“A kind of gospel in glass”: stained glass from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Fethard, Tipperary.

“A kind of gospel in glass”: stained glass from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Fethard, Tipperary.

Every so often I have blogged pictures of stained glass, mainly from various Tipperary locales but also from further afield. I have found that this has led me to discoveries like the windows of Cloneen and the work of Murphy Devitt Studios.

Looking out for stained glass had made me aware of beauty that I would not have noticed otherwise. I have visited Fethard, Co Tipperary, very many times, and I have visited the Church of the Holy Trinity (the Catholic one) once or twice. It had struck me before as an imposing facade but I had not been particularly drawn to it, as opposed to the  Augustinian Abbey down the road .

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Visiting again with a deliberate eye to stained glass, all was changed. There is a wide range of styles and settings for the stained glass here, from traditional pious image to stylised, near-impressionistic works. It is an immensely rewarding experience to visit, an once again I can only apologise for the quality of the camera work.

Indeed, for this post I initially thought I would split the post into three or even four, but have decided to use slideshows to help illustrate the range of work.

On entering the Church, one finds stained glass work on the doors inside. These images are among the hardest to photograph as the stairs and floor behind the glass tended to crowd out the image. These panels features a range of saints and symbols:

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Above the entrance doors to this lobby we see a wonderful window depicting the Trinity. Visual depictions of God the Father are generally rare, so I thought this warranted a close-up:

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Into the main church, and in a series of panels just above the very back of the nave we have the text of the Apostles Creed with appropriate imagery.  First a rather ill-lit image of the whole thing:

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And now a slide show (particular apologies for slide quality):

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There is a beautiful chapel of Perpetual Adoration here (although it was empty when I visited) which features the  most distinctively “modern” glass:

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20170621_13565920170621_13565120170621_135706(0)A particularly delightful feature was the pair of windows in the choir balcony, either side of the organ. These feature Biblical images of music, featuring Kings David (I am reasonably confident) and Solomon (I am less confident):

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Here is a close up of Solomon (I think):

20170621_135858The main body of the church features a range of striking windows. I thought I discerned a loose theme of education (broadly defined):

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There were also images of grief evident in another side chapel. For some reason I didn’t get a photo of the main central image which as far as I recall was the Crucifixion:

There were also four images of the evangelists on the lower windows each side of the transept:

20170621_13551920170621_13552620170621_13554420170621_135553Finally, here is the altarpiece itself:

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All in all, this visit was one of the most revelatory of my stained glass experience. It was a treat to see so much glass in one, relatively modest, parish church, and imagery of such richness and suggestive power. I felt something of what it might have been like in a more visually literate culture, where this imagery was a sort of gospel in glass.

Stained Glass from Church of the Guardian Angels, Newtownpark Avenue, Dublin 

Stained Glass from Church of the Guardian Angels, Newtownpark Avenue, Dublin 


The above image is actually from a parish centre adjacent to the main Church. The distinctive facial depiction of Christ is echoed in the Stations of the Cross inside the Church proper. Unsurprising, as they were executed by the same firm:

The same link tells us regarding the front facade depiction of the Guardian Angel that : 

  • Note the outstretched arms of the Guardian Angel encompassing the world with protective care. The head-dress was, in fact, copied from that worn by Cleopatra in the block-buster film of that time!

For comparison, here is a close up of the angel and a headdress  worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the famously epic (in every sense) Cleopatra she starred on with Richard Burton:

There is also a selection of interesting abstract stained glass in this Church as at the beginning and now the end of this post:

Stained Glass from St Fiacre’s Church, Loughboy, Kilkenny

Stained Glass from St Fiacre’s Church, Loughboy, Kilkenny

St Fiacre’s is a church within St Patrick’s Parish in Kilkenny  

St Fiacre, according to his Wikipedia article (bear in mind that around 0.05% of Wikipedia articles are classed by Wikipedia itself as “Good articles“), has interesting associations with haemmorhoids and taxis.

This window is signed by Patrick Muldowney and is celebrating its 25th anniversary round about now.

Other windows include  this lovely Madonna and Child. I wonder is it based on a paintin

There are some striking panels in two long abstract windows either side of the alta

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Murphy Devitt Stained Glass from Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel.

Murphy Devitt Stained Glass from Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel.

 

Over recent months I have been blogging pictures of stained glass mainly (but not exclusively) from Tipperary churches. These photos are taken with my phone and I cannot claim to have cracked how best to do this, often they are taken in a somewhat rushed manner as I am a little self conscious about this at times. These churches are after all places of worship and I am loath to disturb or distract.

I started this meaning to record, as best I could, what is very much a neglected art form. Even the smallest Irish village will have a church, and often multiple churches, which will feature stained glass. Some of these images have struck me as exceptionally moving and beautiful, some aesthetically interesting, some culturally interesting (from instance the way the image of St Monica and St Augustine in the Augustinian Abbey in Fethard is based on a popular religious painting of the time)

There is also the sheer joy of discovery of, for instance, the stained glass in the Church of the Visitation, Cloneen, or of the fact that the stained glass in the stained glass in the Chapel of St Anthony in the Franciscan Abbey in Clonmel was from Murphy Devitt studios.

Since then I corresponded with Reiltin Murphy, daughter of John Murphy, and found out there are other examples of Murphy Devitt glass not only in Tipperary but in Clonmel. Indeed some is in the main body of the church in the very same Franciscan Abbey:

 

Stained glass from St Mary’s Church, Grangemockler, Tipperary

Stained glass from St Mary’s Church, Grangemockler, Tipperary

Grangemockler Church is most famous for its links to Michael Hogan, victim of the 1920 Bloody Sunday and namesake of the stand.
It has a selection of attractive stained glass, including images of a pelican  (believed to feed it’s own blood to its young, and therefore akin to Christ, more info here) St Patrick and the Crucifixion 

Many churches will have many panels of relatively plain stained glass, some indeed barely coloured at all. This glass is less striking than other pieces usually, but here is a good example of how light can illuminate  even a plain ish window into something more…. not that this photo adequately captured the effect:

Here is another panel, more elaborate but not represational as such, which I found striking.  

Murphy Devitt Studios Stained Glass in Chapel of St Anthony, Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel

This installment of the occasional images of stained glass I post, mainly (but not exclusively) from Tipperary, has a little more detail than usual. The last Tipperary post I made was on the unexpected delight of discovering the stained class in the Church of the Visitation in Cloneen. Today I made another delightfully unexpected discovery. I took some shots of the stained glass in the Chapel of St Anthony in the Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel. In the corner of the one of the panels was the following:

 

This allowed me to find out the glass was made by Murphy Devitt studios. From that page:

In the early 1950s at Harry Clarke Studios, Dublin, John (Johnny) Murphy and John (Des) Devitt first met. By 1958 Johnny and Des along with Johnny’s wife Róisín Dowd Murphy decided to strike out alone and immediately started to create some of the most stunning stained glass ever seen in Ireland and beyond. It was a relationship that lasted almost fifty years, most notably in the form of Murphy/DevittStudios Limited from 1969-1990. In 2006, shortly after the passing of Des Devitt, Johnny was quoted as saying “we only ever wanted to create the best work we possibly could and we were happy that we did”. Within 2006 Des, Johnny and Róisín all passed away but their legacy of literally hundreds, quite possibly thousands, of the most avant-garde, radical and truly beautiful stained glass windows live on in the churches, public buildings and homes of Ireland and beyond.

 And so to the present day. Reiltín Murphy and Anthony Devitt are delighted to bring you this website dedicated to the work of these wonderful characters and talents. As we build the site we look forward to crediting every person who worked with the Murphy/Devitt partnership over the years. We welcome all contact from anyone with any information or stories you would like to share with us. Please click on the Contact tab above to get in touch.

The ultimate aim of our project is to provide a comprehensive catalogue and history of this incredible, life-long, partnership which continues to this day between the Murphy and Devitt families. Reiltín is immersed in hundreds of original cartoons and drawings and chasing down locations while Anthony is sifting through documentation, slides and photographs. If you have any information please DO contact us and don’t assume we know as we are finding out new things every day.

There is also a wonderful gallery of some Murphy Devitt work on the homepage of John Murphy’s daughter, Reiltín.

So, even more so than usual, it is with some embarrassment that I post my not very well taken photos of the beautiful work made by the Murphy Devitt studio. These wonderful pieces were created by artists whose techniques and approaches I know very little about. And my smartphone camera skills are probably adequate for family shots, but not to do this work justice. But here goes…: