The marvellous story of St.
Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen, may be told. It is a symbol of the new era
that has dawned for the people of Ireland: it marks the passing of a
Protestant ascendancy and the coming of our Catholic people into their
- Eaglais n. Clair
agus Clochar n. Clair
St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen
St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen
from Lorraine Ryan
Its history had its origin in an election, the
fiercely fought Carlow election of 1841. Colonel Bruen, the local
landlord, a good and generous man, was the Protestant candidate. The
Catholics were represented by young Daniel O’Connell, son of the Liberator
himself: he stood for repeal of the Union, reform of the land laws, secret
ballot, and fair representation in Parliament
The excitement before and during the election
was intense, Bruen was a born fighter and had a good backing. On the
Catholic side was the gigantic figure of the Liberator backed by the
priests and their flocks. Chief among his supporters was a man who was
ever ready to give battle for Catholic truth and Catholic rights:
Fr. James Maher, PP. of Graigue. It was this
zealous priest who marshalled his people to the polling station on the
days of the election; and his influence was more powerful than the
regiments of troops who stood by and held the crowd in check when it was
feared that the town would be burned if the result was not favourable to
the Catholics. The result was indeed a disappointment. Many, intimidated
by the power of the landlords, voted for Bruen who was elected by a
majority of nine votes.
Immediately after this the gentry of South
Tipperary formed a committee to make a presentation to Colonel Bruen. A
large sum of money was collected. Bruen, who was a traveller and a lover
of architecture, chose that their gift to him should be used to build a
church on his estate, near Carlow. St. Anne’s Church on the Athy Road was
accordingly built, mostly at the Colonel’s own expense. It was a beautiful
structure in Gothic architecture, complete with a graceful tower and
slender spire, lovely windows, carvings in stone of saints, gargoyles -
all the ornaments of Gothic.
For some years Protestant service was held in
this Church until gradually the congregation dwindled and it was closed.
Then there was this curious situation: a beautiful church on the Carlow
side of the river with no congregation while at the Laois side, in the
parish of Carlow-Graigue, was a wretched Church with a huge congregation;
the one was Protestant, the other Catholic. Who would have dreamed thirty
years before, that not only would the memorial church pass into the
possession of Catholics but that it would be actually taken across the
river by the people of Graigue?
In 1893 when Mother Seraphine and her four
companions came to Graigue, she saw that St. Fiacc’s parish church was a
poor building and was overcrowded. She resolved to beg and collect for a
new convent and a more worthy church. From the convent garden she could
see the spire of
St. Anne’s church. She learned it was out of use and
empty. Rosary in hand she used to gaze at the spire. “I’m knocking that
spire; each Hail Mary is a bullet,” she used to say. At length her
ammunition won the day.
It must have caused surprise in 1925 when it
was announced that Fr. Michael Bolger, P.P. of Graigue, had bought the
church at a nominal price from Mr. Bruen. The actual task of transferring
it to Graigue fell to the lot of Fr. Fogarty, successor to Fr. Bolger.
colossal undertaking could not have fallen into more capable hands. With
the gift of organisation, Fr. Fogarty showed also a deep appreciation of
all that was beautiful in the original structure and he determined that,
while enlarging the Church for the needs of his flock, he would preserve
and reproduce all the beautiful features of the former building, the
windows, doors, arches and roof. Under the guidance of Messer. Foley and
Sullivan, architects, this was accomplished.
The foundation stone of the
Church of St. Clare was laid on 7th June, the Feast of Corpus Christi,
1928 and in the following year when Ireland was celebrating the centenary
of Catholic Emancipation, the new Church was opened and dedicated by Most
Rev Dr Cullen on Sunday, 13 October, in the presence of a large
congregation. Adjoining the Poor Clare Convent, the Church stands to-day,
complete, stately an eloquent monument of the ultimate triumph, through
many failures, of people’s patience and steadfast striving in the cause of
NATIONALIST & LEINSTER TIMES
8th December 1900
On Tuesday the 4th inst., the interesting and impressive
ceremony of the consecration of a new bell took place at St
Clare’s Abbey, Carlow-Graigue, Carlow.
The bell which is the gift of Mrs Blake, wife of the late
John Aioysius Blake, M.P. for Carlow, and from the well known
bell foundry of Mr M. Byrne of James’ Street, Dublin, was
solemnly blessed according to the Pontifical Roman Rite by the
Most Rev Dr Foley, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin, assisted by the
Very Rev Dean Brophy of Carlow College, Very Rev George Byrne
PP, Graigue and the Rev Patrick Campion CC, Graigue.
As the extern chapel is not yet completed, the ceremony was
of a strictly private character, no visitors being admitted.
Dating from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the
8th, the bell will be rung to summon the community at 5 o’clock
a.m., for Divine Office (Prime and Terce), at 6 am. for the
Angelus, at 7.20 a.m. for mass, at 12 o’clock for the Angelus,
for Vespers at 4 o’clock, at 6 p.m. for the Angelus, at 7 p.m.
for Divine Office and at 11 o’clock when the sisters rise for
Matins and Lauds.
This article appeared in
Fiacc's Folk 1997/98
(Previously published in ''The Parish of KILLESHIN, Graiguecullen'. by
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