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Stained Glass Windows

In 1993 extensive renovations to St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s were completed. The sanctuary was re-ordered in accordance with current Vatican regulations. New north and south transepts were added as a result of which the church assumed its present cruciform shape.

The renovations provided the opportunity for imaginative restructuring of the stained glass windows in St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s; the existing windows were fully repaired, cleaned and storm-glazed; the windows salvaged from the east end of the north and south walls were incorporated into the narthex screen, and four magnificent new windows were added to the transepts. They are the work of Erica Ryan of Howth, County Dublin.

The four windows in the transepts are abstract in design and each illustrates an aspect of the Book of Genesis. The east windows in the transepts are rectangular in shape; the north and south windows are triple-lancet Gothic, retaining harmony with the arches and the original windows in the nave. The themes represented in the four windows are: the Creation of Light, the River flowing out of Paradise and dividing into four heads, Noah’s Ark and the Creation of the Birds and Fishes.

The colours used in these windows have been carefully chosen to illustrate the themes they represent; yellows and gold and blues predominate. The overall effect is of light illuminating and suffusing God’s creation, and in the same way, these windows light up the interior of St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s, making it an attractive and pleasant place to worship and reflect on the Light of God’s world.

The triple-lancet east and west windows are products of Earley and Company of Camden Street, Dublin. The centre light of each window is twenty-one feet high and two feet two inches broad. The east window portrays the Five Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary and shows the Crucifixion in the centre light, with the Mater Dolorosa, the Agony in the Garden and the Scourging of Christ at the Pillar in adjacent light, and St John, the Crowning with thorns and Jesus carrying his Cross in the other light; a vine leaf motif fills the rest of the window. The inscription at the bottom of the window reads: ‘Pray for the deceased relatives of James McGill’.

The west window is a replica of the east window, but with different subject matter. It shows Ireland’s patron saints, Patrick and Brigid, and St Malachy, the patron saint of the Diocese of Down and Connor is also featured. The centre light shows St Patrick preaching to the High King at Tara, and below that, Patrick is depicted as a beardless slave boy, minding sheep on Slemish. One of the side lights shows St Brigid receiving the veil from St Mel and the other light shows St Malachy receiving the stole from Pope Innocent II before returning to Ireland. The inscription at the bottom of the window reads: ‘Presented by Hugh McGill to the Glory of God and in honour of our patron saints’. The original sketches for the windows prepared by Earley and Co are still preserved in the upper room above the old sacristy in St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s. Slight alterations from the sketches have been made in the actual window.

Another feature of St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s is the series of circular windows by Erica Ryan. They are not seen as often as they deserve, on account of their location, but they are very fine windows. The eight windows were inspired by the High Crosses of Ireland, and in one case by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion College who contributed so much to education and the parish life of Ballycastle. The High Crosses on which the windows are based are: the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnois, County Offaly, the Cross of St Caimin of Inis Cealtra, aka Holy Island, in Lough Derg, County Clare, the Cross of Fahan Mura, near Buncrana in Count Donegal, the Cross of Tynan Abbey, County Armagh, the west face of the Cross of Dysert O’Dea, County Clare, the south Cross at Castledermot, County Kildare and the Cross from Monaincha Abbey, near Roscrea in County Tipperary. The eighth circular window bears the crest of the Cross and Passion Order of Sisters.

The six windows in the narthex screen, formerly in the side aisles, are grouped in twos and represent the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt. The inscriptions at the bottom of the windows read: ‘Pray for the deceased relatives of JP O’Kane’ – in the Annunciation window; ‘Pray for soul of donor’ in the Nativity window, and ‘Pray for the soul of Mary McCambridge. Erected by her son Edmund’ – in the Flight into Egypt window.

On the outside wall, near the west door, there is a slender single-light window which shows the baptism of Jesus by John in the River Jordan. John carries a staff with a flag bearing the inscription ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’, and above Jesus’ head is the slogan ‘This is my beloved Son. Hear ye Him’.

The westernmost window on the north wall is a two-light window depicting the Holy Family at Nazareth. The letters ‘MJJ’ appear in a quatrefoil above the two lights. The inscription reads: ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph have mercy on the souls of John and Elizabeth McGill, also their son Archibald. This memorial is erected to their memories’.

Directly opposite this, on the south wall, there is a similar two-light window depicting St Peter receiving the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven from Christ. The quatrefoil above the lights shows the Papal crown above a pair of crossed keys. The inscription reads: ‘thou art Peter. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. This window is erected to the memory of Daniel McAuley by his loving family’.

Our Lady’s Chapel is lit by three slender lancet windows of blue glass, each containing a lily. There is also a seldom seen, single light depicting ‘The Immaculate Conception’, located on the north wall of the Chapel.

To the right of the main altar, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart is lit by three similar lancet windows, but of ruby glass. Each contains an aster.

The overall effect of these beautiful windows is of harmony, not just with each other, but with the architectural framework of which they form an integral part. Old and new blend happily together to enhance the atmosphere of tranquility and reflect the radiance of God’s presence which pervades this lovely church.

Extract taken from “Glass in the Glens”, Frank Rogers 2004



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