22 March 2018

An afternoon alone with
the Victorian windows in
Saint Michael’s, Limerick

The East Window in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick, brings together the work of the Pain Brothers, the Fogerty family and the Mayer studios (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

A few months ago [3 January 2018], I wrote about Saint Michael’s Church on the corner of Pery Square and Barrington Street in Limerick. But, at the time, I was looking at the church from outside.

Last week, I was at a meeting in the hall that has been fitted out at the west end of the church, below the surviving balcony, and I had an opportunity to spend time on my own admiring and photographing the Victorian stained-glass windows and the monuments.

Saint Michael’s was designed around 1836 by the Limerick-based architect James Pain and his brother, George Richard Pain, and was built by William Wallace. It was consecrated when it was completed in 1844. It was also known as ‘the sinking church’ as it was not built on bed rock and has sunk ever so slightly over the years.

The new chancel was added in 1877 at a cost of £2,000 by William and Robert Fogerty and the two side balconies were removed, reducing the seating capacity of the church to 800 and opening up the windows on the north and south walls of the church.

At the same time, the East Window, which was designed by James Pain for Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, was reduced in size to fill the space in new chancel area.

By the ingenuity of the architects, this cathedral window was reduced in dimensions, and was made suitable for the smaller Saint Michael’s Church.

Inside Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Chancel or East Window is composed of five lancets, measuring 3810 mm x 660 mm and 21 tracery-lights. Its patronage is the Matterson and Russell families, and the journal Architect (1878), names the donor as Spaight and the architect as Joseph Fogerty and Son.

The glass was made in 1878 by Mayer & Co, which had stained glass studios in Munich, London and New York. The company was founded in Munich in 1847 by Josef Gabriel Mayer (1808-1883) to revive and promote the church building trades of the Middle Ages. It started to manufacture stained glass in the early 1860s, meeting with such success that in 1865 it opened a branch in London. A New York branch was opened in 1888.

The firm is still active and managed by descendants of the founder. Mayer windows are found throughout Ireland, in both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland churches, including Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick, Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Askeaton, Co Limerick, and Saint Nicholas Church (Church of Ireland), Adare, Co Limerick.

The Chancel window in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick, depicts a series of ten parables:

The Sower and the Seed (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

1, the Sower and the Seed (left, lower);

The Prodigal Son (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

2, the Prodigal Son (left, upper);

The Good Samaritan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

3, the Good Samaritan (second from left, lower);

The Pharisee and the Publican (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

4, the Pharisee and the Publican (second from left, upper);

The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

5, the Wise and Foolish Virgins (third from left, lower);

The Talents (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

6, the Talents (third from left, upper);

The Unjust Steward (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

7, the Unjust Steward (fourth from left, lower);

The Labourers in the Vineyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

8, the Labourers in the Vineyard (fourth from left, upper);

Lazarus and the Rich Man (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

9, Lazarus and the Rich Man (right, lower);

The Pearl of Great Price (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

10, the Pearl of Great Price (right, upper).

Above the parables, the images in the tracery depict Moses and the Brazen Serpent (left); Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (centre); and Moses and the Tables of the Law (right).

The pulpit in Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Further work was carried out at Saint Michael’s by Charles W Harrison of Dublin in 1883 with the design of the mural monument in memory of Mrs Purdon Wilkinson.

Four windows in the nave were made in the London studio of Heaton, Butler & Bayne in 1889-1895, and share similar designs and patterns. They have two lancets, measuring 5300 mm x 630 mm, with one six-foil and two small tracery-lights, and illustrate Old Testament Priests, Prophets and Kings.

Heaton, Butler and Bayne produced stained glass windows from 1862 to 1953. The firm dates back to 1852, when Clement Heaton (1824-1882), from Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire, founded his stained-glass firm. He was influenced at an early stage by AWN Pugin, and first worked as a glass painter for William Holland in Warwick.

Heaton was joined in 1852 by the lead glazier James Butler (1830-1913) from Warwick. They worked alongside Clayton and Bell in 1859-1861, and were joined by the pre-Raphaelite Robert Turnill Bayne (1837-1915), who became their sole designer and a full partner in 1862. From then on, the business was known as Heaton, Butler and Bayne.

Their windows show strong design and colour, and often they are recognisable by the inclusion of at least one figure with Bayne’s features and long beard. The partners established a studio in Covent Garden, London, and became one of the leading firms of Gothic Revival stained glass manufacturers, whose work was commissioned by the principal Victorian architects.

A change in direction came with their production of windows to the designs of Henry Holiday in 1868, showing a more classical influence at work. A window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne installed in Westminster Abbey in 1868 is an early example of the work of Henry Holiday. In 1882, Heaton’s son, Clement J Heaton, became a partner.

At its height, the firm produced stained glass for numerous churches throughout the Britain and Ireland, including Saint Nicholas Church (Church of Ireland), Adare, Co Limerick; Straffan Church, Co Kildare; Saint Mary’s Church, Julianstown, Co Meath; and Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, and All Saints’ Church, Blackrock, in Dublin. In England, the partnership designed windows for many cathedrals, churches and college chapels, including Chester Cathedral, and Corpus Christi and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

On the south side of the Saint Michael’s Church, Limerick, the windows depict:

Elijah (left) and Elisha (right) in a window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

1, Elijah (left) and Elisha (right), ca 1895;

Aaron (left) and Melchizedek (right) in a window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

2, Aaron (left) and Melchizedek (right), 1895;

Isaiah (left) and Jeremiah (right) in a window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

3, Isaiah (left) and Jeremiah (right), 1889.

On the north side, the pair of lancet windows depict:

King David (left) and King Solomon (right) in a window by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

4, King David (left) and King Solomon (right), 1889.

The windows were restored in recent years, when Sheridan Stained Glass, based in Newtown, Kells, Co Kilkenny, was involved in cleaning and repairing the stained-glass windows and supplied and fitted the protective glazing.

As I was leaving Saint Michael’s Church, I noticed a discreet carved wooden plaque beneath the north side of the west gallery. It commemorates Richard Gerald Preston, who was killed in action in the Crete on 29 May 1941 at the age of 28.

Saint Michael’s Church was completely restored in 2013, and the church continues to provide a vibrant Anglican presence in the heart of Limerick.

For Saint Michael's Roman Catholic parish church on Denmark Street, Limerick, visit here.

A Limerick link with Crete … the plaque commemorating Richard Gerald Preston (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Palm Sunday, Holy Week and
Easter in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

The entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday … an icon by Theodoros Papadopoulos of Larissa, who is leading a workshop in Knock, Co Mayo, later this year on 8 to 13 October 2018

Sunday 25 March 2018, Palm Sunday, Lent 6:

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan.

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29; Philippians 2: 5-11; Mark 11: 1-11.

Hymns: 217, 134, 715.

Monday 26 March 2018, Monday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Evening Prayer, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

Hymn: 217.

Tuesday 27 March 2018, Tuesday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Late Evening Office, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin.

Readings: Psalm 71: 1-14; John 12: 20-36.

Hymns: 66; 218.

Wednesday 28 March 2018, Wednesday in Holy Week:

8 p.m.: Compline, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Reading: John 13: 21-32.

Hymn: 247.

Thursday 29 March 2018, Maundy Thursday:

8 p.m. : the Maundy Eucharist, with Washing of the Feet, Castletown Church, Kilcornan.

Readings: Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10), Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.

Hymns: 431, 432, 515.

Friday 30 March 2018, Good Friday:

12 noon to 3 p.m.: The Three Hours, Christ’s journey with the Cross to Calvary, Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Saturday 31 March 2018, Easter Eve:

8 p.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

10 p.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church, Kilcornan.

Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-8.

Hymns: 652; 258; 255.

Easter Day:

Sunday 1 April 2018, Easter Day:

9.30 a.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

11.30 a.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert.

Readings: Acts 10: 34-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15: 1-11; John 20: 1-18.

Hymns: 286, 78, 263.

Sunday 8 April (Easter 2):

9.30 a.m.: The Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

Wednesday 11 April (The Annunciation):

Because 25 March was Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation has been transferred in the Church Calendar to the week after Easter Week.

The Feast of the Annunciation will be marked with a celebration of the Eucharist at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 11 April in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 37:
Lichfield 5: Simon

‘Simon’ … Station 5 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In my meditations and reflections in Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations. The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opened in Lichfield Cathedral last month and continues until the end of Lent.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Lichfield 5: ‘Simon’

For these last two weeks in Lent, I am looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield. Since the age of 19, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home.

The Fifth Station in the Stations of the Cross has a traditional description such as ‘Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross.’ But in the Fifth Station in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there is one simple word in plain capital letters: ‘Simon.’

Simon of Cyrene is mentioned in three of the four Gospels as the man forced by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus carry his cross. He was from Cyrene in north Africa. But was he a black African, or was he like so many others there who were of Greek, Roman or Jewish descent?

Whether Simon was a Jew or a Gentile is perhaps irrelevant. His action reminds me of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations,’ an honour used to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

The term originates with the concept of righteous gentiles, a term used in rabbinic literature to describe non-Jews (ger toshav) who abide by the Seven Laws of Noah.

The Righteous are defined as non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Only a Jewish party can make a nomination. Helping a family member or a Jew convert to Christianity is not a criterion for recognition. Assistance has to be repeated and substantial, and it has to be given without any expected financial gain.

The largest number of Righteous is from Poland (6,706). Mary Elizabeth Elmes (1908-2002) from Cork was the first Irish person to be honoured among the Righteous by Yad Vashem. She saved at least 200 Jewish children under the age of 12 by smuggling them over the border between France and Spain in the boot of her car. There is also an application for another Irish person, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who rescued 6,500 Prisoners of War and Jews in Rome.

The Righteous are honoured with a feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the US (16 July), and a Righteous from Italy, Edward Focherini, was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2013.

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
Is there one who would not weep
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ’s dear Mother to Behold?


Stranger. Neighbour. Friend.
Simon takes up your cross. In so doing takes up his own.
Another innocent man joins the procession to Calvary.


Suffering Servant, beaten beyond human semblance, through the Good Samaritan you taught us that everyone in need is our neighbour. Help us to follow in your way of love that we do not need be compelled to take up the cross of another when they cannot bear their burdens alone. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, the soldiers are becoming impatient. This is taking longer than they wanted it to. They are afraid you will not make it to the hill where you will be crucified. As you grow weaker, they grab a man out of the crowd and make him help you carry your cross. He was just watching what was happening, but all of a sudden he is helping you carry your cross.

A prayer before walking to the next station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty, Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

Tomorrow: ‘Veronica’ … Station 6 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

Yesterday’s reflection

A memorial beside the Remuh Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Kraków to Jan Karski (1914-2000), who reported to the allies on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the extermination camps (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)