28 September 2021
After a busy Sunday morning, two of us decided to have lunch in Limerick and to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon, seeing some of the buildings we had missed, and some stained-glass work that had missed our attention in the past.
Two house guests recently gave us a present of the new edition of the Gazetteer of Irish Stained Glass, edited by Nicola Gordon Brown, David Caron and Michael Wynne (Newbridge: Irish Academic Press, 2021). Since then, we have been using this book as an invitation to see some of the great works of Stained Glass in Ireland.
One of the buildings we visited on Sunday afternoon is the Limerick City Gallery of Art on Pery Square, first built as the Carnegie Free Library and Museum, beside the People’s Park and close to Saint Michael’s Church.
The fanlight above the main door is work of An Túr Gloine Studio ca 1906, and depicts the civic coat-of-arms of the City of Limerick.
The fanlight is barely visible outside the building, and the design and colour are only truly appreciated from inside the porch.
Limerick City Library was established in Glentworth Street in 1893. The site for a new library was donated by the Earl of Limerick, ground landlord of the city, who owned the People’s Park at this time.
The new library was funded by the Scottish-born American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), who laid the foundation stone in 1903. The building was designed in the Neo-Hiberno-Romanesque style by the Dublin architect George Patrick Sheridan (1865-1950), and was completed by 1908.
Sheridan went on to design a number of other Carnegie libraries, including Lismore (1907-1910), Tallow (1909-1910), Ballyduff (1911) and Cappoquin (1909-1911), all in Co Waterford. He also supervised the building of the Parnell Monument in Dublin, unveiled by John Redmond in 1911.
Sheridan’s library in Limerick was built of local limestone with Killaloe slates used for the roof, and included a two-story residence for the City Librarian, which was used until 1973.
It was built in the Hiberno-Romanesque style, which is usually more associated with church buildings. It is thought that the main entrance was inspired by the great doorway of Glenstal Castle, now Glenstal Abbey.
The library was opened in 1906 and ten years later, Limerick’s first municipal museum was also opened in the same building when a group of prominent Limerick politicians, artists and patrons established the first Limerick City Collection of Art from various donations and bequests in in 1936.
The Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA) was established by three key figures in Limerick cultural history. Dermod O’Brien (1865-1945) from Foynes was a grandson of the Young Ireland leader William Smith O’Brien and the prominent Liberal statesman Thomas Spring Rice, first Lord Monteagle. O’Brien was one of the leading artists in Ireland and the longest ever-serving President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (1910-1945). Sean Keating (1889-1977) was also President of the Royal Hibernian Academy (1948-1962) and one of the greatest Irish artists of the 20th century. Joseph Mary Flood (1882-1970) was a barrister and writer who served as District Justice in Limerick City and North Tipperary in 1923-1947.
An extension to the rear of the library and museum became the home to the City Collection in 1948 as the Limerick Free Art Gallery.
The Library and Museum were transferred to larger buildings in 1985, and since then Limerick City Gallery of Art has occupied the entire Carnegie Building. There were two major renovations and expansions in 1999 and in 2010/2011, and the LCGA reopened in Pery Square in 2012.
Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting 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 for these few weeks is churches in Rethymnon on the island of Crete, where I spent two weeks earlier this month.
My photographs this morning (28 September 2021) are from the Church of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, near the bus station in Rethymnon.
The Church of Saint Constantine and Saint Helen is a modern, neo-Byzantine church above the bus station in Rethymnon. It dominates the streetscape on the western fringes of Rethymon, looking down on the waters of the bay formed by the western slopes of the Venetian Fortezza.
Few tourists notice this church as they wait to catch buses to Chania to the west or Iraklion to the east, and few notice it as they sit watching the sunset in the rocky bay below the Fortezza. But this is a functioning and busy parish church in this part of Rethymnon, built in the neo-Byzantine style in the 1960s.
Saint Constantine and Saint Helen, also known as ‘Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles,’ and Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen, are celebrated together because Helen is Constantine’s mother.
The Emperor Constantine, who is referred to as a ‘sovereign to the Christians,’ was the son of Constantius Chlorus, who ruled part of the Empire, and the Empress Helen. Constantine was born in 272 and he became Emperor when his father died in 306. In 312, he learned that his opponent, Maxentius, was marching to Italy. Shortly after that, it is said, Christ appeared to him in a dream and told Constantine about the cross and its significance.
After the dream, Constantine ordered that his victory banner be inscribed with the Cross and the name of Christ. On 28 October, he defeated Maxentius in battle. He rode on to and was declared to Emperor of the West, while his brother-in-law, Licinius, became Emperor of the East. Under rule, Christianity really took root. Constantine called the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325.
After Constantine’s victory, his mother, the Empress Helen, travelled to Jerusalem and is said to have found the True Cross.
Saint Constantine and Saint Helen share a feast day on 21 May 21. The Feast Day of the Elevation of the Cross is on 14 September, and this church in Rethymnon was busy two weeks ago with a large number of visitors to mark that feast day.
Luke 9: 51-56 (NRSVA):
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 Then they went on to another village.
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (28 September 2021, International Day for Universal Access to Information) invites us to pray:
We give thanks for the technology and resources which allow us to access almost any information we need. Let us pray for those who do not have such unrestricted access to information.
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