22 April 2021

Saint Matthias’ Church in
Ballybrack was the first of
new churches in the area

Saint Matthias’ Church was built in Killiney in 1834 as the suburbs of south Dublin expended (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Matthias’ Church on Church Road in Killiney Ballybrack dates from 1835, and was built at a time when the southern suburbs of the city were spreading beyond the capacity of the Church of Ireland to cope with traditional parish boundaries.

The opening of the Dublin and Kingstown railway a year earlier in 1834 gave greater access from Dublin to the burgeoning suburbs of south Dublin.

One-by-one, new churches opened in the area around Monkstown and Kingstown (later Dun Laoghaire), including: Saint Matthias’ Church, Killiney Ballybrack (1835), the Bethel Episcopal Free Chapel, Kingstown, later Christ Church, Dun Laoghaire (1836), the Mariners’ Church (1843), Saint Patrick’s Church, Dalkey (1843), Holy Trinity Church, Killiney (1858), Saint John’s Church, Monkstown (1860), Kill o’ the Grange (1864) and Saint Paul’s Church, Glenageary (1867).

As each church opened, parish boundaries were adjusted, and at first, Saint Matthias’ Church catered for all of Killiney and Dalkey and as far as Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire).

Killiney Parish belonged to the Priory of Holy Trinity (Christ Church Cathedral) from the Middle Ages, and at the Reformation it was granted to the Dean of Christ Church. Later, it was served by the curates of Dalkey, and from the 17th century Killiney was united with Monkstown.

An Act of Parliament in 1824 called for building a new chapel of ease in Killiney. The site was donated by Sir Compton Domville (1775-1857) of Templeogue House and Santry House and Governor of Dublin (1822-1831). Domville, who was a son-in-law of Bishop Charles Lindsay of Kildare, also gave a portion of glebe. The first chaplain, the Revd Charles Sleator (1800-1868), was appointed in 1828, and remained in Killiney for 40 years until he died at Killiney on 23 October 1868.

Saint Matthias’ Church was designed by the Dublin architect Frederick Darley Junior (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The church was designed by the Dublin architect Frederick Darley Junior (1798-1872), architect to the Diocese of Dublin. Darley’s plans were submitted to vestry by Christmas 1834, and the church was consecrated in April 1835.

The architect Frederick Darley was born in Dublin in 1798, the second surviving son of Frederick Darley, and he was known as Frederick Darley junior until his father died in 1841.

He was a pupil of Francis Johnston, and he was the Ecclesiastical Commissioners’ architect for the Diocese of Dublin in 1833-1843. In the 1830s, he was also architect to Trinity College Dublin, and he was architect to the Royal Dublin Society and the Board of National Education. He was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (FRIAI), a council member (1839-1851), and honorary secretary (1842-1849).

Darley’s other works include a new square in Trinity College Dublin (1836), Trinity Church, Lower Gardiner Street (1838-1839), the restoration of Saint George’s Church, Balbriggan (1838), the Bethesda Chapel, Dorset Street (1839), Saint Michael’s Church, Athy (1840-1841), Saint Laurence’s Church, Chapelizod (1840), Saint Canice’s Church, Finglas (1841-1843), Saint Mary’s Church, Dunleckney, Bagenalstown (1841-1844), Saint Mary’s Church, Kells, Co Kilkenny (1844), Saint John’s Church, Sandymount (1849-1850), an extension to Saint Stephen’s Church, Mount Street (1851), and the Great Southern Hotel, Killarney (1853-1854).

Darley also designed many model schools and model agricultural schools throughout Ireland. He was one of four architects appointed in 1860 to inspect and report on the restoration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and later became an Ecclesiastical Commissioner.

Darley married Penelope Andrews (1790-1886), daughter of Alderman Thomas Andrews of Dublin. He was living at 14 Clarinda Park North, Kingstown, when he died in 1872.

Saint Matthias’ Church was built in 1835 ‘in the later English style’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Saint Matthias’ Church was described at the time by Samuel Lewis as looking like ‘a chapel of ease … in the later English style, and it is built of the white granite that is found in great abundance on the spot; at the west end is an embattled tower with pinnacles.’

The church has a cruciform plan form, aligned along an inverted liturgically-correct axis. The slender profile of the openings emphasise the mediaeval Gothic style, with the chancel defined by a cusped ‘Trinity Window,’ and the polygonal pinnacles embellishing the tower as an eye-catching picturesque feature in the landscape.

Saint Matthias’ Church is a five-bay double-height church on a cruciform plan. Originally, it was a four-bay double-height single-cell church, on a rectangular plan with a four-bay double-height nave. There are single-bay, double-height lower transepts centred on the single-bay double-height chancel at the crossing, and a single-bay three-stage tower at the entrance.

The church has been well maintained, and the form and massing survive intact together with substantial quantities of the original fabric, both outside and inside, including the contemporary joinery, with the exposed timber roof, the Gothic-style timber panelled pulpit on an octagonal plan, and the Gothic-style timber clerk’s desk.

There are stained glass windows by Heaton, Butler and Bayne of London and Catherine O’Brien (1881-1963) of Dublin, and the Stark Symes Memorial ‘Trinity Window’ is signed by Franz Mayer and Company of Munich and London (1880). Other interior details include the ‘Last Supper’ depicted on the reredos, and the encaustic tiles.

A parochial district was assigned to Killiney Ballybrack from Monkstown Parish on 7 November 1866, and it became an independent parish in 1876, with the Revd Maurice Day (1816-1904) as the first rector (1876-1894). Day later became Dean of Limerick (1869-1872) and Bishop of Cashel (1872-1899).

Saint Matthias’ Church was extended in 1879-1880 by William John Welland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

While Maurice Day was the rector, Darley’s style was continued in 1879-1880 when the church was developed or ‘improved’ to designs by William John Welland (1832-1896). These included the addition of the chancel and a transept. Welland was ‘presented with a gold watch for having given his services gratuitously as architect’ in 1880.

The Revd Dr William Olhausen has been the Rector of Killiney Ballybrack since 2011, and the honorary curate is the Revd Dr Paddy McGlinchey, a lecturer in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

Saint Matthias’ Church is typical of many built with great enthusiasm by the Church of Ireland in the early 19th century and has become an important component of the early 19th century architectural heritage of south Co Dublin.

Despite the busy dual-carriageway that brings speeding traffic past the church from the M50 to Killiney, Monkstown and Dalkey, the church is part on a pleasing ecclesiastical ensemble and visual statement on Church Road.

Saint Matthias’ Church remains part of the architectural heritage of south Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
65, Pinkas Synagogue, Prague

The Pinkas Synagogue in Prague is a memorial to 77,297 Czech Jewish victims of the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

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 week, I am offering photographs of synagogues that have welcomed me over the years and offered a place of prayer and reflection. My photographs this morning (22 April 2021) are from the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague, a 16th-century synagogue that is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

The Jewish Quarter has six surviving synagogues, as well as the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Old Jewish Cemetery. This is the second oldest surviving synagogue in the Czech capital. Its origins are connected with the Horowitz family, a renowned Jewish family in Prague.

The synagogue is built in the Gothic and Renaissance styles. For example, the reticulated vault is in the late Gothic style, but its ornaments have Renaissance features, and the portal is pure Renaissance. An annex in Renaissance style was added between 1607 and 1625, and so the synagogue was extended with a vestibule, a women’s section and a balcony. The annex was designed by Judah Tzoref de Herz, who was also the architect of the Maisel Synagogue in Prague.

The floor of the synagogue is below the ground level so it has suffered repeatedly from floods and moisture. In the second half of 18th century, it was necessary to restore the aron-ha-kodesh or holy ark and the bimah or reading platform, which had been damaged by flood. Both were restored in the Baroque style.

In 1793, Joachim von Popper, a successful businessman and communal leader, donated the wrought-iron rococo grille that still adorns the bimah. The grille is decorated with the emblem of the Jewish community in Prague – the six-pointed Magen David or Star of David with a conical Jewish hat.

Radical steps were taken in 1860 to address the problem of floods. The floor level of the synagogue was raised by 1.5 metres. The baroque bimah as removed, the seats surrounding the walls in the traditional synagogue arrangement were replaced with church-like rows of pews, and the interior was now dominated by a pseudo-Romanesque style.

However, less than century later, during reconstruction in 1950-1954, the original floor-level was restored, as well as the appearance of the synagogue. In the following five years, the inside walls of the synagogue were covered totally with the names and biographical dates of 77,297 Bohemian and Moravian Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the Shoah. These names are arranged by communities where the victims came from and are complemented with the date of birth and death of each individual where these are known.

The memorial was designed by painters Václav Boštík and Jiří John. It opened to the public in 1960, but was closed after less than a decade in 1968, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia – ostensibly because of the problems caused by moisture in the synagogue. After the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989, the synagogue was restored over a three-year period and opened to public. However, it took another three years to restore the inscriptions of the names on the walls that had been damaged by moisture in the intervening years.

An exhibition on the first floor displays pictures drawn by children and young teenagers in the concentration camp in Terezín (Theresienstadt). The children were given drawing lessons and encouraged by Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944), a painter who had studied at Weimar Bauhaus.

The walls of the Pinkas Synagogue are covered with the names of 78,000 victims of the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 44-51 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 44 ‘No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’

The names of concentration camps inscribed on the wall around the Aron haKodesh in the Pinkas Synagogue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (22 April 2021) invites us to pray:

God, we have damaged Creation beyond recognition. Give us the strength and resilience to pursue ecological justice and live sustainably.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The wrought-iron rococo grille that adorns the bimah seen from the women’s gallery (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