19 June 2021

Would Marie Antoinette
have eaten cake or bread
if she had fled to Dingle?

The former Rice home in Dingle … fit for a queen facing the guillotine? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Dingle has an interesting collection of plaques placed by Dingle Historical Society on the walls of houses and shops and in the streets, recalling the history of the town.

One sign recalls the early period of the French Revolution, when James Louis Rice, an officer in the Habsburg imperial army, organised an escape for Queen Marie Antoinette from his family home in Dingle.

However, the French queen refused to leave Louis XIV.

Had Rice managed to convince her, and had she escaped the guillotine, Marie Antoinette would have found plenty of cake – and bread – to eat in the colourful shops and cafés on the streets of Dingle.

The Temperance Hall in Dingle … on a site donated by the Earl of Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Across the street, another plaque recalls how the Treaty of Dingle, signed by Marie Antoinette’s ancestor, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, King of Spain, and James FitzGerald, Earl of Desmond, in 1529, gave Irish people citizenship rights in Habsburg Spain, Austria and the Netherlands.

Higher up on the wall, a sign recalls that site of Dingle Temperance Hall was given to the parish priest of Dingle by the Earl of Cork in 1842.

Dingle claims to have the smallest record shop in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Dingle also claims to have the smallest record shop in Ireland: ‘Siopa Cheirnín an Daingin.’

But I was disappointed not to get into the former Presentation Convent, beside Saint Mary’s Church, to see the Harry Clarke windows.

Like Saint Mary’s Church, the Presentation Convent was designed by JJ McCarthy, the architect who assumed the mantle of AWN Pugin in Ireland. The convent was built in 1877 under the supervision of McCarthy’s son, Charles James McCarthy (1857-1947), later Dublin City Architect (1893-1921).

The Presentation Convent, designed by JJ McCarthy, has six pairs of windows by Harry Clarke (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

By 1886, McCarthy, was responsible for the chapel wing and further extensions. Later work by Rudolf Maximilian Butler (1872-1943) completed the convent complex. Local red sandstone has been used for the walls and it forms an agreeable contrast with the chiselled limestone dressings of the windows.

The chapel is 54 ft long, terminates in a polygonal apse with a moulded chancel arch, and has 12 windows by Harry Clarke – six two-light lancets.

The former convent is being transformed into the Dingle campus of Sacred Heart University. However, continuing Covid-19 restrictions mean the chapel is still not open to the public, and two of us had to content ourselves with walking around the former convent gardens and the labyrinth.

The signs or markers on the nuns’ graves resemble the simplicity of a war grave. I wonder whether these signs and the Harry Clarke windows in the former convent chapel are goingto fare well in the future.

The nuns’ graveyard in the grounds of the former Presentation Convent in Dingle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
21, Saint Philip and Saint James, Sorrento

The Cattedrale dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo (Cathedral of Saint Philip and Saint James) in Sorrento (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 week my photographs are of seven cathedrals in Italy. This morning (19 June 2021), my photographs are from the Cattedrale dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo (Cathedral of Saint Philip and Saint James) in Sorrento.

Inside the Cathedral of Saint Philip and Saint James in Sorrento (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sorrento is a small town with only 16,500 people, but dates back to the Greeks and to the Romans, who knew it as Surrentum. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus said Sorrento was founded by Liparus, son of Ausonus and grandson of Odysseus and Circe.

In classical times, there were temples of Athena and of the Sirens. This was the only temple of the Sirens in the Greek world, and may explain the origins of the town’s name.

The cathedral, which is dedicated to Saint Philip and Saint James, stands halfway along the Corso Italia in the heart of the town, has 12th century doors from Constantinople. It was first built in the 11th century, was rebuilt in the Romanesque style in the 15th century, and has a marble altar, pulpit and throne dating from the 16th century.

The Cathedral Bell Tower is three storeys higher than the other building nearby is a landmark in Sorrento. The red and yellow stone of the tower can be seen from many street corners in the centre of the town and also from points along the Via del Capo and the Via Nastro Verde out along the peninsula.

The two lower storeys of the tower probably date from the 11th century when the Duomo was originally built. But the three upper storeys were added in the 15th century, when the Duomo was rebuilt in Romanesque style. At a later date, it was given its decorative, blue majolica clock.

The bell tower has played an important part in Sorrento’s history. The ground floor space under the archway from Via Pietà was used as a meeting place by the people of Sorrento in mediaeval times. Later, a castle was built in the open space that we now see in Piazza Tasso, and people held large meetings there.

The castle is long demolished, but the columns that still hold up the bell tower at ground floor level are believed to be a collection of old Roman columns or early Byzantine columns.

It seems as it is forever Christmas in the cathedral, for the large presepio or Nativity scene inside the main doors is on display all year.

In the 19th century, Sorrento became one of the most desirable tourist destinations in Italy, visited by Byron, Keats, Goethe, Ibsen and Walter Scott. But today it is a bustling busy tourist centre for visitors on their way to or from the Sorrento Coast, the Amlafi Coast, Capri and its neighbouring islands, or even Vesuvius, Pompeii and the Bay of Naples.

The Nativity scene inside the main doors of Sorrento’s cathedral is on display all year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 6: 24-34 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 24 ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’

The red and yellow stone of the cathedral bell tower can be seen from many street corners in the centre of Sorrento (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (19 June 2021, International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict) invites us to pray:

We pray for everyone affected by sexual violence, particularly victims of sexual violence in conflict. Lord, we ask that you heal their scars and bring their perpetrators to justice.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The cathedral in Sorrento at night (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