29 September 2020
During my visit to Buttevant, Co Cork, I visited the town’s two parish churches: Saint Mary’s Church (Roman Catholic) and Saint John’s Church (Roman Catholic), and also visited the remains of two mediaeval friaries are still extensive in Buttevant. The Augustinian Priory was founded at Ballybeg, 2 km south of Buttevant in 1229, and the Franciscan Friary in the centre of the town was founded in 1251. Both were founded and endowed by the de Barry family of Buttevant Castle, and both were dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury.
About 2 km south of Buttevant, Ballybeg Priory was founded in 1229 by Philip de Barry for the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine.
This priory was dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury, and the first prior was David de Cardigan who, like the priory’s founder, was Welsh. David Óg de Barry, the first Baron Barry, enhanced the revenues of the priory in 1251.
Ballybeg was built in the English Gothic style and was an extensive foundation. The priory church was 51 metres long and 7.9 metres wide. The cloister, on the south side of the church, was 27 metres square.
The ruins today include a long rectangular nave and chancel church with the remains of a cloister on the southside, a dovecote, a fortified tower at the west end of the church and – about 70 metres to the north of the church – a late mediaeval tower.
The most striking remaining feature is the crossing of the church. This was substantially reworked, as can be seen with the insertion of an arch that obscures the gothic windows. This arch may have been inserted to support the crossing tower.
The west wall of the church, which was incorporated into a tower that was added in the 14th or 15th century, has two fine lancet windows. There is evidence of a lean-to roof over a cloister walk on the south wall of the church. The west wall of the cloister also survives but not at its original height.
A block of masonry inside the cloister area may be the remains of a lavabo, a stone basin where monks washed their hands before communal meals.
A small circular tower near the south-east of the main priory ruins was a dovecote or columbarium, that housed 11 rows of roosting boxes for pigeons or doves. The meat and eggs of the birds were an important food source, and their droppings were highly prized as fertiliser.
Another indication of the importance of the priory is the remains of a fishpond. Unlike other manors, however, the priory of Ballybeg does not appear to have had an enclosure for deer.
The Augustinians Priory in Ballybeg owned over 2,000 acres of land, along with numerous rectories throughout the Diocese of Cloyne.
At the dissolution of the monastic houses during the Tudor Reformation, Ballybeg Priory was dissolved in 1541. In the reign of Elizabeth I, the property of the priory of Ballybeg passed into the hands of the Master of Ordinance, Sir George Bouchier.
In the reign of James I, it was held in the names of Elizabeth Norreys of Mallow, daughter of Thomas Norreys, Lord President of Munster, Sir John Jephson and Sir David Norton.
The last recorded titular Prior of Ballybeg was John Baptist Sleyne (1635-1712), Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, who died in exile at Lisbon. The priory was in ruins by 1750, and parts of the ruin are still used by a farm.
The ruins of the Franciscan Friary are in the centre of Buttevant, beside Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on the Main Street. The friary was also dedicated to Saint Thomas à Becket of Canterbury and housed a thriving community from the mid-13th to mid-16th century. It still possesses some of the earliest examples of Franciscan architecture in Ireland.
The first friary of the Observant Franciscans in Ireland was founded at Youghal, Co Cork, by Maurice FitzGerald in 1224. The friary in Buttevant was founded from Youghal and was the only Franciscan house in North Cork.
The Annals of the Four Masters record it was founded and endowed in 1251 by David Óg de Barry. The townland of Lagfrancis was assigned as the glebe for its mensa.
At first, the Franciscan friary had a rectangular church. A transept was added later, with a triumphal arch that faced south, towards the Barry family’s castle. The Bell Tower was added in the final phase and was placed equidistant from both gables of the friary.
The Franciscans were mendicant friars who lived by preaching and on charity. But their patrons in Buttevant, the Barry family, financed several major redevelopments of the friary. Over the centuries, these expansions showed the growing wealth and power of the Barrys.
By 1324, Buttevant friary consisted of a community of Irish and Anglo-Norman friars and was important enough to maintain its own stadium or house of studies.
However, the community was divided by tensions between the Anglo-Norman and Irish friars. A Papal commission investigated a decision to transfer a Gaelic friar from Buttevant to one of the Gaelic friaries, and the Friary in the 1320s, at the time when the friary in Buttevant had been transferred to a new jurisdiction, separating it from other Irish friaries and linking it to Anglo-Norman friaries.
The Cloyne diocesan records from the 1400s show that the law courts in Buttevant operated at the door of the friary church. In mediaeval Buttevant, the friary porch was the place to make legal agreements, renew or grant leases on Lady Day and Michaelmas, to swear fealty, to do homage and to marriages. These records also record the same legal functions at the front door of the parish church of Saint Bridget, the site later of Saint John’s Church, the Church of Ireland parish church in Buttevant.
When of the monastic houses were dissolved during the Tudor reformation in the 1540s, the Franciscan friary in Buttevant included the friary church, the conventual buildings, a garden, a cemetery, and a watermill.
James de Barry (1520-1581), 4th Viscount Buttevant, obtained a 21-year lease of the friary in 1571. At the outbreak of the Desmond Rebellions, he joined the rebels and when his estates were confiscated, the friary in Buttevant passed to Edmund Spenser in the Plantation of Munster. However, by 1615 or earlier, the friary had reverted to his son, David de Barry (1550-1617), 5th Viscount Buttevant.
Evidence shows the Franciscan friars continued to live at the friary in late Elizabethan and Jacobean Buttevant. Reports in 1615 and 1629 show the large friary church was still roofed and held many of the tombs of the local nobility, and the friary buildings ‘were spacious and numerous.’
At the Irish Rebellion in 1641, the Franciscan community in Buttevant welcomed the Confederate army of Lord Mountgarret, and the guardian, Father Boetius Egan, attended the Confederate Parliament in Kilkenny in 1642. But Murrough O’Brien, Earl of Inchiquin, assembled the Parliamentarian army in Buttevant and burned the friary church.
The friars returned to Buttevant at the Restoration. Two friars continued to live in Buttevant in the 18th century, and the friary was still being used by friars in 1731, according to a report presented to the House of Lords.
By 1800, only one old friar was left in Buttevant, and he died soon afterwards. The great Bell Tower, which had been silent for centuries but continued to dominate the friary ruins, collapsed in 1814, and greatly damaged an already fragile, crumbling building. By 1820, the Franciscan presence in Buttevant had come to end after almost 600 years.
Canon Cornelius Buckley, who built Saint Mary’s Church in the 1830s, removed the rubble inside the friary nave and chancel , and collected the architectural remnants that were inserted in the north wall, as a ‘sort of mediaeval museum for the curious,’ as the antiquarian, Richard Brash described it.
A large quantity of human remains and bones was collected at this stage. For some years, they were of ghoulish interest to visitors, but were later reburied in the crypt under the friary.
Samuel Lewis noted in his Topographical Dictionary in 1837, that the tomb of the founder, David de Barry, ‘is supposed to be in the centre of the chancel, but is marked only by some broken stones which appear to have formed an enclosure.’ Other families buried in the nave and chancel included the Barrys, Fitzgeralds, Lombards, and others.
The remains of the friary today include a church with a piscina and a number of elaborate carvings. The church and transept are complete, many stones belonging to the cloister arcade are stored in the upper vault under the choir, while there are good carved stones in the lower vault, and some windows in the church have been rebuilt.
Tuesday 29 September 2020
Saint Michael and All Angels
11 a.m.: The Festal Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)
Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick
Readings: Genesis 28: 10-17; Psalm 103: 19-22; Revelation 12: 7-12; John 1: 47-51.
May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
The name Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל, Mîkhā'ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaíl) means ‘who is like El (God)?’ It is meant to be a question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’
The name was said to have been the war-cry of the angels in the battle fought in heaven against Satan and his followers.
There are few references to Saint Michael by name in the Bible (Daniel 10: 13, 21, 12: 1; Jude 9; Revelation 12: 7-9; see also Revelation 20: 1-3). Yet he has inspired great works in our culture, from John Milton’s Paradise Lost to Jacob Epstein’s powerful sculpture at Coventry Cathedral and poems by Philip Larkin and John Betjeman.
In all our imagery, in all our poetry, in stained glass windows throughout these islands, Saint Michael is depicted and seen as crushing or slaying Satan, often Satan as a dragon.
Culturally, today’s feast day of Saint Michael and All Angels has been an important day for the Church: the beginning of terms, the end of the harvest season, the settling of accounts.
As we went picking blackberries around Ballysteen in recent days, I was reminded how, as children in West Waterford, we were told that Michaelmas Day is the last day for picking blackberries. It is a superstition shared across the islands, from Achill to Lichfield, from Wexford to Essex and Cambridge.
This is a day to allow the mind to wander back to childhood memories, and a time for contemplation and unstructured prayers, giving thanks for the beauty of creation. It is a day to think about and to give thanks for beginnings and endings, for starting and finishing, for openings and closings, for memories and even for forgetfulness.
Yet Michael is mentioned by name in the Bible only in the Book of Daniel, the Epistle of Saint Jude and in the Book of Revelation.
After a period of fasting by Daniel, Michael appears as ‘one of the chief princes’ (Daniel 10: 13). Michael contends for Israel and is the ‘great prince, the protector of your (Daniel’s) people’ (Daniel 10: 21, 12: 1).
In the Epistle of Saint Jude (verse 9), Michael contends with the Devil over the body of Moses, a story also found in the Midrash. In the Book of Revelation (Revelation 12: 7-12), we read of the war that ‘broke out in heaven’ between Michael and his angels and the dragon.
In the early Church, Saint Michael is associated with the care of the sick, an angelic healer and heavenly physician associated with medicinal springs, streams and rivers.
In the Middle Ages, he became the patron of warriors, and later the patron of police officers, soldiers, paratroopers, mariners, paramedics, grocers, the Ukraine, the German people, of many cities, including Brussels, Coventry and Kiev. It was only later that he became identified with Marks and Spencer.
Saint Michael was popular in the early Irish monastic tradition, and legends in Co Kerry – as I found out during my travels this summer – associate him with Skellig Michael and with guarding Saint Brendan during his sea voyages.
In the modern world, where angels and archangels are often the stuff of fantasy, science fiction and new-age babble, it is worth reminding ourselves about some Biblical and traditional values associated with Saint Michael and the Angels. Angels are nothing more than – but nothing less than – the messengers of God, the bringers of good news.
Saint Michael’s virtues – standing up for God’s people and their rights, taking a clear stand against manifest evil, firmly opposing oppressive violence and political corruption, while always valuing forbearance and mercy, clemency and justice – are virtues we should always keep before us.
There is no special preface in the Book of Common Prayer for the Eucharist at Michaelmas because in the Preface to the Eucharist we already declare: ‘And so with all your people, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying ...’
In his poem ‘At the chiming of light upon sleep,’ first drafted on Saint Michael’s Day 1946, the poet Philip Larkin links Michaelmas and a lost paradise with chances and opportunities he failed to take in his youth.
We should always be prepared, like Saint Michael and the angels to ask and to answer the question: ‘Who is like the Lord God?’ and to join the whole company of heaven in proclaiming God’s great and glorious name.
In a world that is increasingly filled with hatred and injustice, in a world witnessing the rise of political populism and right-wing racism, we are called once again to follow Saint Michael’s example, to took stock, even to take the opportunity to believe that things can be ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
John 1: 47-51 (NRSVA):
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ 48 Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ 49 Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 50 Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ 51 And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
Liturgical colour: White
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Woe is me, for I am lost;
I am a person of unclean lips.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Your guilt is taken away,
And your sin is forgiven.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
The Collect of the Day:
you have ordained and constituted the ministries
of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
Grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Introduction to the Peace:
Hear again the song of angels:
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. (Luke 2: 14)
The Post-Communion Prayer (Saint Michael):
Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The God of all creation
guard you by his angels,
and grant you the citizenship of heaven:
346, Angel voices, ever singing (CD 21)
332, Come let us join our cheerful song (CD 20)
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
Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.
Following my visit to Liscarroll and Liscarroll Castle at the end of last week, I continued on to the neighbouring town of Buttevant in north Co Cork.
Buttevant has a lengthy and interesting religious heritage. The old Gaelic name for the town, Cill na Mullach, means ‘Church on the Hillcocks’ or ‘Church on the Summits’ and was rendered in Latin as Ecclesia Tumulorum.
The survival of this Irish name indicates a church heritage in Buttevant that long predates the arrivals of the de Barry family and the Anglo-Normans at the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries.
Several other Irish placenames have been assigned to Buttevant by successive officials, including Cill na mBeallach, Cill na Mollach, and, more recently, Cill na Mallach, which might signify ‘the Church of the Curse,’ leading to confusion with nearby Killmallock in Co Limerick.
It was natural that I should visit the main ecclesiastical sites in Buttevant, including Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic parish church, Saint John’s Church of Ireland parish church, and the ruins of the Franciscan and Augustinian friaries.
One of the principal architectural features on the Main Street in Buttevant is Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic parish church. The foundation stone for this church was laid just two years after Catholic Emancipation in 1829. The Church was built with locally sourced fine limestone and took five years to complete.
The site, adjoining the ruins of the mediaeval Franciscan friary, was donated to the parish by Lord Doneraile, and the Board of Works provided a grant of £600. Saint Mary’s was designed by the Cork architect Charles Cotterel in the Gothic Perpendicular style, similar in style to Saint John’s, the neighbouring Church of Ireland parish church which was built in 1826.
Charles Cotterel – whose name is also spelt Cottrell and Cotterell – was working as an architect in Cork from the 1820s until the 1860s. He may have been the son of Edward Francis Cottrell, architect of Hanover Street, Cork.
He is listed as a builder or architect at Wandesford Bridge in Pigot’s Directory (1824) and as an architect in the Cork Constitution (1831), and in directories in 1842-1843, 1846 and 1863. His other works include a design for a steeple for Christ Church, Cork, and he was the architect of the Franciscan Church in Grattan Street, Cork (1830).
Saint Mary’s is the dominant building on the streets of Buttevant, standing in an interesting position between two terraces of houses and shops. Cotterel’s design makes full use of the site and incorporates a mediaeval watch tower from the Franciscan friary, at the east side.
Previously, Buttevant’s penal church was in Mill Lane, near the Mill. During a visit in 1828, Bishop Collins said, ‘the chapel was almost a ruin.’
Saint Mary’s was built and completed in two distinct phases between 1824 and 1864, and Father Cornelius Buckley was a driving force in this project.
It was difficult to find a suitable site for the church. Canon law did not permit a church site without freehold status to be consecrated as holy ground or to build a church on it. John Anderson had owned the manor of Buttevant and his bankruptcy caused confusion regarding the ownership and ancient rights of the property.
However, by 1831, Lord Doneraile had bought the Manor of Buttevant and donated the site for a new church.
The site included the ruins of the Franciscan friary with its graveyard to the north of the friary, in what had been its cloister, as well as the ruins of a Desmond tower and the vacant lots on the Main Street between two existing terraces.
A building committee was formed in 1829 to raise funds for the project. The initial estimate of £3,000 underestimated the scale of the project and merely built the walls and roof. The foundation stone was laid in 1831, the building was completed by Christmas 1835 and the church was consecrated on 6 October 1836.
The fundraising efforts continued, including a celebrity sermon by the temperance campaigner Father Theobald Mathew in December 1842.
But the Great Famine (1845-1849) intervened and the project stopped for several years.
A second building committee was formed to complete the church. Richard Brash was contracted in June 1855 to complete the interior of Saint Mary’s. This included building the sacristy and completing the interior by laying out the chancel, installing the ceiling and providing tracery and glass for three of the main windows.
Other additions included two side altars, 12 gothic seats and removing the bell from the new tower to the old one. The committee also enclosed the church grounds.
Due to the constraints of the site, the church is aligned on a north-south axis rather than the traditional east-west liturgical axis.
Saint Mary’s has a three-bay nave, a three-stage bell tower to street, west elevation, a 15th-century tower to the east elevation and a gable-fronted sacristy addition at the west elevation.
The features include the clock on the west tower, pointed arch windows with chamfered surrounds, sills, hood-mouldings and stained glass. There is panelled tracery in the windows in the transepts and the south gable, double-light windows in the nave, lancet arch windows in the tower, timber louvers blind windows, pointed windows, pointed arch chamfered door openings with carved timber panelled doors, and a Tudor arch door opening.
There are decorative floor tiles, a limestone threshold, a marble altar, altar rail and steps, and a mosaic floor, and a ribbed depressed Tudor arch ceiling with gold-leaf render decoration.
The retention of original features such as the carved timber panelled doors, the stained-glass windows and the intricate stonework, add character and charm to this building and to the town.
The earlier and now-closed Church of Ireland parish church, Saint John’s Church, is at the south end of the town, just off the Main Street and close to Buttevant Castle.
Saint John’s was built in 1826 and was designed in the Gothic Perpendicular style by the Limerick-based architect James Pain (1779-1877) and his brother George Richard Pain (1793-1838), who was based in Cork.
The church stands on a site that has been of religious significance in Buttevant for centuries, with the ruins of not one but two previous churches on the site – one dedicated to Saint Brigid and the other to the Virgin Mary.
Saint John’s Church was built in 1826 on the site of an older church, Saint Mary’s, that was built ca 1698.
Saint John’s was built at a time when John Anderson (1747-1820) and his son, James Caleb Anderson (1792-1861), were responsible for the increased wealth and redevelopment of Buttevant.
Saint John’s cost £1,476 18s to build and was financed by local contributions and a loan from the Board of First Fruits.
In his Topographical Dictionary (1837), Samuel Lewis describes Saint John’s: ‘The church is a handsome structure in the later English style, with a square embattled tower surmounted by a finely proportioned spire: it is situated near the river and within the castle demesne, and was built in 1826, near the site of an ancient church, of which there are still some remains, and on the site of another of more recent date …’
Saint John’s became the church for the larger Buttevant Union, and Bregoge, Kilbroney and Cahirduggan had joined the Buttevant Union in 1820. Several families from Doneraile, including Viscount Doneraile, the Revd F Crofts and James Grove White, joined the Buttevant community following an argument with their rector in Doneraile, the Revd H Somerville.
The south-facing window depicting the Sermon on the Mount is said to be the work of Stephen Adams Junior, whose father was a renowned stained-glass artist and designer and co-founder of the School of Arts and Crafts at Glasgow. The window is dedicated to those ‘who formerly worshipped in this Church,’ and contains a section of the window from Rheims Cathedral that was destroyed during World War I.
Saint John’s Church also has an early 18th century hatchment that was have originally in the now demolished church in Kilbolane, near Milford. The Kilbolane Hatchment has been identified it as the impaled arms of the Very Revd Jonathan Bruce and his wife, Mary (Prytherick). Bruce was curate of Kilbolane from 1708 to 1729, and also Dean of Kilfenora. Mary Bruce, for whom the hatchment was made, died in 1731.
Saint John’s continued in use until it was partially closed in 1980. It is now under the care of the Friends of Saint John’s who maintain it and use it for community events.