28 April 2011

From Saint Andrew to Saint Peter, from baroque to gothic

Old and new reflected in glass ... in the afternoon sunshine in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

I was one of the speakers today at the annual commemoration of International Workers’ Memorial Day, organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions This year, the commemoration took place in the Irish Labour History Museum in Beggar’s Bush, Dublin. Workers Memorial Day is part of the May Day Festival in Dublin that runs until 7 May.

The Irish Labour History Museum is housed in the former Beggar’s Bush Barracks on Haddington Road, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The other speakers today included Bishop Emanon Walsh, the President of Congress President, Jack O’Connor, Martin O’Halloran of the Health and Safety Authority, Noleen Blackwell of FLAC, Brian Whiteside representing humanists, Caroline Fahy of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, and John Redmond of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Later, in the warm bright sunshine of the afternoon, I strolled back into the city centre, to photograph Saint Andrew’s Church in Westland Row, where my grandfather, his brothers and his sister were baptised in the 1850s and 1860s, and later two of his children.

The interior of Saint Andrew’s Church, Westland Row, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Saint Andrew’s was designed by the architect James Bolger and built between 1832 and 1837 in the classical style that was still fashionable prior to the Gothic Revival in the mid-19th century, echoing the great baroque churches of Rome. Daniel O’Connell was involved in raising much of the funds for building the church, and donated the baptismal font at which my grandfather was baptised.

From there, it was on through Trinity College and up through Dawson Street and Saint Stephen’s Green to Redmond’s Hill, to photograph the site of the now-demolished house where my grandfather was born in 1867.

Old and new reflected in glass ... in the afternoon sunshine at the junction of Aungier Street and South Great George’s Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Then I strolled back down Augier Street, where my grandfather’s first cousin, Anne Comerford lived at No 10 when she married James Reilly in 1859. These were the streets that inspired the local rector’s daughter, hymn-writer Catherine Mary MacSorley, when she wrote the hymn, We thank thee, O our Father, in 1890 for the children of Saint Peter’s School in nearby Camden Row.

By then, Stephen’s father, James Comerford, and his family had moved to the more leafy suburbs of Ranelagh. But the hymn describes the conditions in this part of Dublin just over two decades after Stephen Comerford was born there:

And in the dusty city,
where busy crowds pass by,
and where the tall dark houses
stand up and hide the sky;
and where through lanes and alleys
no pleasant breezes blow,
e’en there, O God, our Father,
thou mak’st the flowers grow.

The tower and spire of Saint Peter’s Church, Phibsboro ... the work of Ashlin and Coleman (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Later in the afternoon I was in Saint Peter’s Church in Phibsboro for the funeral of a friend’s mother. Saint Peter’s Church, on the junction of Cabra Road and North Circular Road, was built in the 1860s in the Decorated Gothic style on the scale of a small cathedral.

The sanctuary, chancel, transepts, sacristy, cloisters, side chapels and a central tower were designed by Hadfield and Goldie. But the central tower was later taken down and the nave, aisles and porch were completely rebuilt in 1902-1907 to designs by Ashlin and Coleman, heirs to the Pugin school of architecture in Ireland. They also designed the spectacular spire, which is 200 ft high and the highest in the city.

The Sacred Heart window in Saint Peter’s ... one of Harry Clarke’s early masterpieces (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

The Sacred Heart window, originally designed for the mortuary chapel, is considered to be one of Harry Clarke’s early masterpieces. The Adoration of the Sacred Heart (1919) is a three-light window depicting the Sacred Heart, Saint Margaret Mary and Saint John the Evangelist. This window was incorporated into the design of a new Chapel of Adoration which opened two years ago.

Saint Andrew and Saint Peter – the first-called of the apostles and his brother – both in one day. And two contrasting essays in church architecture!

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