01 October 2018

Holy Cross Church gives
Charleville a spiritual
and architectural focus

Holy Cross Church stands on a prominent site in Charleville, Co Cork, at the junction of the Main Street and the Limerick-Cork road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

With the fading grandeur of Sanders Park or Charleville Park in danger of crumbling and its site boarded up and fenced off, the dominant architectural feature in the north Co Cork town is Holy Cross Church, which was built at the north end of Charleville’s Main Street in 1898-1902.

This Gothic Revival church was designed by the architect Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy, who worked mainly in Co Limerick and Co Cork. It stands on a prominent, elevated site at the junction of the Limerick-Cork road and presents a strong presence in the town.

Holy Cross Church is close to the parochial house, the Convent of Mercy and the first school run by the Mercy Sisters, and with the priests’ graveyard in front of the church they form a coherent church cluster or campus sometimes referred to as a ‘chapel village.’ The ornate piers and folding gates in front of the church continue the Gothic theme of this site.

Until Holy Cross Church opened in 1902, the Catholic people of Charleville were served by the small chapel built in Chapel Street off the Main Street in 1812, 17 years before Catholic Emancipation in 1829.

Inside Holy Cross Church, designed in the Gothic Revival style by the architect Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In 1896, the new parish priest of Charleville, the Very Revd Patrick O’Callaghan, and his parishioners commissioned a new church on an elevated site at the Limerick end of the Main Street. Early Ordnance Survey maps indicate the Zion Chapel, a Congregationalist church, stood on this site in the early 19th century.

Funds for building a new church were raised at home and abroad through the Irish emigrant network. Charleville residents who worked to raise funds and to support the project included Margaret and Isabella Croke, key members of the Sisters of Mercy, and Thomas Croke, later Archbishop of Cashel, as well as prominent Catholic families including the Binchy, the Clanchy and the Daly families. Professor Daniel A Binchy (1899–1989) from Charleville was the first Irish Minister to Germany from 1929 to 1932, and an uncle of the author and Irish Times writer Maeve Binchy. With Osborn Bergin and RI Best, he is famously the subject of a comic verses by Flann O’Brien.

The building committee sought ‘Architects of character and respectability’ to design a new church. Father O’Callaghan had been a curate in Cobh, and his first choice was AWN Pugin’s son-in-law, George Coppinger Ashlin (1837-1921), designer of many Gothic Revival churches throughout Ireland.

However, Ashlin declined the invitation, and instead the commission went to Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy (1848/1849-1909), the architect of several churches in Co Limerick and Co Cork.

Hennessy was born in Cork in 1848 or 1849 and died in Cork in 1909, but for much of his working life he lived in Limerick. He was working from 10 Glentworth Street, Limerick, from 1873 or before until 1887, and from 1888 or 1889 at 62 George’s Street (now O’Connell Street), Limerick. He published a pamphlet in 1875 that advocated the appointment of diocesan architects in the Roman Catholic Church, and he made this argument again in the Irish Builder.

The main entrance doors at Holy Cross Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Maurice Hennessy worked alongside his brother, S Hennessy, from 1878 or earlier, with offices in Cork and Limerick. In 1879, the Hennessy brothers collaborated on the design of a new tower and spire for Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Maurice Hennessy was appointed general engineer to the Limerick Union in January 1879, and later became engineer and architect to the Sanitary Board. He was invited to prepare plans in 1889 for new schools in connection with the Limerick Athenaeum, although there is no mention of the schools he designed being built.

His works include Saint Saviour’s Dominican Church in Baker Place, Limerick, houses on O’Connell Avenue, Limerick, a number of Roman Catholic parish churches and presbyteries in Co Limerick and Co Cork, and works on Saint John’s Cathedral, Limerick.

An inscription in a much later church at Timoleague, Co Cork, unfinished when Maurice Hennessy died in 1909, says it was designed by the Hennessy brothers. The undated chapel at Mount Saint Laurence cemetery, Limerick, is also said to be their work.

By 1896, the year he received the commission to design Holy Cross Church, Charleville, Maurice Hennessy was back in Cork and working from Trinity Chambers at 60 South Mall. He remained in Cork for the rest of his life, living at Dunkereen, Ballymurphy. He was appointed consulting engineer to Bandon rural district council in 1902 and worked from 74 South Mall, Cork, until he died in 1909.

In his design for Holy Cross Church in Charleville, Hennessy developed the Gothic Revival style made popular in Ireland by AWN Pugin (1812-1852) and JJ McCarthy (1818-1882). Hennessy’s plan was to accommodate a congregation of up to 1,000 people, and the church was built by the Fermoy-based contractor Denis Creedon.

The statue of the Good Shepherd above the entrance at Holy Cross Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Holy Cross Church is oriented west-east rather than east-west, so that the liturgical east is at the west end of the church, allowing the entrance to face the Main Street.

The church has a four-bay nave with a lean-to porch at the front, a four-stage tower, a single-bay, single-storey mortuary chapel, transepts and chancel at the west end, a three-bay, single-storey over basement sacristy.

There are carved limestone eaves brackets, copings and cross finials, a cut limestone chimneystack, copings and cross finials, decorative pinnacles, rock-faced rusticated limestone masonry walls with plinth course, string courses, and buttresses at the corners.

There are carved limestone plaques and a frieze at the front, and the façade is enlivened by alternately coloured voussoirs at the doors and windows. The carved limestone statue of Christ as the Good Shepherd over the entrance has an ornate limestone canopy flanked by trefoil-headed, double lancet windows surmounted by carved limestone quatrefoils with hood-mouldings that have label-stops with heraldic motifs. The inscription below this larger-than-life statue reads, ‘I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep.’

The Lamb on the Throne … a ‘Vesccia’ design in one of the upper transept windows (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The front gable also has an interesting rose window or Vesccia window, best seen from inside the church. It is oval in shape, a style seen in many English churches and cathedrals, including York Minster and Lincoln Cathedral, but rarely seen in Ireland. The ‘Vesccia’ design is also seen in the upper transept stained glass windows.

Inside, the length of the nave and chancel is 136 ft, the height form the floor to the apex of the nave is 60 and the width of the church across the transepts and nave is 80 ft.

The chancel in Holy Cross Church, including the Hardman or Meyer window, the Oppenheimer mosaics and the Earley High Altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The highly decorated interior reflects the Gothic Revival style of the exterior. The details include ornate tiling on the floor, elaborate carpentry in the timber-braced scissors-truss roof, mosaics in the chancel by Ludwig Oppenheimer, an original High Altar by John Earley and stained-glass windows from the workshops of John Hardman of Birmingham, Meyer of Munich, and the Harry Clarke studios.

The arcade of finely carved marble columns adds to the richness and colour to the interior. The side aisles have double lancet stained-glass windows, and clerestorey has cinquefoil windows.

The marble mosaic decorations in the chancel, in the Lady Chapel and the Sacred Heart Chapel were designed by Eric Newton in 1918-1921 and installed by Ludwig Oppenheimer of Old Trafford, and cost £1,500 at the time.

The steel cross in the chancel, decorated with the instruments of the Passion and hanging from the ceiling, is the work of Dom Henry O’Shea OSB of Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick.

The East Window, designed by the Hardman studios in Birmingham or the Meyer studios in Munich, depicts the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The ‘East Window’ in the chancel is the largest and most handsome of all the windows in the church. It depicts the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and was the gift of the Men’s Confraternity in 1900. There are differing accounts that the window is the work of John Hardman and Company, the Birmingham studios that were founded in 1838 and that worked closely with Pugin, and by the studio of Meyer and Company in Munich.

The other stained-glass windows in the church work include 12 windows from Joshua Clarke and Sons of Dublin, established in 1886. The project was overseen by Harry Clarke (1889-1931), and the windows were installed in 1919-1922. Local and global donors are named in the window dedications, including the Mannix, Daly, Cagney, Moran, Buckley, Binchy, and Lincoln families.

There are eight Clarke windows on the south side (liturgical north side) of the church:

The window depicting the Angel Guardian and the Good Shepherd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Angel Guardian and Good Shepherd;

The window depicting Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Columbcille (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Columbcille;

The Mannix window depicting the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph: the Mannix Memorial Window showing Saint Joseph recalls Daniel Mannix, Archbishop of Melbourne, who was born in Charleville, and is dedicated ‘In Memory of Joseph D Mannix/Ballydrheen [sic] Charleville RIP’;

The window depicting Saint Finbarr of Cork and Saint Catherine of Siena (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Finbarr of Cork and Saint Catherine of Siena.

There are four Clarke windows on the north side (liturgical south side) of the church:

The window depicting Saint Anastasia and Our Lady of Lourdes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Anastasia and Our Lady of Lourdes;

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, signed, ‘J Clarke and Sons, 33 Nth Frederick St, Dublin’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Monica and Saint Augustine.

The two other pairs of windows on this side of the church are:

The window depicting Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Veronica (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Veronica;

The window depicting Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Elizabeth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Elizabeth.

The ornate timber gallery has quatrefoil motifs over the entrance at the end of the nave.

The new church was consecrated and opened on 4 May 1902 by Robert Browne, Bishop of Cloyne, who was born in Charleville.

The elaborate, tall tower with a spire and belfry, reaching a height of 150 ft, was not completed until 1910.

The mortuary chapel was added in 1918 and the label stops to the doorway are carved with the initials RIP. It was added to the church in memory of Father Patrick O’Callaghan, Parish Priest of Charleville (1895-1918), who had commissioned the church and who died that year. Since 1989, this chapel has been used for private prayer as the Adoration Chapel.

Later work in the church includes the organ base designed by Ashlin and Coleman. The organ has a total of 1,421 pipes.

The new and the old … the new altar and the old High Altar in the sanctuary, redesigned and enlarged in 1986 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The chancel area was redesigned and enlarged in 1986 by the architect PL McSweeney of Cork and the sculptor Michael Sheedy of Midleton, Co Cork. The Altar at the front of the chancel is formed of two solid blocks of masonry, engraved with images of the loaves and fish. The paving on the chancel floor and the chair are made from limestone, and the original High Altar can still be seen.

The church and tower, with their unifying Gothic theme, continue to provide the town of Charleville with a spiritual and architectural focus.

Sunday Masses: 7.30 p.m. Saturday (Vigil Mass); 10 a.m., 12 noon and 7 p.m.

Details of the mosaics in the chancel (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup
at celebrations in Askeaton

Lifting the Liam MacCarthy Cup with Willie O’Meara and Father Seán Ó Longaigh in Askeaton on Sunday afternoon

Patrick Comerford

I lifted the Sam Maguire Cup in Ardagh when the All-Ireland Football Cup was brought to Ardagh in west Limerick ten days ago [21 September 2018] as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations marking the discovery of the Ardagh Chalice and the Ardagh Hoard in 1868.

But I got to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup yesterday when members of the winning Limerick team brought the All-Ireland Hurling Cup to Askeaton yesterday [30 September 2018].

The Liam MacCarthy Cup was in Askeaton yesterday as part of the Ninth Memorial Day organised by Eas Geithne Cumann Lúthcleas Gael (Askeaton GAA).

Earlier in the day, the cup was in Saint Mary’s Church (RC), Askeaton, for the Memorial Day Mass. And when the cup was brought to the GAA Field, near the Rectory, there was an opportunity to lift the cup with my neighbour and colleague, Father Seán Ó Longaigh, Parish Priest of Askeaton, and Willie O’Meara, who plays full-back on the Limerick winning team and on the Askeaton team.

The Liam MacCarthy Cup – sometimes called the Liam McCarthy Cup – is the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship cup. It was first won by Limerick in 1923 in the delayed 1921 All-Ireland hurling final.

The original 1920s trophy was retired in the 1990s, and a new identical trophy has been played for since 1992. The original cup is in the GAA Museum in Croke Park.

Kilkenny hold the record for winning the cup on the most occasions. Kilkenny held the All-Ireland title for four consecutive years from 2006 until 2009.

What’s in there? … With Willie O’Meara and the Liam MacCarthy Cup in Askeaton on Sunday afternoon

The original Liam MacCarthy Cup commemorates Liam MacCarthy (1853-1928). William (Liam) MacCarthy was born in Southwark, London, on 21 May 1853 to Irish parents who had emigrated from Ballygarvan, Co Cork. His father, Eoghan MacCarthy, was known as Capall (‘horse’) MacCarthy because of his great strength. His mother, Brigid, was from Bruff, Co Limerick.

A young Liam MacCarthy played hurling on Clapham Common and Irish was the first language in the family home. He first worked as a blacksmith’s hammerman and then as a signals’ fitter on the railways. He married Alice Padbury (1852-1928) in Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, in 1875, when he was 22, and they had four sons.

His wife’s family owned a fancy box factory on Blackfriars Road, Southwark, and Liam joined the family business. A few years later he set up a cardboard box factory in the family home. The box-making business prospered and moved to Haymerle Road, Peckham, where it was called Saint Brigid’s Works, named after his mother.

He was prominently involved in setting up a GAA county board in London in the 1890s, and was chair of the London GAA county board from 1898 to 1907. Other members of the board included Michael Collins and Sam Maguire, who succeeded him in the chair in 1907. MacCathy chaired the board again from 1909 to 1911.

The family had moved to Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich, and in 1900 Liam MacCarthy was elected in the Peckham North Ward to Camberwell Borough Council. He was a member of many council sub-committees, including those involved with Public Health, Libraries and Sick Benefit, and he kept his council seat for 12 years.

With two of his sons, he commissioned a trophy in the form of a mether or mediaeval Irish drinking cup in 1920. This cup was offered to the GAA central council in Croke Park and since then was presented to the winners of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Cup.

His cup replaced the Great Southern Cup as the All-Ireland trophy, and was first won by the Limerick team that defeated Dublin 8-05 to 3-02 in the 1921 All-Ireland Hurling Final. It had been delayed because of the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War that followed and was played on 4 March 1923.

Liam MacCarthy were horrified by the Civil War that followed Irish independence. He died a poor man in 1928, the year the Sam Maguire Cup was presented to the GAA for the All-Ireland Football Cup. MacCarthy was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Dulwich Cemetery. A headstone was only erected over his grave 1996, and to this day he has no memorial in Ireland.

Meanwhile, the original Liam MacCarthy Cup was retired in 1992, when Tipperary was the last country to claim the original. An exact replica was produced and has been awarded on an annual basis since then. Kilkenny was the first team to win the new MacCarthy Cup. The replica was crafted by James Kelly in Kilkenny.

The first title win for Limerick was in November 1898, when the 1897 final was won by Kilfinane in Tipperary town. The second title came in 1918, just 100 years ago, when Newcastle West were winners. Limerick’s third title was won in 1923, when Limerick became the first winners of the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the delayed 1921 final. Limerick won a fourth All-Ireland title in 1934.

It was the beginning of the Mick Mackey Era, Limerick was the winning team again in 1936, and he was the captain in 1940 when he won his third All-Ireland medal and Limerick won a sixth title.

Limerick reached its first All-Ireland Final in 33 years when the county won its seventh title in 1973, defeating Kilkenny. Limerick reached the final in 1974, 1980, 1994, 1996 and 2007, but lost out each year.

This year, a young Limerick team defeated Galway 3-16 to 2-18 in the All-Ireland Hurling Final in Croke Park on Sunday 19 August and after 45 years brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup back to Co Limerick, the home county of Liam MacCarthy’s mother.

An array of cups and trophies in the GAA Field in Askeaton on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)