark the saint’s grave. A well, called Saint Ailbe’s Well, is completely encased by a concrete cover and a manhole, but was once the focus of a local ‘pattern’ on 12 September.
Fragments of the mediaeval cathedral were brought back to Emly in 1960, including a stone tablet with the coat-of-arms of Sir Maurice Hurley, which had been erected in the cathedral in 1632 but removed in 1877, a memorial with a Latin inscription of 19 lines, and the former Baptismal font, which now stands outside the west doors of the church.
Built into the wall beside the gates into the graveyard, a stone inscribed in Latin reads: Locus in quem intras terra sancta est 1641 R Iones Pcent (‘The place you enter is holy ground 1641 R Jones Precentor’). Today’s Precentor in the joint chapter of the diocese had found evidence of one of my predecessors.
Matthew 11: 20-24 (NRSVA):
20 Then he began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent. 21 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.
For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that on the day of judgement it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom than for you.’
Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (13 July 2021) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for the Diocese of Egypt as they navigate the complex nature of being a ‘double-minority’ church. We pray that their youth ministry encourages young people to develop relationships with each other and with God.
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. http://nrsvbibles.org