13 April 2021

Saint Anne’s, Bohernabreena,
a Gothic Revival church by
JJ McCarthy near Tallaght

Saint Anne’s Church in Bohernabreena, Co Dublin, was designed by JJ McCarthy in 1868 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

During last week’s visit to Dublin for a medical consultation with my GP, I stayed within a 5 km radius of the house in Knocklyon and within my family’s ‘social bubble.’ But I also visited Saint Anne’s Church in Bohernabreena.

This is an imposing church in a simple Gothic Revival idiom, designed in 1868-1870 by the Dublin-born architect JJ McCarthy (1817-1882), who claimed the mantle of AWN Pugin in Ireland in the second half of the 19th century.

Although Saint Anne’s Church was closed last week due to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, I was able to spend time appreciating this church, which many see during funerals in Bohernabreena Cemetery nearby but seldom visit.

Saint Anne’s Church, Bohernabreena … the foundation stone was laid in 1868 by Cardinal Paul Cullen(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The foundation stone of Saint Anne’s was laid in 1868 by Cardinal Paul Cullen (1803-1878), Archbishop of Dublin (1852-1878), the church was dedicated in August 1870, and Saint Anne’s was consecrated by Cardinal Cullen’s nephew, Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran (1830-1911), Bishop of Ossory (1872-1874), and later third Archbishop of Sydney (1874-1911).

Between the laying of the foundation stone and the dedication of the church, uncle and nephew together attended the first Vatican Council in Rome in 1869. It is generally agreed that the definition of the doctrine of papal infallibility was based on Cullen’s proposal, and it has been suggested that Cullen’s proposal was drafted by Moran.

Saint Anne’s Church was completed in 1876. This is an imposing church in a simple Gothic Revival idiom, finely built and substantially in its original condition to this day. It is strategically located at a junction it dominates. Looking down on the valley below, it is difficult to realise that this is only a 10-minute drive from the noise and bustle of Tallaght Village.

The exterior stone used in building this church is granite that was cut and dressed in Glenasmole near the Featherbed.

The north porch in Saint Anne’s Church, Bohernabreena (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Anne’s is a detached, gable-fronted, cruciform plan church. It has a seven-bay nave with a polygonal apse at the east end, single-bay transepts, and a single-storey gabled entrance porch in the north wall, and a bellcote on the south transept.

There are snecked rock-faced limestone walls with angle buttresses. There is a pair of lancet windows in each bay, with either quatrefoil or hexafoil window above. There is a wheel window at the west front and each gable has a simple round plate tracery window.

The elaborate, pointed doorcase has roll mouldings and paired colonnettes within porch. There is a banded pitched slate roof with eaves corbels.

Although I did not get inside the church last week, I understand there is an impressive timber scissors truss roof on corbels. One stained-glass window depicts the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child and another depicts Saint Joseph.

The north side of Saint Anne’s Church, Bohernabreena (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

At one time, Saint Anne’s was a fashionable venue for Dublin church weddings, with couples then spending a one-night ‘honeymoon’ in Bray.

A Saint Anne’s Church Committee produced a book to mark the 150th anniversary of the church in 2018, looking back on the history of Saint Anne’s, with photographs, drawings and children’s poems.

Saint Anne’s Church, Bohernabreena, from the north-east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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