Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


The ones that got away - Ardattin
 Huius Ecclesiae
Immaculate 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.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ardattin, Co. CarlowThe 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 Grace.

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!

Source & Google Street Map.

Back to Carlow Towns INDEX ] [ Ballynoe House ]

Please report any links or images which do not open to
The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM By Pre-emptive Copyright - All rights reserved

Back to the top