The ones that got away - Ardattin
- D O M
- Huius Ecclesiae
- Immaculatae Conceptioni Dedicatae
- Hunc Lapidem Primarium
- Benedictum Posuit
- Rev.mus et Ill.mus Thomas Keogh
- Epus. Daren. et Leighlinen
- Die Festo Immaculatae Cordis B.V.M.
- Anno Domini MCMLIV (1954)
Thus reads the 'corner stone' of the Church of the
Immaculate Conception, Ardattin, Co. Carlow, which is another that
has, thus far, gotten away from the hands of the modernist
iconoclasts. The Churches of Kildare and Leighlin built later in the
halcyon days before liturgo-architectural reordering have seemed to
suffer the worst at the hands of architectural moderisers. Of those
nine Churches built during the reign of Bishop Thomas Keogh
(1936-1967), most have been radically, even shockingly reordered. In
the first part of my article 'The Builders of Kildare and Leighlin'
I quoted Prof. Robert Krier: “If you wish to see great Modernist
architecture you must have plenty of time and your own Lear jet” but
I think an exception can be made for Ardattin.
Diocesan Year Book says: "The new church has been designed to follow
the established lines of historic Irish Romanesque tradition,
evolved on principles consonant with the religious requirements and
the materials available of the present age. No actual historical
example has, therefore, been closely followed. It has been sought
rather to let the conditions create the architecture and to reflect
within it some of that sturdy and tenacious Catholicism, that spirit
of fidelity and sacrifice, so typical of the parish in all ages and
so well shown at all times by its people. The church has been built
by Messrs. D. and J. Carbery Ltd., of Carlow, whose foreman, Mr.
Thomas Corcoran, has produced for them a most excellent building.
The decorative work has been carried out by Messrs. Michael Creedon
and Co. Ltd., of Dublin, who, with the craftmanship of Mr. John
Carney, have left here a memorial worthy of their reputation".
It also points out that two stained-glass windows,
Our Lady and St. Joseph, that were in the sanctuary of the old
Church are re-set in the windows over the main doorway of the new
church. The window of the Sacred Heart and St. Margaret Mary is
re-set in a nave window on the Gospel side. The sanctuary lamp that
hung for many years in the old church, telling of the Sacramental
Presence, will be used in the new church to tell the same message of
love. The windows, so a notice across the road from the Church tells
us, were presented to the old Church by Bro. Boniface Carroll of
Ballinastraw, in memory of his aunt and uncle Honoria and Eugene
O'Neill. Bro. Carroll went on to become Superior General of "the
Order". The notice also tells us that the Church contains a
prie-dieu once owned by Blessed John Henry Newman, donated by Major
and Mrs. Stanley Barrett of Ballynoe. The Stations of the Cross,
likewise, were a gift of Kilbride GAA in memory of Edward Butler of
Ballinastraw (a former player).
The sod having been turned in April, 1954, that
corner stone was laid on 22nd August, 1954, the Marian Holy Year,
and the Church was blessed (but not consecrated, it seems, despite
the land being a gift of Matthey Murphy, Ardoyne) on Sunday, 13th
May, 1956. It features in the Irish Builder of 2nd June, 1956.
On first view, the Church reminds us of the ancient
Irish churches of stone such as are still to be seen in Glendalough.
The projecting triple-arched doorway is surely evocative of
Killeshin as well as the massive west doors of Gothic cathedrals.
Killeshin is, however, nearer to the door of Caragh Church, by the
same architect as Ardattin. Over the door is a statue of Our Lady of
The interior is filled with light, courtesy of the
alternating arrangement of the wall elements. Pairs of tall
round-headed windows in six bays of the nave are alternatively
shortened by confessionals and a side door but, where the windows
are shortened to admit the Gospel side confessional recessed into
the wally, the windows are full-length on the opposite wall of that
bay, and so on.
If there is a criticism to be made of Powell as an
architect, it is the striking similarity of all his church designs.
His Whitefriar St. bears all the hallmarks of his Church of the
Assumption and St. Patrick, Rathangan, and his Church of Our Lady
and St. Joseph, Caragh, at least as regards the interior. A decade
earlier, he was responsible for the side aisles of the Church of the
Most Holy Rosary in Tullow. Perhaps only his Church of the
Immaculate Conception, Allenwood, is notably distinct, although not
so different, being in a Gothic idiom, although hardly so
conventional a Gothic as his masterpiece 'Hatch Hall' on Hatch St.,
Dublin. Of his Churches in the Diocese, Allenwood, Rathangan and
Caragh, have been 'reordered' so only Ardattin remains as an example
of his own vision. It is a vision well worth preserving - and a
higher and greater vision than those visions given form in the
'rearrangements' of his other Churches.
The roof of the Church is stunning. It is cusped but
the central arch runs the length of the building with no distinction
made between nave and Sanctuary. The effect is stunningly dynamic,
drawing the eye forward to the Sanctuary.
The Altar rails run from wall to wall just before
the Sanctuary. They were the gift of Edward and Michael Donohoe,
Thornhill, in 1956. The rails are slightly curved at the centre and
consist of white marble pierced in triplet round-headed arches with
light yellow marble pillasters between. Wonderful to say, the
Sanctuary gates are intact and in situ. An original picture of the
Church in 1956 shows no pulpit and none is present now. The
Baptismal font, perhaps another element from the old Church, was a
gift by the parents of Rev. J. Murphy, Ardoyne, who died in Toronto,
1st February, 1911, aged 26. It is a white marble octagonal bowl
standing on a red marble pillar with a white marble plinth.
The Sanctuary is a model of sensitive 'reordering'
that manages not to break the lines of the Sanctuary. The 'east'
wall has three round-headed arches, two being windows, the central
one being a blind niche running the full height of the Sanctuary and
containing the Crucifix for the High Altar. The High Altar itself, a
gift of Michael Murphy, Newstown, in memory of his parents, is fully
intact. It is in white marble with two low gradines either side of
the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is domed with a pedimented front face
in which the Holy Ghost is represented over the Tabernacle door,
which is flanked by pillars in yellow marble. The mensa is intact
and is supported by six yellow marble columns that reveal seven
yellow marble panels of round-headed arches.
The modern Altar, erected in 2000, is plainer than
the original, standing on two bulks of white marble, each with a
pair of white marble pillars flanking a yellow round-headed panel.
It rests upon two wooden steps on the level of the first two steps
of the High Altar. One remarkable point is that in a sizeable
Sanctuary, the front of these steps drops sheer in front of the
modern Altar. The cliff, whereby it is impossible to celebrate Mass
'versus Deum' from in front of the Altar, is a common liturgical
symbol of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin!
If there is one discordant note it is the anomaly of
the first bay of the nave. The double windows clearly indicate that
a choir loft was intended. I wonder what happened. The Church is
painted in shades of green and is a riot of light and colour.
However, I think it easily avoids garishness and remains another gem
of the Diocese that has, so far, gotten away - Deo Gratias!
http://catholicheritage.blogspot.com/ & Google Street Map.