Cork City

Saint Mary’s Dominican Church

A Catholic Church located on Pope’s Quay. This church was designed by the young architect Kearns Deane. This highly talented generous Protestant gave his services gratuitously and in appreciation for this they erected a marble tablet in the most frequented of the Church porches. In design the church is neo-classical, in compliance with the Greek Ionic style of architecture. The masonry was the work of Thomas and James Fitzgerald, Stone Merchants, 6 Grand Parade, Cork. On Sunday, October 20th, 1839 the church was blessed and opened for public worship by the Bishop of Cork Most Rev. John Murphy D.D The preacher was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, His Grace Most Rev. William Crolly D.D.

In the “vast congregation of clergy and laity was “The Liberator”, Daniel O’Connell.

The portico: This portico was not erected until 1861, more than 20 years after the opening of the church. The contractor was Mr. P.J. Scannell of 14 Douglas Street who later worked on the enlarged sanctuary. Much admired are the fluted Ionic columns. On a flight of ten steps they stand 35 feet in height. They are amongst the finest in Ireland. The statue of Our Lady which surmounts the pediment of the portico was raised to its present position in December 1861. It is the work of James Cahill of Dublin, one of Hogan’s most celebrated pupils. It is a copy of Obicci’s bronze statue which was set up on a column in the Piazza di Spagna, Rome, by order of Pope Pius 1X to commemorate the definition of the Immaculate Conception in December 1854. Kearns Deane did not live to see his portico. A modified version of his plan was executed under and with the approval of his elder brother Sir Thomas Deane

The Organ: Over the main porch is the organ gallery. It was built in 1897 by Messers Peter Conacher & Co. of Huddersfield, England and Dublin in Ireland. In 1911 it underwent extensive repairs cleaning and overhauling, some important additions were made in the nature of stops and improvements in the action. At present the organ is badly in need of a further overhaul.

Seating, Kneelers and Dividing-rails: While the portico was being constructed, oaken rails were placed between the aisles and the nave. Seats with kneelers attached were put into the nave and aisles. The seats, kneelers and rails were designed by Mr. Pyne Hurly of 3 Victoria Terrace. The contractor was Mr. John Crean. In 1912 the aisle seats were replaced by the present longer ones. During 1977 the kneelers attached to the seats were reduced in width, hinged and upholstered by members of the Rehabilitation Institute, South Douglas Road.

The Gas-Standards: The church was lit by gas for the first time on Christmas morning 1855. It was not until 1885 that the fourteen solid brass gas-standards which are such a feature of the church were introduced. They were made by Messers J. Perry & Sons Saint Patrick’s Street. They have since been fitted with electric bulbs.

The Stations of the Cross: The former Stations of the Cross, supplied in 1872 by Messers Meyer & Co. of Munich and London, were oil-paintings in large wooden frames that cut across the classic lines of the pilasters on both sides of the Church. In 1969 they were replaced by the present stations. These came from Ortisei, a centre of a thriving wood-carving industry near Bolzano in the Dolomite Alps of Northern Italy. They were hand carved by Joseph Stuflesser and his associates.

The Confessionals: Confessionals were erected in 1872. These in turn were replaced by confession boxes made in 1938 by William Lynch of Lower John Street. To make provision for the fitting celebration of the New Rite of Penance which was inspired by the Second Vatican Council, eight confession-rooms were constructed during 1981. These confession rooms were designed by Mr. Kevin Murphy, architect, and were built by Messers D.J. Costello Ltd., Rochestown Road.

The Transept Altars: Outside the sanctuary, in the East and West transepts respectively, are altars erected in honour of the Sacred Heart and Saint Joseph. Both were designed by Mr. George Goldie of London. [George Goldie (1828-1887), an English Catholic, designed churches and other ecclesiastical buildings in many parts of Ireland, England and Scotland. From 1867 he was principal in the firm of Messers Goldie &Child and from 1880 in the firm of Messers Goldie, Child & Goldie, the second Goldie being his son Edward. In 1877 he was honoured by Pope Pius 1X for his services to the Church.]

The Sacred Heart Altar: In 1856 Pope Pius 1X had extended to the whole Church the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. During the 1870s there was throughout the Catholic world a marked increase in devotion to Our Lord under the symbol of his heart. In 1872 Saint Mary’s church and priory, and in 1873 the whole of Ireland and the entire Dominican Order, were solemnly consecrated to the Sacred Heart. In 1871 a temporary altar – the first to be erected in Cork under this title – was set up in the East transept. By a bequest of Mrs Margaret Leahy of Shanakiel, it was replaced in 1875 by the present permanent altar.

For centuries devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus had flourished in the Dominican Order. Both closely related devotions are combined in the dedication above the altar: “To the honour of the Sacred Heart of the Holy Name of Jesus”.

Saint Joseph’s Altar: Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus, had in 1871 been proclaimed “Patron of the Universal Church” by Pope Pius 1X. The same year a temporary altar in honour of Saint Joseph had been set up in the West transept. In 1877 it was replaced by the present altar – the gift of Mr Nicholas Murphy of Montenotte. This altar was made by Messers Thomas Earp of Lambeth, London.

Above the altar, on a scroll held in an angel’s hand are the words “Ite ad Joseph” (Go to Joseph), a quotation from Genesis 41:55. Christian writers have detected analogies between the provident Joseph of the Old Testament and the provident Joseph of the New.

The Sanctuary: Between 1868 and 1871 a structural change was made. The solid rock behind the sanctuary was excavated and the present apse was constructed. The contractor was Mr Barry McMullen of 34 Mary Street. The apse, the high altar with its reredos, tabernacle and baldachino, the pavement, choir stalls and pulpit, the side-altar rails and gates were all designed by Mr George Goldie.

The High Altar: This is the third high altar to have been erected since the church was built. Constructed by Messers P.J. O’ Neill & Sons, Dublin, and put into position in 1885, it was consecrated in 1888 by Most Rev. T.A. O’Callaghan O.P., D.D., Bishop of Cork, a former member and superior of St. Mary’s Community.

The front of the sarcophagus-shaped altar puts into relief the monogram JESus : IHS, these being the first three letters of the Greek word for the Holy Name. To facilitate the celebration of the liturgy according to modern requirements without doing violence to the  architectural style of the church, in July 1976 the altar was detached from its reredos, reinforced, and brought forward three-and-a-half feet. This delicate operation was admirably performed by Messers Thomas McCarthy & Sons, Copley Street. They were instructed by Mr T. F. McNamara, Cork City Architect, who has long been an admirer of the architecture of St. Mary’s.

The Reredos: The reredos occupies the full space between the two columns at the rear of the baldachino. Its centre-piece is basically a cubic model temple in which is housed the tabernacle. The temple is flanked at either side by marble statuettes of Saint Thomas of Aquino and Saint Rose of Lima.

Above the model temple on sets of quadruple Corinthian columns, rises a dome with its cupola, orb and cross. Resting on an octagonal plinth and filling in good proportion the space underneath the main arch of the dome is a brass crucifix. On occasions of great solemnity this is replaced by a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.

The wings of the reredos are filled with pairs of cruciform panels richly inlaid with Siena and emperor’s-red marbles. Upon them rest six large candlesticks, three on either side.

The Tabernacle: Enshrined within the reredos and model temple is the tabernacle, a shining glory of brass and blue enamel. On either side are brass statuettes of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena. Designed in 1883 by Mr Goldie, the tabernacle was made in Paris by the firm of M. Chartier.

The Baldachino:  The word “baldachino” (canopy) comes from “Baldocco”, Italian for Baghdad. From Baghdad came the brocades, silks, satins and other rich materials which were used in making portable canopies or baldachinos.The Baldachino was erected in 1872. Its four splendid columns of polished red Aberdeen granite – each shaft consisting of a single piece eleven feet long and fourteen to fifteen inches in diameter – rest on bases of Sicilian white marble, the pedestals having each four panels of green Connemara marble. The columns are crowned with elaborately foliated capitals of Caen stone richly gilded. This fine work was done by Mr Scannell of Douglas Street.

In 1884 the upper portion of the baldachino was removed and a new wooden superstructure was put in its place on the capitals above the pillars. The high reredos of the new altar could now be contained beneath the baldachino. This work was done by the makers of the new altar: Messers P.J. O’Neill & Sons, Dublin.

Beneath the pediment is a quotation Isaiah 45:15: “Vere tu es Deus absconditus” (“Truly you are a hidden God”). Around the sides and back, not easily seen, are the words: Ave, Maria, Gratia Plena” (“Hail, Mary, full of grace”) and “Ecce, ancilla Domini” (“Behold the handmaid of the Lord”).

Above the pillars at each corner are statues respectively of four great Fathers of the Western Church: (behind) St. Ambrose and St Augustine; (in front) St. Jerome and St Gregory the Great.

The Sanctuary Lamp: This lamp, fashioned by Messers John Smyth & Co., Dublin, was donated in 1871 by the ladies of St. Mary’s Catechetical Society. Formerly it hung before the Rosary altar. The larger inscription reads in translation: “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us”; that in smaller lettering was composed by a former Provincial, Very Rev. Robert A. White O.P. it runs in a paraphrased translation: “Mary’s devoted children in Cork gratefully offer her this lamp to commemorate the third centenary of the battle of Lepanto, a victory gained through the intercession of the Mother of God”.

The Pulpit: This pulpit, the work of Messers P.J.O’Neill & Sons, Dublin, is a symphony in marble: Carrara, Sicilian, Siena, Galway Black and Midleton Red.

The figures represented are those of five Dominican saints: Dominic himself (1170-1221) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), both seated and, in ‘alto rilievo’ the heads, left to right, of Catherine of Siena, (1347-1380), Pope Saint Pius V (1505-1572) and Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419).

At the base are three niches with figures representing the great virtues of faith, hope and charity.

The inscription reads: “In honour of Saint Thomas of Aquin their holy patron, this pulpit was erected by the exertions of the young men of the Angelic Warfare, 1880”.

The pulpit was inaugurated on Sunday, May 30th 1880, the preacher for the occasion being the Bishop of Ross, Most Rev. William Fitzgerald D.D. Reproductions of the architects’ drawings for this pulpit may be found in the pages of “The Architect”, London, August 28th 1880. The design and its execution are highly commended.

The Ambo and Sedile: During September 1977 the altar-rails and gates which, since the 1880s had separated the sanctuary from the nave, were removed. The ambo (reading desk) and the sedile (chair) for which marbles from the altar-rails were used, were made and set up by Messers Thomas McCarthy & Sons, Copley Street. The brass book-stand on the ambo was supplied by Messers Wm Egan & Sons, Ltd., of Patrick Street.

Other Furnishings in the Sanctuary: The tiled pavement was laid down in 1873, the tiles being supplied and placed by Messers Sibthorpe & Son, Cork Hill, Dublin. The choir-stalls followed in 1877, these being made by Messers Hayball of Sheffield where George Goldie had practised as an architect before moving to London. The red granite steps were supplied and put into place between 1881 and 1883 by Messers P.J. Scannell & Sons of Douglas Street as were the marble altar rails. At the same time the ornamental metal gates and the brass rail for the pulpit steps, all made by Mr. Perry of Patrick Street, were put into position.

The altar-rails and gates that still separate the side altars from the aisles show what the central rails looked like. The letters J.M.J. stand for Jesus, Mary, Joseph. On the double central gates were the letters J.M.J.D., the D standing for Dominic.

Two Side Altars in the Sanctuary Area: In 1889 a munificent bequest prompted the decision to replace the existing side-altars within the sanctuary with altars more worthy of the noble building. Mr. Samuel F. Hynes ARIBA, South Mall was the new architect and Mr. Samuel Daly of 11 Cook Street was chosen as the contractor. The statues in the niches above both altars were sculptured by Mr. John Smith (or Smyth) of Dublin.

Altar of Our Lady of the Rosary: Beneath the pediment of the reredos of this altar, in letters of gold, is written: “REG * SS * ROSARII” (“Queen of the most holy Rosary”) and on the arch beneath are the words: “Ora pro nobis” (“Pray for us”).

The figures in the deep recess represent Our Lady with child giving the Rosary to Saint Dominic. They were donated by the lady-members of the Rosary Confraternity.

A curved coving contains carvings of the heads of our Lady and Saint Joseph and of Mary’s parents: Saint Joachim and Saint Anne.

The brass-fronted tabernacle – the work of Messers J & C McGloughlin, Dublin – is surmounted by a marble structure with a niche which contains the shrine of Our Lady of Graces.

Shrine of Our Lady of Graces: There are some lovely legends purporting to give the origin of the little ivory image herein enshrined. The sober facts seem to be these:

In 1304 the image was brought to Ireland from Europe by Maurice O’ Carroll Archbishop of Cashel, County Tipperary. When he died in1316 he was laid to rest in the Dominican church at Youghal Co. Cork and the image which he venerated was interred with him. Later the image was removed from the tomb and soon became an object of considerable veneration. During the reign of Elizabeth 1st of England the church was destroyed but the image came into the possession of Honoria Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald of Ballymaloe House near Cloyne. (Now a Guest House and Restaurant). It was she who had it enclosed in the silver reliquary where it still lies. An inscription on it reads (in translation from the Latin): “Pray for the soul of Honoria, daughter of James of the Geraldine’s, who had me made. Anno Domini 1617”.

When, towards the end of the 18th century, the Dominicans were finally compelled to abandon Youghal, the image was brought to Cork.

Honoria Fitzgerald’s reliquary with its relic was later placed in a larger shrine. This was a votive offering give by Mr. Michael O’Callaghan, father of the Dominican Bishop of Cork of that name. It was designed by George Goldie and made in Paris under his personal supervision. A translation of the Latin inscription reads: “Michael O’Callaghan and Family return thanks to Saint Mary of Graces 1872”.

The shrine with its reliquary and ivory image was placed in its present position on the Rosary altar in 1895.

Saint Dominic’s Altar: Beneath the pediment of the reredos of this altar are the words in gold lettering: “S.P. DOMINICE” (Holy Father Dominic) and on the arch beneath are the words: “Ora pro nobis” (Pray for us)

The statue in the recess is, of course, that of Saint Dominic founder of the Order of Friars Preachers. The for little head-sculptures represent Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Catherine of Siena, possibly Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Louis Bertrand.

Beneath the table of this altar are fully authenticated relics of Saint Severus, an early Christian martyr. His memory is honoured annually on December 11th. The inscription reminiscent of martyrs in the Roman catacombs, reads: “SEVERO IN PACE” (To Severus who is in peace). The relics were brought from the catacombs of Rome in 1842 by Most Rev. John Thomas Hynes O.P., formerly a member of the Cork Community, later Bishop of Demerara. The Bishop was an uncle of the sculptor of the two side-altars.

Memorial to Father Russell: Father Russell who was born in1799, died in ripe old age on February 5th 1890. His admirers decided to erect a memorial to him. The monument may be seen near St. Dominic’s Altar. It was designed by Mr. Samuel F. Hynes and executed by Mr. J.A. O’Connell, Gilabbey Street. The bust of Fr. Russell was sculptured by Sir Thomas Farrell P.R.H.A. of Dublin (1827-1900).

A contemporary account of the memorial contains this observation; “While adhering to the classic form in its details, it embodies in its outline and expresses in a bold and original manner the idea of a Celtic Cross. Thus giving a distinctive Irish tone to the work”.

A translation of the inscription reads: “To the memory of the Very Rev. Bartholomew Thomas Russell, a Corkman of the order of Preachers, Masters of Theology and twice Provincial, who built Saint Mary’s church and priory. He died in 1890 aged 92 in the 72nd year of his religious profession.. Erected by his fellow-citizens and brethren”.

Acknowledgements are due to all who assisted Father Russell in his great work, to those who contributed their “widow’s mite” but perhaps to none more than to some distinguished members of the Murphy brewing and distilling family who, while they lived, made their magnificent contributions anonymously. Mention should be made of John Count Murphy and his brother Nicholas who not only made lavish contributions themselves but gave time and energy to organising and chairing fund-raising meetings. Mention should be made also of Countess Murphy, of her mother Mrs.Margaret Leahy of Shanakiel and of the Count’s sister Miss Susan Murphy.

The Ceiling: The ceiling, supported by lofty fluted columns of the Corinthian order of Jupiter Stator, may be termed the crowning glory of Saint Mary’s church. A modern architect feelingly remarked “What is not often appreciated is that the coffered ceiling of St. Mary’s church is unsurpassed in Cork. It was executed by local craftsmen at a time when all such plaster work was undertaken only by Italians”.

The late Seamus Murphy in his book “Stone Mad” remarks: “Sure, the plasterers have cricks in their necks from looking up at the ceiling of Saint Mary’s. Any time I go there to look at the pulpit and side altars, there’s one or two of them with their apprentices standing in the main aisle and their eyes turned up, gaping at the masterpiece of their craft. They are so proud of it that they had a banner of it painted for the procession the trades used to have on St. Patrick’s Day long ago”.

One name from the past: the stucco work was carried out under the direction of a Mr. Mahony.

Saint Martin’s Chapel: Martin de Porres, a coloured Dominican lay-brother of Lima, Peru, was born in 1579 and died in 1639. During his sixty years he devoted himself tirelessly to works of mercy, especially to caring for the sick. Much revered and loved in our own day as “Blessed Martin” – the lesser title distinguished him from the saints and seemed to make him more approachable – he was canonised in 1962.

Spontaneous and enthusiastic devotion to him prompted the construction of this adjunct to Saint Mary’s, first steps being taken in April 1968. Work was completed by March 1972. The shrine was solemnly opened on December 10th 1972. The architects were Messers Frank Murphy and partners and the contractors Messers Joseph Lane & Sons. The statue is by Neff Brothers, Father Mathew Street.

The Ramp: The ten steps that lead from street-level to the level of Saint Mary’s church had long posed a problem for wheel-chair cases and other disabled people. 1981, International Year of the Disabled, inspired the building of a ramp that would overcome this difficulty.

Those engaged in the design and construction of the ramp gave their services freely and wishes to remain anonymous.

Saint Dominic & the Dominicans: Saint Dominic Guzman, founder of the Order of Friars Preachers, was born A.D. 1170 at Calaruega in Old Castile. As a young man he studied at the University of Palencia, displaying there both a love of learning and a warm-hearted compassion for the poor. Drawn to the priesthood, he joined the Augustinian Canons at the Cathedral of Osma, near Burgos. A short time after his profession in the Chapter, he was ordained priest. He was twenty-five years of age.

In 1203, accompanying his bishop on a journey through the South of France, Dominic came in contact with Catharism – a form of Manichaeism that had become widespread throughout Languedoc. The Catharists – or Albigensians as they were called, their headquarters being in the town of Albi – held theories which were at variance with Catholic belief and practice. Dominic decided to remain in their midst and by word and example to preach to them, with emphasis on the exposition and defence of the Catholic Faith. Whenever possible he entered into dialogue with them and succeeded in bringing some of them to his way of thinking. Some of his admirers, attracted by his personality and ideals, begged to share in his apostolate.

In the years that followed Dominic conceived the idea of a universal Order of Preachers. For this he obtained in 1215 the approval of Pope Innocent 3rd and in 1216 the final approbation of Pope Honorius 3rd. The Order of Friars Preachers was born. Friars (Latin, fraters, brothers) are not monks. Friars Preachers, called “Blackfriars” from their black over-cloak, are more usually known as Dominicans or as “O.P.s” i.e. members of Saint Dominic Order of Preachers.

The new Order spread rapidly. During the remaining five years of Dominic’s life, Dominicans were to be found in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden and England. Their presence in England is marked by the London borough of Blackfriars and by Blackfriars Bridge. In keeping with the intellectual bias of the Order, priories were established at the great university centres of Oxford, Bologna and Paris. Their priory in Paris was Saint Jacques (Saint James), whence Dominicans there were called “Jacobins”. The name was much later given to the notorious political club of the French Revolution when it took possession of the Dominican refectory in the Rue Saint Honore near the National Assembly. It was at Bologna that Saint Dominic died in 1221.

The Dominicans in Cork: In 1224, a few years after St. Dominic’s death, some of his friars settled in Dublin. In 1229 some others settled in Cork. Here they established themselves on an islet – subsequently known as St. Dominic’s Island – in the South channel of the River Lee, near where St. Finbarre’s Cathedral now stands. Their fine church “magnifica ecclesia” and priory being dedicated to Our Lady the foundation became known as “Saint Maries of the Isle”.

For three hundred years Saint Maries of the Isle flourished, helping to promote the Faith in Cork and in the rest of Ireland, supplying professors of theology to many parts of Europe, giving Cologne in Germany on of its Archbishops. He is known in history as “Ioannes Corcagiensis” (John the Corkman)

The first Dominican establishment in Cork was confiscated to the crown during the reign of Henry V111 (1509-1547). It was not finally abandoned until the Great Exile of 1697.

Soon after their departure from the island, the Dominicans acquired a house in an obscure lane off Shandon Street. This lane, since widened, still bears the name “Old Friary Place”.

In 1784 the friars built a house and chapel on the Shandon Castle site near the butter exchange building. A rotunda firkin market with a butter crane was erected there when in 1852 the friars vacated the site and occupied the present priory. One of those friars was a notable Corkman named Father Bartholomew Thomas Russell O.P. He was born in 1799 in Mallow Lane (now Shandon Street) within earshot of the Bells of Shandon. With remarkable vision, energy, and drive, aided by the no less remarkable generosity of the people of Cork, he addressed himself to the formidable task of building the present church of Saint Mary’s on Pope’s Quay.

Pope’s Quay has no papal significance. It is named, not after a Pope of Rome but after the Widow Pope, a Cork merchant-lady who on November 3rd 1718, was given permission by the then Cork Corporation to erect a quay in front of her premises.

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