Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Saint Fursey’s Church in
Banteer, Co Cork, site of
Ireland’s last pitched battle

Saint Fursey’s Church in Banteer, Co Cork, dates from 1828 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

One of the many small towns and villages I visited in Co Cork during this year’s summer ‘road trip’ was Banteer, south of Kanturk and west of Mallow in north Cork.

Banteer was at the centre of the last pitched battle of the Irish Confederate Wars, the Battle of Knocknaclashy, which was fought near Banteer in 1651, when an Irish force under Donagh MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, was defeated by a Cromwellian force under Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery.

Dr Patrick ‘Pat’ O’Callaghan (1906-1991) was born in Banteer on 28 January 1906. He was the first Irish athlete from Ireland to win an Olympic medal under the Irish flag rather than the British flag. He won gold medals at Amsterdam in 1928 and in Los Angeles in 1932, and he was the flag bearer for Ireland at the 1932 Olympic Games.

Saint Fursey’s Church, Banteer, Co Cork, facing the liturgical east (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Banteer never grew as a town or reached its promising potential. Banteer railway station, on the Mallow to Tralee line, opened on 16 April 1853 but was closed for goods traffic on 2 September 1976, although it remains open for passenger trains on the Dublin-Tralee route.

Today, the most notable building in Banteer is Saint Fursey’s Roman Catholic Church, a simple, single-cell church, with long side elevations and a stone façade.

Saint Fursey was involved in early missions to East Anglia and France and was said to have experienced angelic visions of the afterlife before he died in 650.

Saint Fursey’s Church, Banteer, Co Cork, facing the liturgical west (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Sant Fursey’s Church occupies a prominent corner site in Banteer, enhanced by the boundary walls and railings and by the piers and gate to the entrance.

The decoration on the façade of the church is minimal and is restricted to the cross finials and window surrounds. Inside, the church is more ornate, but retains its stained-glass windows and carved plaque.

This church dates from 1828, and was restored and enlarged in 1952. The decoration of the façade is minimal and restricted to the cross finials and window surrounds. It has a five-bay nave, a single-bay flat-roofed addition at the south gable, a pitched slate roof with carved limestone cross finials and dressed limestone coping at the gables, with a dressed limestone eaves course.

There are snecked sandstone walls on the east and north side, with a rendered south gable. The north gable has carved limestone plaques. The carved limestone font at the north doorway has a carved limestone stoup set into a pointed arch recess at the south doorway.

A carved limestone memorial in the church is dated 1834 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The round-headed windows have dressed limestone voussoirs and sills and are filled wth stained-glass. The round-headed door openings have timber battened double-leaf doors, dressed limestone voussoirs and ornate cast-iron strap hinges.

Inside, the church is more ornate, but retains its stained-glass windows and an interesting carved plaque. There is a coffered ceiling, a carved timber gallery, carved confession boxes and a carved limestone memorial dated 1834, with an urn and heraldic motifs in relief.

The cast-iron bellstand at the north-west of church has fluted, cast-iron, circular-profile columns with a cast-iron bell.

Saint Colman, patron sain of the Diocese of Cloyne, depicted in a stained glass window in the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

At the east side of the site, the churchyard has carved limestone gravestones and cast-iron and dressed limestone grave surrounds. The snecked sandstone boundary walls have cut sandstone square-profile piers at the entrance.

The simple single-cell form of this church, along with its long side elevations and stone façade, make it a notable feature in Banteer. It stands on a prominent corner site, enhanced by its boundary walls and railings and by the piers and entrance gate.

Hub caps become street art in Banteer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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