31 July 2021
Corpus Christi Church,
in the heart of the festival
town of Lisdoonvarna
On the way from Kinvara in Co Galway to Kilfenora in Co Clare, visiting Comerford family homes during this summer’s ‘road trip’, two of us stopped briefly in Lisdoonvarna (Lios Dúin Bhearna), Co Clare.
Lisdoonvarna is a bright and colourful spa town with a population of 739, wide streets, colourfully-decorated pubs and shops, a large number of hotels, and large square in the centre of the town with sculptures of musicians and dancers.
Lisdoonvarna is known for its music and festivals. Although the music festival came to an end in 1983, Lisdoonvarna continues to host a ‘matchmaking’ festival in September.
The matchmaking festival has attracted up to 40,000 people in pre-pandemic times. The music festival is celebrated in Christy Moore’s song Lisdoonvarna.
Lisdoonvarna is in the Burren, between Ballyvaughan and Ennistymon, and the Aille River flows through the town.
Lisdoonvarna is a comparatively new town by Irish standards, dating mainly from the early 19th century. The spa official opened in 1845, but the town was visited before by people ‘taking the waters.’
But even by the 1880s, there were few facilities in Lisdoonvarna. The wells were privately once owned by the Guthrie family and they were later developed and the baths built by the new owner, Dr WH Stacpoole Westropp, who lived in a house overlooking the spa.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Lisdoonvarna is a parish in the Kilfenora Deanery in the Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora. The parishes of Lisdoonvarna and Kilshanny were amalgamated in the 1980s. The current parish priest is Father Conor Cunningham.
The Church of Corpus Christi in Lisdoonvarna, the main church in the parish, was built in 1868. This is a gable-fronted, single-bay, double-height Gothic Revival church, with single-bay a four-stage tower and spire to the left, a single-bay single-storey chapel and sacristy to the left and eight-bay side elevations.
The church is oriented on a west-east axis, instead of the traditional, liturgical east-west axis, to allow street access directly from Church Street. The six-bay, single-storey flat-roofed side aisle added ca 1900.
Corpus Christi Church was remodelled ca 1940 and the polygonal former apse was altered for use as an entrance porch, with a cut-stone doorcase. There are pitched slate roofs with vents at the main ridge, and a spire with pyramidal copper sheeting.
Inside, the church has leaded coloured and stained-glass windows, exposed roof beams, a fluted chancel arch, a marble altar and altar railings with brass gates.
The other three churches in the parish are Saint Augustine’s Church in Kilshanny (1894), the Church of our Lady of Lourdes, Toovaghera (1878), and the Church of the Holy Rosary in Doolin (1821), celebrating its bicentenary this year.