Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Glengarriff and the three
churches that bookend
the village at each end

The main street of Glengarriff is lined with colourful bars, restaurants, shops and cafés (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

The small town of Glengarriff in West Cork, the gateway to the Beara Peninsula and the access point to Garinish Island, is colourful in the summer sunshine.

Two of us had arrived there from Skibbereen and Bantry on our road trip or ‘staycation’ in Co Kerry and West Cork for the third of three two-night stays on the Wild Atlantic Ways, with plans for a boat trip to Garinish Island, with its microclimate and Italian-style gardens, and to visit the Blue Pool.

It is truly a one-street town, but it is a colourful street, lined with colourful bars, restaurants, shops and cafés. And the town is ‘bookended’ by churches, with the Sacred Heart Church and the former Roman Catholic parish church standing opposite each other at the west end, and Holy Trinity Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church, on a bend on the road at the east end of the town.

The Sacred Heart Church, a fine Gothic Revival style church, was consecrated in 1902 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Roman Catholic parish church, the Sacred Heart Church, is a fine Gothic Revival style church and it is representative of the style of Catholic parish churches built at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The church was built in 1902, and its plan and decorative detail demonstrate a move away from the earlier, more modest style of churches built in the first part of the 19th century. The church shows fine craftsmanship and attention to detail, seen in the masonry work and the variety of windows filled with stained glass.

The church is oriented from north-east to south-west. It is a cruciform-plan, gable-fronted, double-height Gothic Revival church, with a four-bay nave, single-bay transepts, a single-bay chancel at the north-east or liturgical east end, and porches at the transepts and the sacristy.

Inside the Sacred Heart Church, looking towards the liturgical west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

There is a carved stone bellcote at the south-west or liturgical west end, and the other architectural features include buttresses and quoins.

The paired pointed arch openings in the nave have quarry glazing and stained-glass windows with block-and-start limestone surrounds and hood moulding with squared stops.

The chancel at the east end has a pointed arch stained glass window, with a cinquefoil rose window above.

At the front, there are double-leaf timber battened doors with decorative cast-iron strap hinges.

The first parish church in Glengarriff was built ca 1839 on a site donated by the Marquess of Lansdowne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Across the street, on the south side of the road, Glengarriff Hall was built ca 1839 as the first parish church in Glengarriff on a site given by Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice (1780-1863) 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, who also donated £50 towards the building costs.

Lord Lansdowne, who owned extensive estate throughout Co Kerry, was the landlord in neighbouring Kenmare, and at the time he was a member of Lord Melbourne’s Cabinet as Lord President of the Council, an office he held on three occasions. A distinguished statesman, he also served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

This church was plain in style and modest in scale. It was deconsecrated in 1902 when a new parish church was built across the road, and is now used as a community hall. Despite extensions, it retains its character, particularly in the windows.

Holy Trinity Church, Glengarriff, was designed by Welland and Gillespie in the 1860s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Holy Trinity Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church in Glengarriff, was designed by Welland and Gillespie, architects to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and built in 1862-1863.

Tourism was developing rapidly in Victorian Glengarriff. But, until the 1860s, there was no Church of Ireland parish church in the village. Sunday services were held at 12.30 in the Eccles Hotel, with celebrations of the Holy Communion six times a year, and an average of five communicants.

The curate, the Revd Vincent Lamb, nominated jointly by the neighbouring Vicar of Kilmocomoge (Bantry) in the Diocese of Cork, and Vicar of Kilcaskin (Ardrigoole) in the Diocese of Ross.

The idea of building a new church was proposed by the Archdeacon of Cork, the Ven SM Kyle, who wanted to build a church in this romantic locality, and he collected the greater portion of the funds.

The site for a new church was given by Richard White (1800-1868), 2nd Earl of Bantry, on 13 April 1861, and Glengarriff was formed as a district curacy on 31 July 1861, by the Vicars of Kilcaskin and Kilmocomoge, who agreed to pay the Curate an annual stipend of £35.

The new church, built in 1862-1863, was consecrated by Bishop John Gregg on 25 June 1863. The Revd Fred Garrett was the last Rector of Glengarriff before the church closed.

The church had a three-bay nave, a lower single-bay chancel at the east end, a vestry and an entrance porch. The church appears to retain many of its original features, including the high standard of masonry work and the attention, with a variety of windows, and a bell tower and slated spire.

In recent years, it was in use as café. But when I tried to visit this former church during that two-day stay in Glengarriff the site was closed off to visitors and the growth in surrounding trees made it difficult to photograph the building.

The Blue Pool is one of the many colour attractions of Glengarriff (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
32, Monastery of Saint Anastasia, Crete

The Monastery of Saint Anastasia the Roman amid the olive groves on the slopes above Tsesmes and Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

My photographs this morning (30 June 2021) are from the Monastery of Saint Anastasia, near Rethymnon, continuing a week of photographs from monasteries in Crete.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence, and earlier in this series morning reflections, I have also visited Arkadi Monastery (1 May 2021) and the former Monastery of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai in Iraklion (8 May 2021).

The main church in the Monastery of Saint Anastasia looks largely unfinished (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From the neighbouring villages of Platanias and Tsesmes, to the east of Rethymnon, the road leads on to the old road to the Venetian village of Maroulas. Another sign points to the road to the Monastery of Saint Anastasia the Roman.

The sign promises it is only a 1.5 km walk, but when I have walked along the mountain track to the monastery in summer sunshine, through the olive groves and the rustic landscape, the distance seems more like 3 km.

The monastery is off the beaten track, down a side road off a minor road. No tourist buses or guided tours ever reach there, and in its simplicity and its stillness I have found a spiritual welcome.

The Monastery of Saint Anastasia the Roman is the first monastery in Greece dedicated to this saint. It was founded in 2008 by a visionary monk from Rethymnon, Father Vassilis, who had spent some time on Mount Athos, and it has been a full monastery – albeit a monastery with only one monk – since July 2009.

The large katholikon or main monastery church is still unfished. Outside, the concrete walls have still not been rendered or plastered. Inside there are no frescoes on the walls and the icon screen has a few simple, modern icons.

The stark simplicity adds to the spiritual atmosphere of the church. Beside it is smaller chapel of Saint Kosmas the Aetolian.

Father Vassilis worked away quietly in the gardens as moved around freely admiring his flowers and plants. There was no museum, no souvenir shop, and nothing to detract from the tranquility and the peace we had found.

But who is Saint Anastasia the Roman?

This word anastasis is Greek for resurrection, and there are three Saint Anastasias in the Lives of the Saints, all three from prominent and famous families and who confessed their faith in Rome.

The first was forced by her parents to marry a non-Christian man. He died a few days later, she lived the rest of her life as an ascetic, giving all her property to the poor. She was martyred by fire during the reign of Diocletian, and is commemorated on 22 December.

The second Saint Anastasia never married and also died a martyr’s death during the reign of Decius and she is remembered on 12 October.

The third Saint Anastasia of Rome, and the one to whom the monastery is dedicated, was a nun, martyred under the Roman emperor Valerian ca 250, and she is remembered on 29 October.

At times, I have been the only visitor to the monastery. The road back down to Tsesmes seems easier and shorter. It is 6 or 7 km round trip. Back in Tsesmes, it is worth stopping for lunch in Pagona’s Bar.

Inside, the unfinished appearance gives the monastery church a stark and simple spirituality (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 8: 28-34 (NRSVA):

28 When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 Suddenly they shouted, ‘What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ 30 Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 The demons begged him, ‘If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.’ 32 And he said to them, ‘Go!’ So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and perished in the water. 33 The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.

An icon of Saint Anastasia the Roman in the main monastery church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 June 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) and their work in bringing together diverse communities across the continent. CAPA is an effective advocate for interreligious and intercultural dialogue, as well as a powerful campaigner against human trafficking and gender-based violence.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

In the gardens and cloisters of the Monastery of Saint Anastasia the Roman (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The suburbs of Rethymnon and the Mediterranean Sea spread out below the Monastery of Saint Anastasia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

A visit to Garinish Island
with its microclimate
and its Italian gardens

The Italian Garden is, perhaps, the outstanding feature on Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

During this month’s road trip or ‘staycation’, there were three stopovers: two nights each in Dingle, Co Kerry, and the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen, before staying for two nights in Glengarriff at Casey’s Hotel.

It was also a three-island road trip, with visits to the Great Blasket Island, Cape Clear Island, and then, from Glengarriff, to Garinish Island.

Glengarriff is about 20 km west of Bantry and 30 km east of Castletownbere, and the economy is heavily dependent on tourism. It is the gateway to the Beara Peninsula, connecting Bantry and Kenmare and there is a variety of shops, galleries, hotels, restaurants and pubs.

Bryce House at the east end of the island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Glengarriff has been known as a holiday destination since the 1700s and boomed in the Victorian times as a stop along the ‘Prince of Wales Route’. Today, Glengarriff has a population of 800 and in normal times, outside Covid, this expands significantly during the summer months.

Glengarriff offers natural beauty, peace and tranquillity. The name Glengarriff comes from the Irish An Gleann Garbh, meaning ‘the Rugged Glen.’ It sits in a glacially deepened valley in West Cork, nestled by the foothills of the Caha Mountains with a unique climate that is mild and temperate thanks to the Jet Stream that warms the waters of Bantry Bay. This is one of the few areas that retains much of the ancient woodlands that once covered these islands.

Local sites of tourist interest include the Italian Gardens on Garinish Island, visited by boat trips. Other tourist amenities include the Bamboo Park behind Toad Hall, the Blue Pool lagoon, Barley Lake, walking trails, kayaking in the bay and music festivals.

The seal island, with its tame seal colony, is a sight from the ferry to Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Two of us took the Harbour Queen Ferry from Glengarriff Pier to visit this island in the harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay. Garinish is renowned for its gardens, laid out in beautiful walks and it has specimen plants that are rare in this climate.

The ferry trip brought us close to seal island, with its tame seal colony, and offered a sighting of an eagle’s nest.

Garinish Island extends to 15 hectares (37 acres) and is also known by the alternative names of Garnish Island, Ilnacullin and Illaunacullin (‘island of holly’).

The clock tower in the walled gardens on Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The gardens on Garnish Island flourish in the mild humid micro-climate of Glengarriff harbour. This is an island garden of rare beauty, assisted by a mainly pine shelter belt, and known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs around the world.

The gardens were designed by the architect and garden designer Harold Peto (1854-1933) for the island’s owners, John Annan Bryce, (1841–1923) a Belfast-born Scottish politician who bought the island from the War Office in 1910, and his wife Violet L’Estrange.

Peto and Bryce were a creative partnership, so that the island remains renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons.

The Iralian tea house or casita (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Annan and Violet Bryce were convinced that with its sheltered situation and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, a wide range of oriental and southern hemisphere plants could flourish in the almost subtropical climate of Glengarriff.

Keenly interested in horticulture and architecture, the Bryces planned to build a mansion and lay out an extensive garden on the island, and commissioned Harold Peto to design these.

Peto was an advocate of the Italian style of architecture and garden design, although the wild Robinsonian style of gardening dominated his epoch. However, he believed that more formal styles could co-exist with the Robinsonian style and ought not to be neglected.

The Italian temple on Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Italian Garden is, perhaps, the outstanding feature of Garinish. Here, Peto’s genius, combined with Annan Bryce’s ideas and resources, resulted in the creation of a formal architectural garden that blends with its natural setting.

Pathways wind around the landscape, leading to the fascinating garden buildings and architectural features, including an Italian tea-house or Casita of Bath stone with colonnades, a formal pool, an Italian pavilion with columns of Rosso Antico of a beautiful red colour, a Grecian Temple, marble slabs from Carrara, the Island of Skyros and Connemara, a clock tower, the casita and the Martello Tower.

The Grecian Temple overlooks the sea and the Caha Mountains (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)


Plans for a mansion were prepared incorporating the Martello Tower, but it was never built. Instead, Bryce House, an extensive cottage, became the home of the Bryce family.

Among their guests were the writers George Bernard Shaw, who stayed on the island in 1923 while writing his play, Saint Joan, the poet Æ George Russell, and Agatha Christie.

Bryce House is presented as it would have appeared during their lifetime. A selection from their vast collection of important paintings, prints, drawings, and books is on display. A theme throughout the house is the winged lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of Venice.

The Martello tower on the island dates from the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Like other towers in Cork – but unlike other Irish Martello towers – it has a straight cylindrical shape that does not splay out at its base.

The steps leading up to the Martello Tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The island is renowned for its richness of plant form and colour, changing continuously with the seasons.

The vivid colours of Rhododendrons and Azaleas reach their peak in May and June, while hundreds of cultivars of climbing plants, herbaceous perennials and choice shrubs dominate the midsummer period from June to August.

Autumn colour, particularly on the magnificent heather bank, is rich during the usually mild autumn months of September and October.

A theme throughout Bryce House is the winged lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Annan Bryce died in 1923, but his widow Violet continued to development the gardens. Their son, Rowland Bryce, took over this work in 1932, continuing to add interesting plants from many parts of the world. He was assisted by Murdo Mackenzie, an outstanding Scottish gardener.

When Roland Bryce died in 1953, he bequeathed Garinish Island to the Irish people. Murdo Mackenzie remained in charge of the garden when it passed into public ownership until his retirement in 1971. Today, the island is managed by the Office of Public Works.

The Office of Public Works normally charges for admission on arrival at the island. This charge is separate from the fares collected by boat owners.

There are three main ferry services from Glengarriff to Garinish Island: the Blue Pool Ferry leaves from the Blue Pool Amenity Area, next to Quill’s Woollen Market; the Harbour Queen Ferry leaves from the Pier, opposite the Eccles Hotel; Ellen’s Rock Boat Service leaves from Ellen’s Rock about a mile outside the village on the Castletownbere Road.

Waiting for the Harbour Queen Ferry leaves from Glengarriff Pier to Garinish Island (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

A reflection on ministry,
mission and unity
on Saint Peter’s Day

Saint Paul (left) and Saint Peter (right) in windows in the west porch in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Last week, I marked the 20th anniversary of my ordination as priest in 2001 and the 21st anniversary of my ordination as deacon in 2000. In recent days, many of ordained colleagues have been posting photographs on social media celebrating the anniversaries of their ordinations too.

Today (29 June) is Saint Peter’s Day in the calendar of the Church of Ireland, and the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the Church of England and many other church calendars, honouring their martyrdom in Rome.

This time of the year is known in Anglican tradition as Petertide, one of the two traditional periods for the ordination of new priests and deacons – the other being Michaelmas, around 29 September.

The Cambridge poet-priest Malcolm Guite says on his blog that Saint Peter’s Day and this season is appropriate for ordinations because Saint Peter is ‘the disciple who, for all his many mistakes, knew how to recover and hold on, who, for all his waverings was called by Jesus “the rock,” who learned the threefold lesson that every betrayal can ultimately be restored by love.’

The Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul holding the church in unity … an early 18th century icon in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the Orthodox Church, Saint Peter and Saint Paul are seen as figures of Church Unity, sharing a common faith and mission despite their differences. They are often seen as paired, flanking images at entrances to churches, and the icon of Christian Unity in the Orthodox tradition shows the Apostles Peter and Paul embracing each other – signs of the early Church overcoming its differences and affirming its diversity.

Peter’s Cell is an unusual place-name in the heart of the old city in Limerick. It marks the site of a house established by Donal Mor O Brian (1168-1194) for the Canonesses of Saint Augustine in 1171. Very little is known about these canonesses, apart from the fact that they had a church dedicated to Saint Peter – the word cell comes from cella or a room for each nun.

Despite the forced departure of the Augustinian canonesses at the dissolution of monastic houses during the Reformation, the name of Peter’s Cell survived in a small corner near the junction of Bishop Street and Peter Street.

In the late 17th century, the Quakers had a small burial ground near Peter’s Cell, and the Dissenters, the precursors of the Presbyterians, rented the former site of the canonesses, from Lord Milton from the 1690s until they built a new meeting house or chapel in Peter Street in 1765.

Part of the ruined convent buildings was converted into the Peter’s Cell Theatre around 1760. Later, Saint Munchin’s College was located in Peter’s Cell briefly in 1800-1809.

So, Peter’s Cell in Limerick has been used by Augustinians, Quakers, Presbyterians, theatre-goers, and as a diocesan seminary. Another form of ecumenism and diversity in centuries gone by, I suppose. But then our ministry must always involve mission in a broken world, and not in a world as we would like to find it. And, at the heart of that ministry and mission must be the quest for unity among all Christians.

When Pope Francis marked the feast of Saint Peter and Paul last year, he stressed the importance of unity in the Church and allowing ourselves to be challenged by God, urging people to spend less time complaining about what they see going wrong, and more time in prayer.

He noted that Saint Peter and Saint Paul were two very different men who ‘could argue heatedly’ but who ‘saw one another as brothers, as happens in close-knit families where there may be frequent arguments but unfailing love.’

God, he said, ‘did not command us to like one another, but to love one another. He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike.’

Saint Peter in chains (see Acts 12) … the window by Charles Eamer Kempe in Lichfield Cathedral commemorating Dean Herbert Mortimer Luckock (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Readings:

Ezekiel 3: 22-27; Acts 12: 1-11; Matthew 16: 13-19.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who inspired your apostle Saint Peter
to confess Jesus as Christ and Son of the living God:
Build up your Church upon this rock,
that in unity and peace it may proclaim one truth
and follow one Lord, your Son our Saviour Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Saint Peter and Saint Paul in a pair of stained glass windows in Saint John’s Church, Wall, near Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
31, Arsanios Monastery, Crete

Moni Arsanios in the village of Pagalohori dates from the 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

My photographs this morning (29 June 2021) are from the Monastery of Arsanios, near Rethymnon, continuing a week of photographs from monasteries in Crete.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence, and earlier in this series morning reflections, I have also visited Arkadi Monastery (1 May 2021) and the former Monastery of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai in Iraklion (8 May 2021).

Moni Arsanios or the Monastery of Saint George dates from the 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Moni Arsanios (Μονή Αρσανίου) or the Monastery of Saint George at the village of Pagalohori, 11 km east of Rethymnon, dates from the 16th century. Below, there are panoramic views out to the Cretan Sea; above are views up to Mount Psiloritis, the highest mountain on the island.

The katholikon or main church in the monastery is dedicated to Aghios Georghios (Saint George), and a smaller church is named after Saint Mark the Deaf, whose feast day is celebrated on 2 January. This is the only church dedicated to Saint Mark the Deaf, not only in Greece but in the entire world.

The monastery probably takes its name from a monk called Arsenios, who built the monastery in the 16th century.

The katholikon was dedicated to Saint George in 1600. When The Turks occupied Rethymnon in 1646, the monastery may have been deserted. Bishop Neophytos Patelaros put the monastery under the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1655, and the Stavropegic and Patriarchal status of Arsaniou was reconfirmed in 1778 and again in 1850.

Despite the protection of the Patriarch of Constantinople gave to the monastery with this Stavropegic status, it did not protect it from natural and political calamities. Many of the cells of the monastery collapsed under a strong earthquake in 1856, and ten years later, in 1866, the Turks destroyed what they could in the monastery to punish the monks for their revolutionary activities.

A new Church of Saint George was built in 1888 on the ruins of the old church, but the Turks returned in 1896 to burn and plunder the monastery. A year later, they murdered the monk Father Gabriel Klados, hanging his head on a tree in Rethymnon to use for target practice.

By 1900, it looked as though the monastery could not survive, but it was reconstituted in 1903. Further woes came with World War II, when the Germans executed Abbot Damianos Kallergis in 1941 for the support the monks gave to the Greek partisans and the resistance to the Nazis. But the monastery survived. It was renovated in 1970, the katholikon was decorated with frescoes in 1988-1990, and a museum and conference centre were founded.

The katholikon is a cruciform basilica with a dome. There is a fine carved wood ikonostasis (icon screen) and the walls are decorated with vivid frescoes.

Along with visitors who come to the conference centre and museum, the monastery has a steady daily trickle of tourists in normal summers, outside Covid time. But the future of Moni Arsanios must be a matter of faith today. When I last visited, there were only three monks living permanently there. The two I met were in their mid-80s, the third monk was then in his mid-40s.

The Pantokrator in the dome of the katholikon in Moni Arsanios (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 16: 13-19 (NRSVA):

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14 And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ 15He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ 17 And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

The fine carved wooden ikonostasis or icon screen in the katholikon or main church of the monastery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 June 2021, Saint Peter and Saint Paul) invites us to pray:

Almighty Father, let us remember the examples of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, two of your most loyal disciples. May we seek to emulate the conviction of their faith through our deeds and words.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A smaller church in the monastery is dedicated to Saint Mark the Deaf (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The Stavropegic status of Moni Arsanios did not protect he monastery from natural and political calamities (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday, 28 June 2021

Rosscarbery’s cathedral
may not be Ireland’s smallest
but it is the most southerly

Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral in Rosscarbery, West Cork, is the most southerly cathedral in the Church of Ireland(Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

The Cathedral Church of Saint Fachtna in the beautiful West Cork town of Rosscarbery standing above a narrow bay and on a site where Christians have worshipped for over 1,400 years.

Ross Cathedral is the most southerly cathedral in the Church of Ireland, although, despite the claims on many websites, it is not the smallest. It the main landmark in Rosscarbery, and its spire can be seen at a distance in the surrounding countryside.

This is the cathedral of the Diocese of Ross, within the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Dean of Ross is the Very Revd Chris Peters, and the cathedral group of parishes in West Cork also includes Kilmacabea (Leap), Myross (Union Hall), Kilfaughnabeg (Glandore) and Castleventry.

Saint Fachtna is said to have founded a monastic school in Ross in AD 590 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Irish name for Ross, Ross Ailithir, means the wooded headland of the pilgrims, and during this month’s recent road trip or ‘staycation’ in Co Kerry and West Cork, Dean Chris Peters offered this pilgrim a personal tour of the cathedral.

It is said Saint Fachtna, who had been the Abbot of Molana in Co Waterford, founded a monastic school there in AD 590, and that pilgrims and scholars came from near and far to the principal monastery of West Cork. Saint Fachtna died ca 600 at the age of 46, and is commemorated on 14 August.

Although the first cathedral on this site may have been built in the 12th century, Ross was not named as a diocese at the Synod of Ráith Bressail in 1111, and there was no Bishop of Ross at the Synod of Kells in 1152.

Inside Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral, Rosscarbery, facing east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The first named Bishop of Ross is Nechtan MacNechtain, who died in 1160. A generation later, ca 1195-1198, two rival Bishops of Ross, Daniel and Florentius, went to Rome to put their claims before Pope Innocent III.

The monastic school may have gone into decline several decades before the Reformation.

When Bishop John Edmund de Courcy (1494-1517) resigned, a report commissioned for Pope Leo X described Ross as a walled city of 200 houses with the cathedral at the centre, while the bishop lived on the seashore, about half a mile from the city. The cathedral was described at the time as a cruciform, cut-stone structure, with a separate tower that had a bell.

Inside Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral, Rosscarbery, facing west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Perhaps because the cathedral was so remote at the time of the Reformation, papal appointees continued to hold the see for many decades, and the Crown did not appoint a bishop until 1582, when William Lyon was nominated Bishop of Ross, and he soon became Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross (1583-1617).

He described Ross as being ‘so desolate and barbarous a place as it is not fit for an Englishman, especially one of his sort, to live in.’ Yet, when Sir Thomas Crooke, the founder of Baltimore, was accused of piracy in 1608, Lyon was among his defenders, arguing that he had worked miracles in creating a thriving town out of nothing in barely three years.

Lyon built a new school and a new bridge in Ross, and rebuilt or renovated the cathedral between 1589, and 1612.

Inside the narthex in Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral, Rosscarbery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The cathedral was badly damaged in the Rebellion of 1641, when the west end of the cathedral, the nave and the tower were destroyed. The two side chapels, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Fachtna, remained standing but were used as a slaughterhouse. The bishop’s house was burned, and his deaf and dumb daughter, Elizabeth, died in the fire.

Following the wars and conflicts of the mid-17th century, the cathedral was extensively rebuilt ca 1696, with a tower and spire.

The spire was removed in 1793 and a new octagonal spire was added in 1806 at a cost of £964: this was damaged in storms in 1886 and 1923, and restored on each occasion.

The chapter stalls in Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral, Rosscarbery, with the dean’s stall to the left of the door and the precentor’s to the right (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

By the mid-19th century, the cathedral had two galleries, one of which was reserved for Lord Carbery who lived nearby as Castle Freke.

Significant developments continued in the cathedral in the 19th century. An increasing number of parishioners led to the north transept being added ca 1810-1815, the south transept was built ca 1835, the organ was relocated, and a dividing wall created a large narthex.

The appointment of the Very Revd Isaac Morgan Reeves as Dean of Ross in 1876 led to a period of change and refurbishment at the cathedral. During his 29 years at Rosscarbery, he removed the galleries, built the elaborate timber ceiling, and in 1895 inserted a new west door based on Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel.

The statue of John Evans-Freke (1765-1845), 6th Lord Carbery, in the narthex of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

A new pulpit, lectern, font and bishop’s throne were installed, as well as communion rails, chapter stalls and stained-glass windows, mosaics were laid in the sanctuary, a new organ was put in place and a peal of five bells was installed.

When Rathbarry Church was closed in 1927, the Carbery monument was moved to the narthex of Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral, close to the large statue already in place of John Evans-Freke (1765-1845), 6th Lord Carbery, former MP for Donegal (1783-1790) and Baltimore, Co Cork (1790-1800).

The entire cathedral was restored in 2002-2005, the organ was rebuilt and the bells were restored and augmented by an additional bell, so that the cathedral now has a fine set of six bells in the key of G that are regularly rung.

The design of the west door, inserted in 1895, is based on Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The cathedral has a four-bay nave with two-stage bell tower surmounting the gable at the west façade, there are single-bay double-height transepts on the north and south side, and a single-bay porch at the north transept. There is a single-bay chancel at the east end, and a single-bay vestry to at the north side of the chancel.

Much of the cathedral’s long history can be read on the plaques, monuments and windows, giving the names and dates of the people who contributed to the building, including members of the Hungerford, Carbery and Becher families.

The limestone pulpit, standing on four colonettes of red Cork marble, was erected in 1876 in memory of Canon Horatio Townsend, and depicts three parables: the Sower, the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son; the brass eagle lectern dates from 1878; the white marble font was presented in 1886, and the bishop’s throne is from 1895. The oak chapter stalls at the west end were erected in 1896 in memory of Margaret Hungerford.

The four evangelists depicted in the stained glass in the East Window (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The East Window has four lancets measuring 2540 mm x 740 mm, with 16 tracery-lights, depicting the Four evangelists. The window, in memory of Dean Reeves is attributed to the London studio of Heaton, Butler and Bayne, and was designed by the artist Horatio Walter Lonsdale (1844-1919).

Christ as the Good Shepherd (left) and as the Light of the World (right) in a window by Mayer & Co of Munich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The south nave has two lancets, measuring 2390 mm x 480 mm; by Mayer & Co of Munich and depicting Christ as the Good Shepherd (left) and Christ as the Light of the World (right).

Saint George in a war memorial window by James Powell & Sons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The south transept has a rectangular window, 3050 mm x 1220 mm, depicting Saint George, made in the London studio of James Powell & Sons, and in memory of Henry Owen Dabridgecourt Becher.

The font in the narthex comes from the prebendal church of Inchidoney, in ruins since 1642.

A round-headed arch, standing isolated on the south side of the cathedral in the churchyard may be part of the mediaeval cathedral.

The royal arms of the House of Hanover above the door fromthe narthex into the nave (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The small Diocese of Ross stretches along little more than 60 km of West Cork coastline, from Ballydehob to Courtmachsherry, and has three parochial groupings: Abbeystrewry (Skibereen), Kilgarriffe (Clonakilty) and Ross.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral in the Diocese of Ross is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Skibbereen.

The south side of Saint Fachtna’s Cathedral in Rosscarbery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
30, Preveli Monastery, Crete

Monastic bells in a tree in the courtyard of Preveli Monastery on the south coast of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This morning (28 June 2021), my photographs are from the Monastery of Preveli, on the south coast of Crete, continuing a week of photographs from monasteries in Crete.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence, and earlier in this series morning reflections, I have also visited Arkadi Monastery (1 May 2021) and the former Monastery of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai in Iraklion (8 May 2021).

The katholikon or main church in Preveli was built in 1835-1837 on the site of earlier churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Monastery of Preveli is 37 km south of Rethymnion, and while the monastery lies is within the Diocese of Lambis and Sfakion, it comes under the direct oversight of the Ecumenical Patriarch, making it the Holy Stavropegic and Patriarchal Monastery of Saint John the Theologian.

The monastery is famous among Greeks for its role in struggles against both the Turks and the Germans in the 19th and 20th centuries, and is celebrated in Greek lore and in books and movies for its part in helping allied soldiers escape Crete in World War II.

Preveli is not one but two monasteries, with two sets of buildings. The ruined Lower Monastery (Kato Moni) is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, but is now deserted and fenced off and closed to visitors. It is another 3 km or so to the second living, active monastery, known as the Upper or Rear Monastery (Piso Moni), dedicated to Saint John the Theologian.

There is strong evidence that an early monastery stood on the site of the lower monastery during the Second Byzantine period in Crete, in the 10th or early 11th century. But the monastery was probably founded in the Middle Ages, when Crete was under Venetian rule.

The original name was ‘The Monastery of the Great River at the Island of Crete.’ Some stories say it was founded by a feudal lord named Prevelis. Others say it is named after a repentant murderer who fled his home in Preveliana village in the 16th century, found refuge in the monastery and gave his life savings in thanks for his life being saved. Another tradition says Preveli takes its name from Abbot Akakios Prevelis, who renovated the monastery in 1670. At least three or four abbots in the 17th and 18th century were from the Prevelis family, a family from Rethymnon descended from the Kallergis, a Byzantine noble family.

The earliest records for the monastery go back to 1594, a date engraved on a monastery bell. When the Turks occupied Crete in 1649, they destroyed the monastery of Preveli. But the monastery was restored, and in the centuries that followed became a centre for education and a centre for resistance to Ottoman rule.

Abbot Efraim Prevelis took part in the revolution led by John Vlachos or Daskalogianis in 1770. He was sentenced to death but was finally pardoned in 1798 after Patriarch Gregory V intervened with the Sultan.

To secure the monastery’s privileges and estates, Abbot Ephrem sought the protection of the Patriarchate, and Preveli received the status of a patriarchal and stavropegic monastery. As a sign of this new status, he returned from Constantinople with the Cross that has remained the most prized relic in Preveli.

In 1821, the Abbot of Preveli, Melchisedek Tsouderos – whose family was from Rethymnon and who were said to be descended from the Byzantine imperial family – became a member of the secret Greek revolutionary organisation, the Philiki Etairia (the Society of Friends).

On 25 May 1821, the abbot and a group of rebels hoisted the Greek flag on the hills overlooking the village of Rodakino, and he soon became the leading figure in the revolutionary events of 1821 in Crete.

The abbot organised, equipped and financed the first rebel units against the Turkish forces, and managed to rescue the monks before the Turks destroyed the monastery in a reprisal attack. Abbot Melchisedek’s force, made up of monks and civilians, went on to fight in many battles in western Crete. He was fatally injured in a battle near the village of Polemarchi in the Kissamos area on 5 February 1823. He died while his companions were trying to move him to the village of Platania, where he was buried. He is commemorated in the name of Tsouderon Street in Rethymnon.

Preveli was active again in organising rebellions against the Turks in the 19th century. The disaster at Arkadi in November 1866 did not deter Abbot Agathangelos and his monks, who fed and sheltered up to 200 rebels in Preveli on a daily basis. In a revenge attack on 7 July 1867, Resit Pasha and 8,000 Turkish soldiers set fire to the Lower Monastery and its farms in the neighbouring villages. The Rear Monastery was saved at the last moment and continued its active role until the end of the revolution in 1869.

When yet another revolution broke out in 1878, the Rear Monastery became rebel headquarters and the abbot fought at the front line. The revolutions were instrumental in securing Crete’s eventual autonomy in 1896, followed by political union with Greece 100 years ago in 1913.

During the German occupation of Crete in World War II, 5,000 Greek, Australian, New Zealand and British troops who fought in the Battle of Crete in 1941 found themselves stranded on the island. Many found shelter in Preveli and others were hidden in homes and farms nearby.

The Abbot, Agathangelos Lagouvardos, helped organise their escape to Egypt on two submarines on the nights of 31 May and 1 June 1941 and 20 and 21 August 1941. In a revenge attack on 25 August 1941, the Germans plundered the monastery, the Lower Monastery was destroyed completely, and many of the monks were sent to Firka Prison in Chania. Among the precious items plundered by the Germans was its most precious relic, the miraculous Cross of Abbot Ephraim Prevelis.

But the monks who returned immediately began rebuilding the Rear Monastery with help from local people and from other monasteries. Meanwhile, Abbot Agathangelos had joined the Greek Army in the Middle East as a chaplain. In the courtyard, a series of monuments recalls the role of the monastery in World War II.

The Rear Monastery is at the foot of a mountain and overlooks the Libyan Sea. The monastery is the shape of an irregular letter Π, with buildings on the north, the west and part of the east sides of a level area, with the main church or katholikon in the centre of the courtyard.

The katholikon stands on the site of the older, probably frescoed church that was demolished in 1835. The present church was completed in 1837 and was consecrated that year. This is a large two-nave building, unified internally by a sequence of three arches.

A long, enclosed chamber, once used as stables, now houses the museum of the monastery. The collection of icons covers a period from the early 17th century to the end of 19th century.

The best-known item on display is not in the museum but in the katholikon. This is the large, richly decorated silver cross brought back to Preveli from Constantinople by Abbot Ephrem and now kept in a special shrine in the main church.

Today, there are only three monks living in the monastery. It is a crisis in monastic vocations that is hitting many monasteries throughout Greece. However, when I visited, I was warmly invited into the katholikon by one of the monks, who quickly realised I was a priest, and asked me which Church I was from and who was my bishop. He pointed out the icons, the patriarch’s throne, and other treasures in the Church. He told me the story of the Cross, put on his stole, took the Cross out of its shrine, and blessed me before I went on my way.

The bell tower at the west end of the katholikon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 8: 18-22 (NRSVA):

18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ 20 And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 21 Another of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 22 But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’

The cells where the monks live on the north side of the monastery courtyard … today the community has dwindled in numbers to three (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (28 June 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Diocese of the Seychelles as they celebrate the anniversary of their independence.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Tablets in the monastery courtyard tell of the rescue of allied troops by the monks of Preveli 80 years ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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