12 August 2021
Many people arriving in Dublin from the south or south-west are familiar with the sight of the large Oblate church on Tyrconnell Road in Inchicore. But most probably pass it, and I visited the Church of Mary Immaculate for the first time earlier this month.
The height and scale of the church, its prominent location, and its large capacity are reflect the confidence of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The setting of the church is enhanced by the cast-iron railings and gateway, and a replica grotto of Lourdes behind the church once drew large numbers of visitors. The clock facing Tyrconnell Road adds to the social function of the building.
Before the Oblates arrived in Inchicore, the Sisters of Mercy founded a house and school in Goldenbridge in 1855. The Richmond Barracks, with 1,600 soldiers, was also a significant presence in the locality.
The railway company had built 148 cottages, housing 850 people, who became the core of the new parish. Many of railway workers were brought from foundries and railway works of England. Kilmainham became a civil township in 1867-1868, and it was only incorporated into the city in 1900.
The Oblate Fathers came to Dublin from France in 1856. In his search for a suitable location for the first Oblate foundation in Ireland, Father Robert Cooke was advised by the Augustinians of Saint John’s Lane, Dublin to go to the Kilmainham area. At the time, the area was within the parish of Saint James and included Goldenbridge, Inchicore and Kilmainham, but was outside the limits of the city of Dublin.
Part of the motivation in establishing the Oblate presence in Inchicore may have been to challenge the presence of the new Model School, which opened in 1853 to opposition from Archbishop Paul Cullen of Dublin. The Oblates bought a 26-acre farm south of the Great Southern and Western Railway Works in Inchicore.
A new Oblate school opened in 1857, taking many children from the Model School, and offering evening classes for adults and young apprentices. In recent years, the Model School has also passed into the management of the parish priest of Inchicore.
An early timber church was built by the workers from the nearby Railway Works. The timber church was 70 ft long and 27 ft wide was completed by voluntary labour in four days. Generation of railway workers have since maintained a relationship with the Oblates.
The new Church of Mary Immaculate was designed by AWN Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921). It is oriented on a south-west/north-east axis, instead of the liturgically traditional east-west axis.
The foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Paul Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, on 9 July 1876. The nave and aisles were completed when the new church officially opened on 8 December 1878. Dr Francis Moran, Bishop of Ossory and later Cardinal Archbishop of Sydney, celebrated the High Mass and Bishop Patrick Dorrian of Down and Connor preached. The famous Dominican preacher Father Thomas Burke preached in the evening.
However, the work soon stopped because of a shortage of funds. Eventually, the foundation stone of the chancel was laid in May 1892 and, with the two side chapels, blessed by Archbishop William Walsh. The chancel was opened on 8 December 1899 and altars dedicated to the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph were added in 1901.
Although the church was still incomplete, it was consecrated by Archbishop William Walsh of Dublin on 3 December 1903.
The bell towers, transepts, confessional recesses, and the boundary wall, dating from 1930, were designed by Ashlin and Coleman.
The highly decorative interior contains fine craft work in the stone carvings, mosaics and wood carvings. The high altar and communion rail are the work of the Birmingham sculptor, James Pearse, father of the 1916 leader Padraig Pearse. The mosaics of angels around the altar, on the sanctuary walls and floor and around the chapels are the work of the Ludwig Oppenheimer studios.
The church has a double-height, seven-bay nave, with lean-to side-aisles. The hexagonal chancel was built in 1899, the side chapels were added 1901, and the four-stage bell towers with conical spires and the two two-bay transepts and sacristy were built in 1930. At the same time, the sacristy was enlarged and electric lighting was installed along with a public address system.
The mosaics in the two transepts were added in 1954. The church was refurbished and the roof rafters replaced in 1991-1992.
The walls are of rock-faced rusticated limestone, with stepped buttresses at the side aisles and a chamfered plinth course. A carved limestone string course forms a continuous sill course at the side-aisles. The towers have trefoil-headed lancet openings with carved surrounds and timber louvered vents.
There are Tudor arch windows in the clerestory, and pointed arch windows in the side aisles, chancel and transepts, each with a chamfered limestone surround, carved limestone hood moulding and tracery.
The entrance gable and chancel gable have hexafoil windows. There are pointed arch windows at the entrance elevation, with roll moulding and carved limestone surrounds, and both windows have carved limestone tracery and stained-glass windows.
The gable-fronted porch has polished granite colonnettes supporting roll mouldings, there are twin timber battened doors, and a carved limestone statue in the tympanum supported on a trumeau.
Inside, the church has a double-height nave and chancel with having timber pointed arch coffered vaulting in the nave and a rib vaulted ceiling in the chancel.
There is a carved marble altar, reredos and communion rail in the chancel, and a marble pulpit near the chancel.
Also worth noting are the plastered walls with corbelled colonnettes, the pointed arcades at the aisles and transepts, the circular-profile polished granite columns with carved foliated capitals, the gilt mosaics on the walls of the chancel and transepts, the stained-glass windows, the carved timber pews and confessional boxes, and the choir gallery with a pipe organ above the glazed arcaded internal entrance porch.
The mosaic floor in the porch bears the monogram ‘OMI’: Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
The site forms part of a group of related structures, including the adjacent House of Retreat and a school, and has considerable social importance in the community in Inchicore.
A replica of the grotto of Lourdes was built in reinforced concrete behind the church in 1928 and opened on 11 May 1930 with 100,000 people present. The pointed arcade joining the church and the Oblate House of Retreat was built in 1946 and includes a large bronze statue of Saint Peter.
The Oblate House of Retreat is a large and imposing building. The foundation stone of the house was laid in 1858, and it was completed in 1862 to the designs of John Bourke, reflecting the style of the Oblate scholasticate at Montolivet, Marseilles, built in 1852-1856.
The Oblate cemetery was moved to the present site in 1891. The bodies of Oblates buried at Cahermoyle, Co Limerick, and Piltown, Co Kilkenny, were moved there when those houses closed.
Behind the church, the Rosary Way was inspired by Father Ciaran Earley. The ceramicist Helena Brennan, in a project partially funded by a grant from Dublin City Council, produced 20 white porcelain ceramic panels in bas-relief, displayed on plinths, in 2001-2004.
At Irish independence in 1921, Richmond Barracks was vacated by the military and was used for housing, later known as Keogh Barracks, and replaced by Saint Michael’s Estate. The church became part of a separate parish in 1972.
Today, the Oblate community in Inchicore includes the provincial leadership team, the parish team, the MAMI team, the Mission Development Office, a small group of preachers, and a number of retired Oblates. It also houses the Provincial Archives and Oblate Missionary Record Office.
Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. 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 USPG prayer diary.
My theme this week is seven college chapels in Cambridge, and my photographs this morning (12 August 2021) are from Gonville and Caius College.
The chapel in Gonville and Caius College claims to be the oldest purpose-built college chapel in Cambridge that is still in use. The core of its walls dates from ca 1390 and every century since has contributed something to the building.
Gonville and Caius (pronounced “Keys”) is the fourth oldest college in Cambridge. It is said to own or have rights to much of the land in Cambridge, and several streets, such as Harvey Road, Glisson Road and Gresham Road, are named after alumni.
Gonville Hall was founded in 1348 and dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Edmund Gonville. A permanent licence to celebrate the Divine Offices was granted by Pope Boniface IX in 1393, when the chapel was first completed.
The first Master was John Colton, or John of Tyrington. He was born in Terrington St Clement in Norfolk ca 1320, and began his career working for William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich. Some sources say he had a degree in theology from the University of Cambridge, and that in 1348 he received a degree of Doctor of Canon Law (DCL) when he became the first ever Master of the new Gonville Hall.
John Colton first came to Ireland as Treasurer, in 1373, and became Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral the following year, although the Patent Roll shows he was still only a deacon. Colton was also Vicar of Saint Mary’s, Wood Street, London, and in 1377 he was also appointed a Prebendary of York Minster, although he appears to have held that office for only a year.
He was Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1379-1382, and became Archbishop of Armagh in 1383. He accompanied the Justiciar of Ireland, Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March, on an expedition to Cork in 1381. Mortimer died on that expedition and Colton briefly replaced him as Justiciar.
Colton is remembered for writing or commissioning the Visitation of Derry, although the actual author was probably his secretary, Richard Kenmore. This is an account of his ten-day tour of the Diocese of Derry when the see was vacant.
Colton was busy as archbishop, reconsecrating churches and graveyards, settling a bitter property dispute and hearing matrimonial causes. His most colourful action may have been his injunction to the Abbot of Derry instructing him to refrain from cohabitating with his mistress ‘or any other woman.’
Archbishop Colton died in Drogheda on 27 April 1404 and was buried in Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda. He was described as ‘a man of great talent and activity, of high reputation for virtue and learning, dear to all ranks of people for his affability and sweetness of temper.’
The college was re-founded as Gonville and Caius College In 1557-1558 by Dr John Caius with by a charter from Philip and Mary.
The original chapel was extended in 1637, and a fund was opened in 1716 for its repair and improvement. The stone facing on the exterior walls dates from this period and from 1870, when the east end was substantially rebuilt in Byzantine style and the whole building was extensively refurbished by Alfred Waterhouse. The Byzantine style of the apse contrasts with the rest of the chapel.
The organ gallery was once the Master’s private oratory. The admission of a Master or of Fellows or Scholars always takes place in the Chapel.
Charles Wood was born in Armagh in 1866 and studied composition under Charles Villiers Stanford before going on to study music in Cambridge. He became an organ scholar at Gonville and Caius College in 1889, became organist in 1891, and was elected a Fellow in 1894, the first fellow in music to be elected by a Cambridge college.
He succeeded Stanford as Professor of Music in Cambridge in 1924, but died two years later in 1926. His students included some of the great composers of the 20th century, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Michael Tippett and Thomas Beecham.
As for Archbishop Colton, his statue, with the angel holding his coat-of-arms stands as Archbishop of Armagh, can be seen on the side of Saint Michael’s Court, owned by Gonville and Caius. Saint Michael’s Court stands opposite the main college building and Trinity Lane on the corner of Rose Crescent and Trinity Street, once the High Street of Cambridge, on land surrounding Saint Michael’s Church.
Saint Michael’s Court was built in 1903 by the architect Aston Webb, and was completed in the 1930s.
Matthew 18: 21 to 19: 1 (NRSVA):
Matthew 18: 21 - 19: 1 21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22 Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
23 ‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” 29 Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” 30 But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. 35 So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’
1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.
Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (12 August 2021, International Youth Day) invites us to pray:
Let us pray for young people across the world. May we listen to their concerns and ideas, as they face an uncertain and challenging future.
The Gate of Honour at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (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. http://nrsvbibles.org