Saint Catherine of Alexandria [Located On Meath Street]
As I have a policy of not using flash I often have great difficulty photographing church interiors and often the resulting images contain lots of noise. Things have improved since I added two Sony GM f/2.8 lenses to my collection of full-frame lenses but I am still not getting the results that I had hoped for.
This particular photograph was taken inside St. Catherine’s RC church on Meath Street and this church has a very interesting history. One of the more famous features is the death mask of 18-year-old Kevin Barry, hanged in the War of Independence. The mask looks down from a column in the nave. According to a local “He was snuck up there”. I overheard a tourist guide explain that when the church was renovated in the 1920s a decision was made to place images of Irish saints at the base of each of the plaster ribs extending up to the ceiling. However, as no image of Saint Kevin of Glendalough was available at reasonable cost the death mask of Kevin Barry was used instead.
There has been two churches on this site, the first being an octagonal chapel opened in 1782. The chapel and a presbytery were knocked down to make way for a bigger church. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on 30 June 1852. The architect was James Joseph McCarthy and construction of the main church was completed in March 1857, but the original design of the upper portion of the tower and spire were never completed. The church was dedicated to Catherine of Alexandria on 30 June 1858.
James Joyce’s first short story, The Sisters, concerns a former priest of St. Catherine’s Church, Meath Street.
A small grotto was built on the grounds and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. It was renovated and rededicated in 2000.
The church suffered very serious damage from an arson attack in January 2012.
According to an official report cold air rushed inside and met gases released by the burning of the crib beside the altar, causing an explosion that blew out the stained glass windows, taking with it 150 years of history. “It took just 20 minutes for the inside of the church to be in ruins,” parish priest Fr Niall Coghlan said. “Every single inch was affected by the explosion. It took out the windows, blew the top off the organ, melted the light fittings which dripped down on to the seats and the floor. It even melted the paint off the walls.”
NOTE: It cost a total of €4.1m to renovate, after a homeless man admitted setting fire to the Roman Catholic church in 2012. He was subsequently committed to the Central Mental Hospital in May 2013.
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