29 October 2023

Saint Ann’s Church
on Dawson Street
celebrates 300 years
in the heart of Dublin

Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street, Dublin, seen from Grafton Street and Ann Street … celebrating its tercentenary today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

St Ann's Church, Dawson Street, has been at the heart of the city in Dublin for 300 years, and the church is celebrating its tercentenary today (Sunday, 29 October 2023). The celebrations began with Choral Matins at 11 am led by the Vicar, Canon Paul Arbuthnot.

The preacher was Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin and the service was sung by Saint Ann’s Choir, with prayers will be read by the children of the parish.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Daithi de Roiste, and members and representatives of Dublin City Council were present, as were the Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, the Very Revd William Morton, and former vicars and curates of Saint Ann’s. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin was represented by the Vicar General, the Very Revd Gareth Byrne.

A rich variety of representatives of Dublin’s civic and cultural life attended, includingformer Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, representatives of the diplomatic service, members of the Oireachtas, representatives of the Rotunda Hospital, Holles Street Hospital, the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, the National Gallery, the National Library, and the Royal Irish Academy – all within the bounds of the parish.

I provided Sunday cover in Saint Ann’s ten years ago, preaching and leading Sunday services. I have also spoken at the Saturday morning ‘men’s breakfast’ in the parish and for a number of years, while I was living in Dublin, I took part in the ‘Black Santa’ sit-out, a Christmas fundraiser for local charities that has been a tradition for successive Vicars of Saint Ann’s.

Saint Ann’s Church, Dawson Street … the boundaries of a new Dublin parish were set out in an Act of Parliament in 1707 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Ann’s was created as a new parish by an Act of Parliament in 1707. At the time, the suburbs of Dublin were beginning to expand in a southerly direction. Sir Joshua Dawson bought an estate between Saint Stephen’s Green and College Park in 1705, and Dawson Street, which marked the eastern boundary of this estate, was laid out in 1701 as the main street of the new suburb.

Between them, Sir Joshua Dawson and Viscount Molesworth were responsible for creating what became some of the most fashionable streets in the city centre, including: Dawson Street (1709), Grafton Street (1713), Ann Street (1718), and Molesworth Street (1725). Dawson built his own new mansion on the east side of the street in 1710, and this later became the Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. He also provided a site for a new church for the new parish.

Dawson Street was completed in 1728, and as the new suburb expanded rapidly it became fashionable, with Dawson Street attracting members of the aristocracy, the gentry, the professions and bishops, including the Archbishops of Dublin.

The Act of Parliament in 1707 delineating the boundaries of the new parish was entitled ‘An Act for dividing the parishes of Saint Andrew’s. Saint Nicholas Without ye Wall and the United Parishes of Saint Catherine, Saint James and Saint John’s of Kilmainham.’ Its area was defined as ‘the ground between Grafton Street and Merryon Street, all situate or being in or near the suburbs of the City of Dublin.’

A quiet moment in Saint Ann’s on a Sunday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Georgian interior was designed by Isaac Wills, who also designed Saint Werburgh’s Church (1715). Wills worked closely with Thomas Burgh, who designed the library in Trinity College Dublin at the same time as Saint Ann’s was being built. In his plans for Saint Ann’s, Willis was influenced by the new churches built in the City of London by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666.

The first Vicar of Saint Ann’s, the Revd Robert Howard, was instituted on 4 November 1717, and much of the church was built by January 1721.

Soon, private pews were being reserved in the church for distinguished residents such as the Duke of Leinster, the Archbishop of Dublin and the Lord Mayor. However, the two canopied pews on the north and south galleries flanking the chancel and reserved for Duke of Leinster and the Archbishop of Dublin were removed when the interior was reordered by John Welland in 1859-1860.

The original planned baroque west front never rose above the first floor. But it was replaced in 1868 by the imposing Lombardo-Romanesque façade designed by Sir Thomas Newenham Deane. His design was inspired by two churches in Rome – the baroque façade of San Giacomo in Augusta (degli Incurabili) in central Rome and Francesco Borromini’s tower at Sant’Agnese in Agone in the Piazza Navona.

The Resurrection … the La Touche window by Heaton, Butler & Bayne, in the north aisle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The original 18th century clear glass windows were later replaced by an interesting collection of Victorian and early 20th century stained-glass. Some windows are more notable for those they commemorate than for their quality. Yet it is said there is more stained glass per square metre in Saint Ann’s than in any other church in Dublin.

Alexander Knox (1757-1831), who is commemorated in the east window and in a mural tablet in the porch, was a well-known theologian in his day. He lived in Dawson Street and is buried in the church. He was a friend of John Wesley, and was admired by the Tractarians, including Pusey and Newman, as well as by Wilberforce.

His monument describes him as ‘a true and real, a spiritual and practical, an informed and enlightened, a primitive and catholic Christian.’

A mural tablet in the porch remembers the theologian Alexander Knox (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835) is remembered in a memorial window in the chancel and in a mural tablet in the south aisle. A prolific hymn-writer and essayist, she was also one of the most popular poets of her day, and is best known for ‘Casabianca’ (1823), with the opening lines:

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Her grandparents were Irish, and from 1831 she lived in Dawson Street with her younger brother. She was buried in a vault in Saint Ann’s.

A mural tablet in the south aisle remembers Felicia Hemans and her poetry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A memorial and a window in the south gallery recall Archbishop Richard Whately (1787-1863). I enjoy the stories that say that while he was a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, Whately tutored his students while hiking or climbing trees.

He lived in Saint Ann’s Parish, and the vicar, the Revd Dr Charles Dickinson (1792-1842), was his chaplain before becoming Bishop of Meath. Archbishop Whately attended many services in the church, but it was during his time that the canopied pew of the Archbishop of Dublin was removed from the church. He was buried in the ‘Royal Vault’ in Christ Church Cathedral.

Bishop Dickinson’s son, Canon Hercules Dickinson (1827-1905), was also Vicar of Saint Ann’s and the Dean of the Chapel Royal.

A mural tablet in north gallery commemorates Sir Hugh Lane (1875-1915), a rector’s son and part of the Irish literary revival circle that included Lady Gregory and WB Yeats. Part of his collection of modern art formed the nucleus of the Dublin Gallery of Modern Art; other parts hang in the National Gallery. He died on board he Lusitania when it was torpedoed in 1915.

The dead of two World Wars are named in two memorials: Saint Ann’s parish memorial on the reredos commemorating 32 men killed in World War I, and five killed in World War II; and Saint Mark’s parish memorial in the Lady Chapel in the south aisle, naming 24 men killed in 1914-1918.

The Butler Bread Shelves … a city charity that has continued for almost three centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Facing me on Sunday mornings in the chancel, on the north side of the apse, filled with eight loaves of bread, were the Bread Shelves which since 1723 have held loaves of bread for the poor of the city under a bequest from Theophilus Butler, Lord Newton of Newtown Butler. The tradition and the charity have continued unbroken for almost 300 years later.

The monument blaming Laetitia Pilkington’s woes on ‘a cruel & merciless World’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Laetitia Pilkington (1712-1750), ‘adventuress,’ writer and wit, was once a great favourite of Dean Jonathan Swift. A doctor’s daughter, she married an impoverished, ne’er-do-well priest, the Revd Matthew Pilkington (1701-1774), Vicar of Donabate and Saint Doulagh’s. Matthew and Laetitia were divorced in 1738, and she was imprisoned for debt. Her chief claim to fame is her Memoirs (1748), published after her release from Marshalsea Prison.

Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-1798), co-founder of the United Irishmen, married a parishioner of Saint Ann’s, Martha [Matilda] Witherington of 68 Grafton Street, in Saint Ann’s in 1785.

Thomas Barnardo (1845-1905), the founder of Barnardo’s Homes, attended the Sunday School in Saint Ann’s as a boy. In 1867, he founded the London East End Juvenile Mission with the cardinal principle, “No destitute child is ever refused admission.”

Bram Stoker (1847-1912), the author of Dracula (1897), lived around the corner from the church in 7 Saint Stephen’s Green, and married Florence Balcombe in Saint Ann’s in 1878.

Dr Douglas Hyde (1860-1949), the first President of Ireland, was born in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, the son of a Church of Ireland rector, the Revd Arthur Hyde. Throughout his life, Douglas Hyde was a regular parishioner of Saint Ann’s and was particularly fond of the liturgy and music in the church. Dr Hyde later joined WB Yeats, Lady Gregory, JM Synge and others in establishing an Irish national theatre. He was one of the seven co-founders of the Gaelic League and was its first president. He was Professor of Modern Irish in University College Dublin (1909-1932) and was unanimously elected the first President of Ireland in 1939.

An interesting monument on the south side of the gallery commemorates William Downes (1751-1826), Lord Downes and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, and Judge William Tankerville Chamberlain (1751-1802), who were buried together in Saint Ann’s. Their monument says they ‘studied together, lived together, sat together … and now they … lie together in the same tomb.’

They ‘studied together, lived together, sat together … and now they … lie together in the same tomb’ … a monument on the south side of the gallery in Saint Ann’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This morning’s tercentenary service was attended by many representatives of the charity sector, including the Samaritans. The Samaritans were set up in Ireland by a former Vicar of Saint Ann’s, Canon Billy Wynne.

When I worked as a journalist in The Irish Times over 20 years ago, I regularly attended the mid-day weekday celebrations of the Eucharist in Saint Ann’s, and later worked closely with a former Vicar of Saint Ann’s, Canon Adrian Empey, when he was the Principal of the Church of Ireland Theological College (now the Church of Ireland Theological Institute).

I hope to be back in Saint Ann’s parish next month for the launch of a new book in the Royal Irish Academy, which is next door to the church on Dawson Street.

Inside Saint Ann’s at Christmas time, seen from the gallery at the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (154) 29 October 2023

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark … first designed by AWN Pugin in 1848 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Last Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XXI, 29 October 2023). Later this morning, I hope to be present at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

Yesterday (28 October) was Greek National Day, or Oxi Day (Επέτειος του Όχι), so I may call into the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford later this morning. But, before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

Throughout this week, with the exceptions of All Saints’ Day (Wednesday 1 November) and All Souls’ Day (Thursday 2 November), my reflections each morning this week follow this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church or cathedral in Southwark;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Inside Saint George’s Cathedral … chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark in 1850 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark:
Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark.

Father Thomas Doyle (1793-1879), the son of Irish immigrants, first came to Saint George’s Chapel in Southwark in 1820. He acquired the site of the future Saint George’s Cathedral, then the Royal Belgian Chapel, and bought part of Saint George’s Fields, a site associated with the anti-Catholic Gordon riots in 1780. The local Roman Catholic community was served by a small chapel, but the arrival of large numbers of Irish immigrants made a larger church a pressing need.

The cathedral was designed by AWN Pugin, the prime figure in the Gothic Revival in church architecture in the early 19th century. Pugin was critical of Henry Rose’s work at this time in Saint Saviour’s, later the other Southwark Cathedral. The funds available did not match Pugin’s first ambitious plans for Saint George’s, however, and he was forced to compromise his designs. The money for the upper part of the tower and a spire was never found.

When Saint George’s was built, it was seen as the most important Roman Catholic Church in England. It could seat about 3,000 people, and the building was 240 ft long and 72 ft wide.

The church was solemnly opened on 4 July 1848 by Bishop Nicholas Wiseman, later Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Archbishop of Westminster. Pugin was the first person to be married in Saint George’s, when he married his third wife Jane Knill there on 10 August 1848.

Two years later, when Pope Pius IX restored the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England and Wales in 1850, Saint George’s was chosen as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Southwark, which was to cover the whole of southern England.

Saint George’s was one of the first four Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales – and the first in London – to become a cathedral since the English Reformation. Thomas Doyle, who became the Provost of Saint George’s, died in 1879.

Thomas Doyle had the vision that inspired Saint George’s … his memorial is on the north wall of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For half a century, Saint George’s remained the centre of Roman Catholic life in London until Westminster Cathedral opened in 1903.

Saint George’s was the venue for the funeral Mass of the nationalist Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, in October 1920 after he died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison.

A German bomb hit the cathedral on the night of 16 April 1941, starting a fire that destroyed the wooden roof and much of the cathedral. An adjoining hall became the pro-cathedral, and the architect Romilly Bernard Craze (1892-1974) was commissioned to rebuild the cathedral.

Work began in 1953, and in the new cathedral, Craze tried to blend the Arts and Crafts and Gothic Revival styles with surviving elements of the pre-war building. He used different types of Gothic to suggest age, as in ancient cathedrals built over different time periods. The Day Chapel (1963) has a Tudor-derived pattern, while the Baptistry (1966) was inspired by the Perpendicular.

The addition of the clerestory introduced light, air and a grandeur that were previously lacking. But, once again, there was no money for the upper part of the tower and a spire.

The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated on 4 July 1958 and solemnly opened by Bishop Cyril Cowderoy. When the Diocese of Southwark became a metropolitan see in 1965, Bishop Cowderoy became the first Archbishop of Southwark.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Petre Chantry date from 1848 and are among the few surviving parts of Pugin’s original work in the cathedral. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, the altar, reredos, encaustic floor tiles and wrought iron gates are Pugin’s original work, the tiles are by Herbert Minton of Stoke, and the gates are by John Hardman of Birmingham.

The Petre Chantry commemorates Edward Petre (1794-1848) and his wife, Laura Stafford-Jerningham (1811-1886), who later became a nun. The Knill Chantry (1857), by Pugin’s son, Edward Pugin, commemorates the family of Jane Pugin, including her cousin, Sir Stuart Knill, who became Lord Mayor of London.

The Lady Chapel holds a small 18th century Flemish statue of the Virgin and Child known as ‘Our Lady of Saint George’s.’ The Baptistry, the newest part of the cathedral, has a window by the Harry Clarke Studios depicting the Resurrection.

The Sanctuary was re-ordered in 1989 by the architect Austin Winkley to emphasise the focal points of the liturgy. The East Window depicts the crucifixion and saints in the history of the Church in England and Wales. The glass is by the Harry Clarke Studios, but the stone tracery is Pugin’s original.

Archbishop John Wilson, a former auxiliary bishop of Westminster, was installed as Archbishop of Southwark in 2019, in succession to Archbishop Peter Smith.

These two cathedrals in Southwark have a close working relationship. They are a few minutes’ walk from South Bank and the Thames, London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, the London Eye, and landmarks such as Saint Thomas’ Hospital and Waterloo Station.

The East Window in Saint George’s Cathedral by the Harry Clarke studios depicts the crucifixion and saints … the stone tracery is Pugin’s original (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 22: 34-46 (NRSVA):

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37 He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42 ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43 He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?”

45 If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46 No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Petre Chantry (1848) by AWN Pugin is a perfect Gothic gem in the Perpendicular style (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is inspired by a Reflection – ‘He restores my soul’ – by Revd Dale R Hanson:

‘I believe that a connection with God’s creation can speak to us at the deepest level of restoring the soul. I remember the first time that truth hit home to me. I was facing tough decisions and I went on retreat to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in North East England. Whilst there that phrase from our Psalm spoke to me in a way that I had never experienced before – I had all sorts of reading planned, study of thick theological tomes but God invited me to spend the time walking with Him in His creation. Through it, He restored my soul.

‘In the week before Palm Sunday, I was privileged to visit Lake Hornborga in South West Sweden. At this time of year, it hosts up to 15000 migrating cranes. The prophet Jeremiah contrasts the natural wisdom of migrating birds with human disobedience, “Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the Lord.” (Jeremiah 8:7 ESV) “here - my experience of being amid God’s creation again restored my soul as I prepared for Holy Week and Easter, the fundamental source of the abundant life that Jesus offers us”.

‘Why not reflect on how can you connect with creation and encourage others so to do in ways that “restore the soul” and lead to a deeper appreciation of our Creator and the providential Shepherd care we receive?’

This reflection is adapted from a sermon from Preaching for God’s world: www.preachingforgodsworld.org

The USPG Prayer Diary today (29 October 2023) invites us to reflect on these words:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul – Psalm 23.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its altar, reredos, encaustic tiles and wrought iron gates, is Pugin’s original work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
help us so to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of all grace,
your Son Jesus Christ fed the hungry
with the bread of his life
and the word of his kingdom:
renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your true and living bread;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Knill Chantry (1857) by Edward Pugin is dedicated to the family of AWN Pugin’s third wife (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 Lady Chapel was completed in 1963 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)