Goldie’s work in Mayo is probably the most sparse in terms of records. We are very much reliant on Liam Swords and local parish publications for information on his output in the area


The Church of St. James had its foundation stone laid on July 25th, 1856.[1] It was a new addition to a town that had only recently come into being at the instigation of Charles Strickland, the agent for the landlord Viscount Dillon.[2] The church was dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo in 1858 and was described in 1861 as ‘a neat little Gothic church.’ [3] Strickland and Dillon were both  involved in other churches in the Diocese of Achonry (Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Nathy) and Elphin (Sligo Cathedral). The stained glass windows in the chancel remain as they were when the church was constructed and are dedicated to St. Bridget, St. Patrick, the Blessed Virgin and Saint Charles Borromeo. While we cannot be sure why the church was dedicated to St. Borromeo, it may have been because of a shared Christian name or it may have been a reflection on the Saint’s work with Catholics that fled England during the Reformation.

The church remains very much as described in The Dublin Builder in 1860 . Jeremy Williams described St. James’ as ‘realising the ideals of  Pugin in the context of an Irish village.’[4] Other churches in the county, built later in the century, followed this design and may well be attributed to Goldie. The architect of St. Jame’s at Carracastle is unknown but externally and internally bears many similarities to Goldie’s church in Charlestown. According to Swords, the church, at Carracastle,  opened in 1877, had taken ‘many years to build’ and so may well have been designed by Goldie while he was active in the area during the 1860s. These likenesses continue on varying scales with St. Joseph’s Church, Cloonloo, Saint Attracta’s, Killaraght – both near Gurteen, Sligo – and the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph, at Bohola.


The foundation stone or the church of St. Joseph and the Immaculate Conception was laid on April 27th 1858. When the stone was being a laid, a bottle containing a parchment referring to George Goldie as the architect was buried with it. According to The Dublin Builder, the work was on going in February of 1859. On Tuesday February 8th, 1859, the bell for the church, built by Murphy of Dublin, was blessed by the Right Rev. Durcan, Bishop of Achonry. The article in The Freeman’s Journal relates that Goldie was the architect.

Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary mentions a Roman Catholic church in the vicinity of the current building, and a church is also to be found on the Historic Colliery map produced in the 1830s, a chapel is also mention in A Handbook for Travellers in Ireland, etc.,by James Fraser (Dublin, 1849). A history of the parish and its church published locally in 2014 states that the local church was thatched, like many in the early twentieth-century, that it caught fire in 1839 and that the re-roofing was unsuccessful leading to the decision to build the new church in 1858.[5] The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage attributes the church at Bohola to Goldie due to the similarities in design to other churches in Mayo (and these similarities arise in other churches by Goldie in Connaught) and the local parish history states that there is no official attribution of the design, but, from the newspaper reports (coupled with the build similarities) it is safe to say that this was a building by Goldie.[6]

The church was funded in its entirety by the local landlord Philip Taaffe and there remain windows dedicated to him and his family in the church. Taaffe donated the site as well as financing the build and decoration of the church.[7] There are no stained glass windows dedicated to Goldie at Bohola, although we have seen that Goldie did have windows dedicated to him in many churches and chapels it was not a universal practice. At Bohola there is a window that memorialises the builder (William Doolin, of Dublin who often worked with Goldie) so one might expect a similar monument for the architect and this may have been the case but we also know that many stained glass windows were removed after a storms in the early twentieth-century.[8]

As a result of these storms, renovations took place in 1881 and 1923-32 but the church remained structurally as it had been when constructed, (and remains so to this day). An early photograph (below) shows an interior that fits in very much with Goldie’s internal designs, the reredos and pulpit are typical of his other works in Ireland and the U.K.. It is most likely that the reredos were removed after Vatican Two as the present altar is evidently part that of the original reredos-altar layout.(For more on Goldie and reredos see


The Church of All Saints, Killasser was dedicated by the Bishop Durcan of Achonry on November 8th, 1868. The report in The Sligo Champion described the church  as ‘Gothic in style and consists of sacristy, apse, nave, transepts and well-raised belfry…The coup d’oeil of the entire sacred edifice presents that beauty, solidity, commodiousness, and fitness which might be expected from the taste and ability of the architect, George Goldie.’

Although the shape of the church is unusual when compared with other works in Ireland by Goldie, early maps, such as the 1903 OSI Historic 25”, show the church shape as it is now. and there have been  no references to extensions to the church after Goldie completed it. The arrow shaped plan of the church, rather than the usual and expected cruciform may have been an accommodation forced by the shape and size of the available site.

Local knowledge suggests that no structural changes have taken place but during the 1970s, as happened throughout Ireland, there was a reordering of the interior in accordance with Vatican II.[9] The removal of Goldie’s reredos and other  alterations ‘caused some disquiet in the parish.’[10]

Convent of the Immaculate Conception, Ballina.

There are very few contemporary references to the architect of the convent. Terry Reilly and Jeremy Williams attribute it to Goldie, as does the NIAH.[11] The foundation stone of the convent was laid on September 20th, 1863. The descriptions given in the report published in the May 11th 1867 issue of The Evening Freeman aligns very much so with the photographs of the convent in its current state and with the photographs in the NIAH.

The Dublin based architects, William H. Byrne, advertised in 1889 for builders to complete the convent. However, it is difficult to ascertain the extent of the work involved in this completion. The main façade of the convent and the chapel building itself seem to be very much designed by the same hand in terms of form and style and the integration of the chapel into this form points to a contemporaneous build and the chapel was part of the initial build, (see The Evening Freeman of 1867) The rose window, obscured by protective sheeting in the vacant building, can be seen  in the photographs on the NIAH site to conform to other convent windows by Goldie in the West of Ireland, (see Sligo entry).

Goldie had designed other convents for both the Mercy and Ursuline Orders in Sligo around the same time and he was the architect for convents in Cork, Waterford and Limerick, along with numerous convents in the United Kingdom. There are some similarities in design and, although we have yet to unearth documentation or reports that definitively confirm the convent as being part of Goldie’s oeuvre, given his other outputs for Sisterhoods in Ireland it is most likely that this is a Goldie design.

[1] swords, Achonry and Its Churches, 60.

[2] swords, 60.

[3] swords, 60.

[4] Williams, A Companion Guide to Architecture in Ireland, 1837-1921, 304.

[5] Bohola Parish Council, Church of Saint Joseph and the Immaculate Conception Bohola 1864-2014, 17.

[6] Bohola Parish Council, 19.

[7] Bohola Parish Council, 21–23.

[8] Bohola Parish Council, 26.

[9] All Saint’s Church, Killasser 1868-2018: A Parish and its People, ed. Micheál Murphy, Killasser and Carlow Heritage Society,2018, 45-50.

[10] Ibid.

[11] . Reilly, Terry, Dear Old Ballina, Western People, Mayo, 1993, 241.Williams, Jeremy, A Companion Guide to Architecture in Ireland, 1837-1921, Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1994, 301-2.

The Architecture of George Goldie in Ireland.

This is an edited version of a MA dissertation that was submitted to UCC in 2019. The complete dissertation will be available in the future on the Cork Open Research Archive

It contains some of the discussion from other sections of the website, especially the section on Bandon, but has additional context and expands to include more detailed investigation into the internal furnishings of the churches and Goldie’s ideas on church architecture. There is an extensive bibliography that should be of interest to readers.


Chapter 1: Literature Review:                                                                                           

Chapter 2: Bandon: A Case Study                                                                                    

Chapter 3: Reredos and Ritual: Architecture and Liturgical Change in Goldie’s Irish Work 

Chapter 4: Church Building in the Nineteenth- Century Irish Novel              





Roman Catholic ecclesiastical architecture during the nineteenth-century existed in a state of both evolution and destruction. This continued to be the case during the twentieth-century and maintains so to this day. In many ways the trajectory of the architecture under discussion here is a reflection of the condition of Irish medieval architecture which Niamh NicGabhann described as being ‘a narrative of continual use, adaption and transformation.’(NicGhabhann, 2015, p.136) Unlike NicGabhann, who engages in a thorough investigation of ecclesiastical architecture across a broad timescale but with a focus on physical restoration and preservation of medieval church buildings and its connection with the nineteenth-century, this thesis looks to a narrower focus, in terms of time and subject.

The chronological scope of this thesis is divided into two distinct periods. Firstly, that in which the architect George Goldie was involved in constructing, altering or adding to the ecclesiastical architectural landscape in Ireland, and, secondly a broader period that continues to the present time and addresses the alterations, removals and reconfigurations of Goldie’s work. The initial period begins with the commencement of his first work in Ireland, the Cathedral of St. Nathy, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, Ireland 1854-60 and ends in 1879, when he completed alterations to the interior of St. John’s parish church in Waterford. Although dealing specifically with Goldie’s output in Ireland it will not be possible to interrogate his work fully without reference to other architects working during the same period. It is also essential that, given the religious conflicts and debates that had taken place during the eighteenth-century and which continued into the nineteenth-century, culminating in the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, we consider church building in a wider social and political context.

A number of issues can be addressed when charting Goldie’s output in Ireland:

1: The impact of Roman Catholic church building on the landscape both as a topographical intervention in itself and as a means of the Church’s reassertion of its position as the majority religion in Ireland.

2: The architectural and emotional consequences of the interventions in internal church fittings post-Goldie.

3: Considering the large scale church building programme that was undertaken during the nineteenth-century and the debates and reports that surrounded these realignments of the physical landscape, urban and rural, we can also investigate if and how this reconfiguration of the topography of the country is reflected in contemporary literature of the period.

This triad is interconnected by virtue of the public nature of church building. Churches reveal themselves as part of the geography of a place and in doing so identify and imprint identity on a location, parishioners look at and participate in the manifestation of their faith that is the building and finally literature incorporates into itself the quotidian world from which it emanates.

George Goldie offers an opportunity to provide concrete examples to collaborate the assertion found in issue 1 and in this thesis one specimen of topographical realignment will be considered to highlight how Catholic chapels relocated from ‘crouching timidly in the darkest and most loathsome allies and lanes.’(Notices of the life and character of His Grace most Rev. Daniel Murray, late Archbishop of Dublin, as contained in the commemorative oration pronounced in the Church of the Conception, Dublin, on occasion of His Grace’s months’ mind. With historical and bibliographical notes, 2019, p.90).

In the earlier part of the twentieth-century the Catholic Church had begun to celebrate the one-hundred anniversary of Catholic emancipation and, after Ireland gained political Independence from the United Kingdom, began to expand further in its building programme as cities expanded and grew. This resulted in two outcomes, firstly there were a series of internal and external adjustments to churches constructed during the nineteenth-century and, secondly, newly built churches were configured to adhere to the instructions of the Second Vatican Council.(Schloeder, 1998) In Cork city and county these new churches conformed to an expectation of topographical domination while the older churches were internally altered. Goldie’s activities in Cork, and other sites throughout Ireland, permit a close examination of the internal changes that drive, and are driven by, liturgical and somatic encounters with the church.

Figures for upward of two thousand churches have been given for the number of Roman Catholic churches either reconstructed or newly built between 1800 and 1870.(Keenan, 1983, p.119)  This does not infer that there were no Catholic churches being built in the late eighteenth-century nor does the increased output in ecclesiastical building after the Famine imply a lack of building prior to 1845. St. Finbarr’s, (South), Cork was built in 1766, replacing an earlier church of 1728 and St. Patrick’s, Waterford, 1764, and The Holy Trinity, Kildoagh, Cavan, 1796 no longer in use, are still extant pre-Emancipation churches that demonstrate a subdued presence but none the less a re-emerging Catholic impact on the topography of the country. Thomas P. Kennedy suggests that even as early as 1752 ‘registered places of Catholic worship totalled 832 simple Mass houses and 52 private chapels.’(Kennedy, 1970, p.1)  A particular issue that presented itself during the course of this research, and which was of particularly interest, was how, given such a large building programme and in some instances extended over a number of years, churches and church buildings might be interwoven into novels written during the nineteenth-century. William Whyte highlighted instances in English novels that featured vivid descriptions of newly built churches and their interiors; this should not be a surprise given the extent of church building and church repair that was taking place during the second half of the nineteenth-century.(Whyte, 2017, pp.77–9)  One would expect that novelists writing during and about the period that Goldie was building might make reference to churches being built or describe them, even as an aside or narrative embellishment, in their works. It is the case that journals, newspapers and books addressed theoretical and religious concerns about the ecclesiastical building taking place and reports regularly appeared in the press of the day. A survey of contemporary literature of the period under investigation will cast new light on this issue to discover if indeed Irish literature did incorporate the buildings, new or under construction, in to its works.

Literature Review

Any review of the scholarly discussion of George Goldie and his work in Ireland will expose the vast lacuna that exists around the architect and his ecclesiastical output. There has been no single book or article dedicated to him as has been the case with other architects working in Ireland during the period under discussion. A.W.N. Pugin has been the subject of a large collection of scholarly investigations and in 2012 the Irish Architectural Archive held an exhibition of his work and published an accompanying catalogue with essays.(O’Riordan et al., 2012) E.W. Pugin and G.C. Ashlin have been treated to examinations of their output in book chapters and journal articles.(Wilson, 2004),(Dwyer, 1989) J.J. McCarthy was the topic of Jeanne Sheehy’s J.J. McCarthy and the Gothic Revival in Ireland. (Sheehy, 1977) In addition, the work of these architects feature prominently in many surveys of nineteenth-century architecture in Ireland. All of these architects had a presence in the Dictionary of Irish Biography prior to Goldie (Goldie was included in 2015). Basil Clarke’s study of church building in England offers no discussion on Goldie other than a brief three-line biographical entry in the appendix of his book.(Clarke, 1969) Although Clarke examines many examples of church building during the period he mainly concerns himself with Pugin and the theological debates that surrounded ecclesiastical architecture of the nineteenth-century. The omission of Goldie in this discussion reflects his position in Irish architectural history of the period; this is especially revealing as Goldie was also very active in Britain. 

The tendency in Irish architectural books dealing with the period is toward surveying the works, their architects and their styles. Maurice Craig is just one such example of this type of engagement.(Craig, 1982) Although Craig covers a lot of ground in this survey of Irish architecture at times he is sparse in his interrogations of any one particular period,(although he does devote a large part of the book to nineteenth-century architecture and church building). Craig’s discussion of the similarities between Catholic and Church of Ireland buildings during the eighteenth-century is interesting when we consider how some of the more rural churches designed by Goldie retain or jettison such traditions. As with Clarke, Craig rehearses the debate between Classical and Gothic architectural styles – Classical equating with R.C. and Gothic with CofI (239). In chapter 16 of the book Craig deals with nineteenth-century architecture with a particular focus on church building. In Chapter 17 Craig devotes a section to ‘Pugin and His Followers’; notably Goldie gets mentioned and praised for Sligo cathedral. An important aspect of any examination of ecclesiastical architecture, and one that will be investigated in this essay when discussing Goldie, is the location of churches and their relation to the surrounding landscape. Survey books, such as Craig’s, do not engage with the role of the church as a site in the topography of a location.

The treatment of Goldie in survey works is a consistent one and adheres to that of Craig where an example is provided but not explored beyond that of style and as a comparative when discussing works of other architects, such as Pugin, McCarthy, Kearns Deane and George R. Pain. Churches do not exist in isolation. Church buildings intervene in the landscape and are potent symbols of power, status and authority. This is especially true of ecclesiastical architecture in Ireland during the nineteenth-century and is an area of investigation that is largely neglected in Irish architectural scholarship. It is the intention of this essay to address this lack by examining one important location of Goldie’s churches within their historical context while further exploring this in the digital artefact through discussion of his overall oeuvre.

Richard Morris’ Churches in the Landscape addresses the issue of churches and their locations in the English landscape.(Morris, 1997) Morris traces a history of religious sites and allows for the establishment of a lineage that sees nineteenth-century ecclesiastical church settings as the product of an archaeology of landscape going back over one-thousand years. While it may not be possible to create such a trajectory for Goldie’s churches in Ireland, Morris offers insights into the role of the landscape in the siting of churches and points to the building being viewed as an object rather than an object in a particular location. Taking this insight and applying it to examples of Goldie’s output in Ireland should provide a novel intervention in the examination of nineteenth-century church building with specific reference to Bandon in this thesis but expanded to other locations as part of the digital artefact. Kevin Whelan, in his recently published book on the subject, seeks to perform a similar function to that of Morris but focussed on Ireland.(Whelan, 2018) Whelan does engage with the church in the landscape but much of his concern revolves around settlement and site without fully engaging with elevation and domination in terms of contra-positioning of opposing churches, a situation that can be rectified by interrogating the churches of Bandon. Christopher Tilley’s A Phenomenology of Landscape allows us to build upon the concept that drives Morris’ book. Tilley looks to prehistoric man-made sites and suggests that they played a part in creating meaning in the landscape; in other words human intervention creates the landscape to its own ends.(Tilley, 1994) Henri Lefebvre has argued that ‘(Social) space is a (social) product’, that space is a ‘means of control, and hence of domination, of power’ and that ‘space embodies social relationships.’(Lefebvre and Nicholson-Smith, 2011, pp.27, 27, 36) In looking to Goldie’s buildings in Ireland we can see that his interventions acted to provide an expression of Catholic intention and to carve that intention into the landscape as a social statement and as restructuring of the landscape as a location of religious conflict.

Churches are not only locations in the landscape; they also are enclosed locations that act as containers for ornamentation, decoration and performative practices. Alterations in practices alter the function of the internal decoration and, similarly, ornamentation and decoration can be altered with the aim of changing practices. Bruni Zevi has said that ‘it is the interior space, the space which surrounds and includes us, which is the basis of our judgement of a building’ and that ‘architecture is…the stage on which our lives unfold.’ (Zevi and Barry, 1993, p.32) If Zevi’s assertions hold true then they become more robust when we move from the generalities of architecture to the specifics of ecclesiastical architecture and even more so in Ireland. Roman Catholic Church architecture in Ireland has, like Great Britain, a trajectory that moves from the monumental of the medieval period to appropriation and decline to revival and renewal. This is accounted for by the relationships between politics, society and religion that developed in the aftermath of the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the introduction of the Penal Laws and the easing of these Laws towards the end of the eighteenth-century and eventual removal in the third decade of the nineteenth-century. The changes in status and the later changes in liturgy leading to recalibrations of the ‘stage on which our lives unfold’ impact the form and function of the church interior and this will be seen in our readings of the altars and reredos designed by Goldie in Ireland with specific reference to Cork and the south-east of Ireland.

Writing in the early twentieth-century, the Canadian architect Percy Nobbs discussing the description of architecture in literature stated that ‘[O]n the spirit of the building, the soul of its builders, the real fundamental subject matter of the monument, there is silence.’(Nobbs, n.d., p.344) Yet, if we look at English literature of the nineteenth-century we will find examples where not only is architecture described, it can often form the core of the material. The author John Mason Neale wrote two novels that focused specifically on architecture of the nineteenth-century Ayton Priory or The Monastery Restored,(John Mason Neale, 1843) and Hierologus, (Neale, 1843). Charles Dickens often referenced the contemporary architecture of his London to create symbolic meaning or to enhance the environment of his characters and their narratives.(Spurr, 2012, p.84) Many of the illustrations in editions of Dickens’ works show interiors and exteriors of churches that present an awareness of the church as a contemporary building in the life of his novels and can be reflective of  his texts, one example from Hard Times serves to illustrate this point, ‘The solitary exception was the New Church a stuccoed edifice with a square steeple over the door, terminating in four short pinnacles like florid wooden legs.’ and ,again from the same novel, ‘and when it came, there were married in the church of the florid wooden legs – that popular order of architecture’ (Dickens, 1854, p.36). Illustrations by Phiz, figures 1 to 3,for Bleak House, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol located the churches for the reader as part of their own world.

Fig.1  Phiz, The Little Church in the Park, from Bleak House.

Fig. 2 Phiz, Our Pew at Church, from David Copperfield.

Fig. 3 Phiz, Trotty at the Church, from A Christmas Carol.

Thomas Hardy had trained as an architect and architecture features in many of his novels and this is especially true of Jude the Obscure where the titular protagonist is a stonemason by trade and the novel makes references to the replacement of the old buildings with the new:

Above all, the original church, hump-backed, wood-turreted, and quaintly hipped, had been taken down, and either cracked up into heaps of road-metal in the lane, or utilized as pig-sty walls, garden seats, guard-stones to fences, and rockeries in the flower-beds of the neighbourhood. In place of it a tall new building of modern Gothic design, unfamiliar to English eyes, had been erected on a new piece of ground by a certain obliterator of historic records who had run down from London and back in a day.(Thomas Hardy, 1895, p.6)


Making inquiries she came to a hoarding, within which were excavations denoting the foundations of a building; and on the boards without one or two large posters announcing that the foundation-stone of the chapel about to be erected would be laid that afternoon at three o’clock by a London preacher of great popularity among his body.(Thomas Hardy, 1895, p.367)

The churches on the Irish landscape, in major towns such as Cork, Bandon, Waterford and Dublin along with more rural parish communities might be taken to provide similar opportunities for Irish writers of the same period and this is a theme that will be addressed further in this essay.

Bandon: A Case Study in Topographical Domination.

In most towns and cities in Ireland there is a dominant architectural feature in the landscape and that is often a church. In the larger cities like the capital, Dublin, the increased inner city development has visually altered the landscape so that churches are not as significant a feature as they might once have been. Nonetheless, even the ,now, Church of Ireland, Christ Church, cathedral still greets the visitor to the city as they travel along the quays and along the way they will see Roman Catholic Churches, such as St. Paul’s, that retain a façade facing the river Liffey.

Outside of Dublin there has been less of an impact on the topography by large scale development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Cork city is one large urban location that still displays a Church seeking to overlook the city and assert its presence in the navigable world of the citizens. This is best demonstrated with a visual reference. Figure 4 shows a view of Cork looking toward the north-east of the city. 

Fig. 4: View of Cork city looking north-east and showing St. Vincent’s and Church of the Ascension.

The large red-brick building in the central third of the image is St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic church and Presbytery; St. Vincent’s was built between 1851, when the foundation stone was laid, and 1856, when it was officially opened, although alterations continued to be made to the church well into the twentieth-century. At the time the church was at the edge of the city and very little of what we now see in the upper third of the image existed. The church commanded the view over the south and central areas of Cork and still is a feature readily viewed from across the city and from approaches along the north channel of the River Lee. As the city expanded northward and above the level of St. Vincent’s church, a new church was planned and completed in the middle of the twentieth-century. The Church of the Ascension is uppermost in the image and dominates the skyline in much the same manner as St. Vincent’s had throughout the latter half of the nineteenth and on into the twentieth-century.

While St. Vincent’s was built during a period of immense change in the status of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Church of the Ascension was constructed in the midst of major social and economic change after the achievement of independence for Ireland, they both stand as assertions of the Roman Catholic church seeking to dominate the social fabric of the country and it chooses to use these buildings as a concrete expression of this position.

In this chapter the town of Bandon is looked to as an example of how this drive for topographical control can be imposed upon, read and visualised in the landscape. Bandon is chosen as it had a history of conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism and this conflict took place through exclusions and inclusions in the landscape of the town and its environs. During the nineteenth-century the supremacy of the Protestant faith in Bandon was replaced by that of Catholicism and as this change in the demography of the town was taking place so too was an altering of the topography as a means to inscribe this change in the landscape. The history of the religious conflict will be outlined to give a context for the architectural alterations that occur in three examples of ecclesiastical buildings. The locations of the buildings will be discussed in terms of Henri Lefebvre’s concepts of the social production of space and with implicit reference to Tilley, Morris and Whelan.

Bandon: An Outline History

By the beginning of the seventeenth-century native Irish Catholics that had lived in the Bandon area were excluded from the town and its hinterland after they had lost their lands to the English Crown Forces following the Desmond Rebellions of 1579-93. The redistribution of land taken from the rebels led to the plantation of English, Protestant settlers that would alter the landscape from one dominated by the native Irish to one re-ordered by the new inhabitants.

An indication of the engineering of the demographic make-up of Bandon can be gleaned from the following statement reputed to have been attached to the walls of the town:

“A Turk, a Jew, or an Atheist, May live in this town, but no Papist.”(George Bennett, n.d., p.303)

George Bennett’s History of Bandon is a source that can provide us with a view of the status of the ‘papist’ from the early years of Bandon’s establishment as a town.(George Bennett, n.d., p.303) The Earl of Cork, Richard Boyle (1566-1643) claimed to have built Bandon as a town but in fact he had purchased the lands following the death Henry Beecher, son of Phane Beecher, who in turn had been granted the land by the Crown.(George Bennett, n.d., pp.5, 26) Attached to the grant of land to Beecher, and to others, was the condition that the lands be settled with ‘English Protestant families.’(George Bennett, n.d., p.5) After the town Charter awarded to Bandon in 1613 the progress towards an exclusively Protestant town continued.(The greatest gerrymander in Irish history? James I’s 40 boroughs of 1612–13, 2013)

 One of the first acts of the burgesses of Bandon Corporation said that ‘no Roman Catholic be permitted to reside within the town.’(George Bennett, n.d., p.29) Boyle begun and completed the walling of the town of Bandon and by 1642 was able to state that ‘there is neither an Irishman nor a Papist within the walls.’(George Bennett, n.d., p.67)

The seventeenth-century in Ireland was a time of persistent violent outbreaks that pitted Catholic against Protestant and Royalist against Parliamentarian.[1] This national turbulence was reflected in Bandon. Bennett painted a picture of savage behaviour by Catholic rebels near Bandon during the 1641 rebellion that led to the Confederate War; a ‘Scotch minister’ was forced to eat his own ‘broiled’ flesh by some members of the uprising.(George Bennett, n.d., p.61) As a result of the hangings, murders and other atrocities committed by the Irish against the settlers, Bennett stated that no less than ‘eleven hundred women and children’ sought refuge within the walls of Bandon town and that ‘no less than one thousand funerals took place in the first twelve months of the rebellion.’(George Bennett, n.d., pp.63–5) By the end of the Confederate War and with the arrival of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland the distance between the Protestants of Bandon and the native Irish Catholics had changed utterly. Land ownership had shifted from one of largely Catholic to almost exclusively Protestant and the domination of Protestantism in Ireland and its continuation in Bandon.(Historical Context | The Down Survey Project, 2018) The status of Cromwell as a figure of hate for the Irish, that maintains to this day, and Bandon’s warmth towards him during his conquest of Ireland stands to place in context the challenges that the Catholic Church would encounter in re-establishing itself in the town.(George Bennett, n.d., pp.150–4)

Before the closure of the seventeenth-century Bandon Protestants would again find themselves, as did the rest of the country, taking a position that conflicted with that of Catholics. The Williamite War in Ireland presented Bandon with the choice of supporting their King, James II a Catholic, or William of Orange, William III a Protestant; the town opted for William.(Dickson, 2005, p.56) William would eventually prove to be the victor after the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, an event seen as the turning point against James. Relatively speaking, the earlier part of the eighteenth-century was peaceful in Ireland; there were active groups of agitators such as the Whiteboys but wholesale violence did not emerge until after the rising of 1798 led by Theobald Wolfe Tone. There were a number of Acts passed during the century that eased the plight of Catholics – the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1791 being the most far-reaching in its improvements. The founding of the Orange Order, in part as a response to the improvements for Catholics, in 1795 was embraced by the Protestants of Bandon and by 1834 it had seven Orange Order lodges in the town.(Doyle, 2016, pp.38–9) In 1800 effigies of King James and Queen Mary were ‘hanged, shot at and consigned to flames’ while one of King William was placed on the church spire.(George Bennett, n.d., p.362) However, Bennett also refers to the donation of land by the Earl of Bandon and support from other Protestants for the building of a Catholic church at Gallow’s Hill in 1796, just one year after the founding of the Orange Order.

The Churches

The Roman Catholic church at Gallow’s Hill stood in the shadow of the nearby Church of Ireland church of 1614 that would be rebuilt in 1847/9 as St. Peter’s.(Costecalde, 2013, p.364) The Catholic church was described in bleak terms by a correspondent to the Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier in 1855.(Notes From Bandon. | Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier | Thursday 30 August 1855 | British Newspaper Archive, 2019) The writer pointed to the elegance of St. Peter’s and said that it was ‘the most attractive building in the place [Bandon]’ but the ‘Roman Catholic chapel was a rather mean-looking edifice, situate in a back street and not erected like the fine buildings of a similar kind that I have seen in the south, in the most prominent places, so that they generally attract the attention of all who pass by.’(Notes From Bandon. | Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier | Thursday 30 August 1855 | British Newspaper Archive, 2019) At a meeting held in June of 1855, in the church, to discuss the erection of a new Catholic church, St. Patrick’s, it was described as ‘inferior in every respect- it was not only inferior to the chapels of towns that were far inferior to Bandon in wealth and respectability, but it was inferior as a building, it was inferior as a house of worship, to almost every house of worship that was to be met with almost in every country parish, not only of this diocese but every diocese of Munster.’(Erection Of A Catholic Church In Bandon’, Cork Examiner, Monday 11 June 1855., 1855) The same meeting heard of the perseverance of Catholics around Bandon who had maintained ‘their fidelity under many a severe trial’ but ‘now that they were rising, as it were from the earth, and looking round them, it was time that they should no longer be satisfied with such a building, it was time that they should make themselves not only equal but be expected superior to any other parish in the building they were about to erect.’(Erection Of A Catholic Church In Bandon’, Cork Examiner, Monday 11 June 1855., 1855) This was a clear statement of the circumstance of the Catholic Church’s demoted status as reflected in the older building and the aspiration to change and to reassert itself in a new, more ‘prominent’ and ‘superior’ edifice. The report of the meeting points to the status of the Church and the appearance of the church as being co-mingled and adhering to Lefebvre’s insistence that ‘social space’, here Bandon and the places of worship, could indeed embody and act as a visual expression of the power relationships between the two faiths.

In comparison to the church at Gallow’s Hill even the original Church of Ireland building, that had been financed by Richard Boyle, the Earl of Bandon, was described as ‘large and commodious, though a heavy and inelegant structure’, certainly the more dominant of the two houses of worship.(George Bennett, n.d., pp.30–1) The foundation stone for the new St. Peter’s was laid in 1847 and the consecration ceremony took place in 1849. According to one report there was an extremely large attendance for the ceremony and that an additional train had to be provided for visitors travelling from Cork city for the occasion.(‘Consecration of The New Parish Church’, 1849) Located as it was on an elevated site in the town, the church and its accompanying tower would have been a commanding structure in Bandon’s landscape.

The church, (Fig. 5), was designed by Joseph Welland in the Gothic Revival style and its bell tower, standing at 110 feet, adds to the impressive visual impact of the building. Welland was architect to the Board of First Fruits and its successor the Ecclesiastical Commission.(welland, joseph – Dictionary of Irish Architects, 2018)

Fig.5. St. Peter’s Church of Ireland church, Bandon.

The large attendance at the opening of the church points to its importance for the members of its congregation and its location in the landscape reinforces the strength of the faith in the town, in accordance with the history of Bandon outlined earlier. But, this dominance would soon be challenged by the building of two new Catholic churches.

The convent chapel attached to the Presentation Convent on the hillside, outside of the town but overlooking it is not a large building. It was constructed to designs by George Goldie; the foundation stone was laid in September 1856 and it opened for mass and a profession ceremony in March 1858.(Walsh, n.d.) The Presentation Convent itself had been founded in 1829, the same year as the Catholic Emancipation Bill was passed in Parliament. Like St. Peter’s, the convent chapel is in the Gothic Revival style, although much smaller. There is no direct reference to Goldie as the architect of the chapel but he is mentioned as having designed it in a report in The Cork Examiner.(Consecration of St. Patrick’s Church, Bandon, 1861) Both the chapel and the convent stand out on the north-western horizon of the town and would perhaps have even had a more imposing presence when first built, as the spread of the town up towards the convent’s location had not expanded to the extent it has done today. What is most important to note is that on leaving St. Peter’s one is at once greeted with the sight of the Catholic chapel looking down on the church and the town (Fig. 6); this spectacle would have been even more profound for the Protestant living in a town that was seeing their status undermined by the improvement of the Catholic faith’s situation in Ireland.

Fig. 6 View of Presentation Convent and Chapel from St. Peter’s Church of Ireland church, Bandon.

Although the walls of Bandon town that had sought to exclude and control the Catholic population of the hinterland by exclusion had been demolished in 1689, St. Peter’s and its predecessor had been within the area that had been bounded by them. The Convent chapel, and the later St. Patrick’s, was outside of the town boundary. This physical exclusion is overcome by a visual intrusion into the panorama that greeted the church goers attending St. Peter’s.

As one circumnavigates the exterior of St. Peter’s one meets the imposing edifice of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic church to its south eastern aspect. As we have seen earlier, the building of St. Patrick’s was intended to reinforce the rising status of the Catholic population of the town after Emancipation. The foundation stone for St. Patrick’s was put in place in March 1856, a few months earlier than the Convent Chapel, and was attended by a large crowd of Church dignitaries, members of the public anxious to show their support for the endeavour and by the architect, George Goldie. The Cork Examiner recorded an attendance of over five thousand people for the blessing of the foundation stone and of the site on which the church would be built.(Church Of Our Lady and St. Patrick, Bandon, Laying The Foundation Stone’, Freeman’s Journal, Saturday 22 March 1856.) When the church was consecrated in 1861 the attendance exceeded over four thousand within the church as well as many others who could not gain access due to the limitations of size. Again, The Cork Examiner referred to the large crowds and that half of those attempting to travel from Cork for the occasion could not be accommodated by the train services and they had to be left stranded at the thronged Cork station.(Consecration of St. Patrick’s Church Bandon, 11 June 1861.) The significance of the building and its location in Bandon was not lost upon the newspaper’s reporter who wrote that the church would ‘in another time, mark the epoch at which Catholicism began to lift its head, and show how elastic it sprang from beneath the load of centuries; and it will speak trumpet tongued to the future ages of the zeal of the priest and people of Bandon for the glory of religion.’(Consecration of St. Patrick’s Church Bandon, 11 June 1861.)

The church stands on an elevated site of 32 metres and looks down on St. Peter’s just a short distance away and at a much lower elevation of 27 metres. The tower to the rear of the church was part of the original design but was not constructed until 1920. Figure 7 shows a view of St. Patrick’s from the northern side of St. Peter’s and shows the comparative height and elevation of both buildings, while figure 8 situates both churches viewed together. The aspiration of the Catholics of Bandon to have a ‘more superior’ and ‘more prominent’ place of worship is easily read as having been achieved on the landscape of the town and its horizons when viewed from St. Peter’s. This becomes a more profound recalibration of social position for the Catholics viewing St. Peter’s from their newly established place of worship and is evident in figure 9 that shows a view of the Church of Ireland building from the doorway of St. Patrick’s.


Fig. 7: View of St. Patrick’s from St. Peter’s.     

Fig. 8: View of St. Patrick’s and St. Peter’s.  

Fig. 9: View of St. Peter’s from St. Patrick’s.

The structure of St. Patrick’s has not altered much from the designs of Goldie or from how it appeared on the day of its consecration in 1861, with the exception of the completion of the tower in 1920. The interior has been changed over the years and most especially the removal of Goldie’s original altar in 1929 when it was re-installed in a new church in the nearby village of Gaggin.(Blessing of Gaggin Church, 21 September1929) The year 1929 marked the centenary of the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act and the consecration mass at Gaggin coincided with the Emancipation Centenary Mass at Westminster  Cathedral, an observation made in Gaggin at the time by the celebrant, and Bishop of Cork, the Very Rev. Dr. Cohalan.(Blessing of Gaggin Church, 21 September1929)The replacement altar in St. Patrick’s is a more elaborate design than Goldie’s if we compare the present day altar with an old image of Goldie’s, figures 10 and 11. Sadly, only the altar table remains in Gaggin church, figure 12. The descriptions of St. Patrick’s carried in the press at the time will be more eloquent than those of the present writer [the press statements can be found in links at this page ] and this is especially true when one considers the complex context that surrounded the building of the church and the changed role of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland in the early part of the twenty-first century.

Fig. 10: Goldie’s Altar and Reredos, St. Patrick’s.

Fig. 11: Present Altar and Reredos, St. Patrick’s.

Fig. 12: Goldie’s Altar removed from St. Patrick’s to Gaggin Church.

Reredos and Ritual: Architecture and Liturgical Change in Goldie’s Irish Work.

As we have seen in our discussion of the churches in Bandon there were alterations in the internal fabric of buildings by Goldie that resulted in the removal of parts of his work to other churches. In the case of St. Peter’s the building of the new church at Gaggin saw his altar being transferred from its original setting. This was carried out as part of the centenary celebrations of Catholic Emancipation in 1929 and coincided with the building of the Gaggin church of Lady’s Chapel. This alteration was not a liturgical change and we cannot be sure of the reason behind the decision other than that the centenary year may have been seen as an opportune moment to draw attention to the continued lineage of the Church in the twentieth-century with the reinvigoration that occurred in the nineteenth-century. It can be shown by a visual examination of the changes that this was not as a result of liturgical changes that would occur later in twentieth-century in the aftermath of Vatican II.

Figure 10 depicts the original Goldie altar and reredos in St. Patrick’s, Bandon and figure 11 shows the present reredos. In figure 13 we see the present sanctuary area with the altar table moved closer to the laity as a result of the changes arising from Vatican II.

Fig. 13 Present altar table and reredos, St. Patrick’s, Bandon.

When we view the older reredos and altar table, (figure 10), after its removal to Gaggin, we can see that the table remains attached to the reredos in line with the liturgical practise in the earlier part of the twentieth-century. A close examination of the figures 12 and 14 reveals that the altar table in both circumstances is the same but with figure 12 configured to conform to post-Vatican II demands. Pre-Vatican II configurations of the sanctuary remained the same in Gaggin as they had been in Bandon and it might well be that the maintaining of the reredos and altar table unity coupled with the separation of the congregation from the celebrant of the mass did not affect the practice of the mass, both celebrant and laity faced the altar table and not each other. It is clear that even though the core of the sanctuary had been moved  its form and function could continue as designed by Goldie in the latter half of the nineteenth-century.

Fig. 14 Goldie’s reredos and altar moved to Lady’s Chapel, Gaggin.

However, liturgical changes that would occur later in the twentieth-century would not only change the function of the sanctuary space but would also have negative impacts on the form of Goldie’s works and in some cases complete loss. Gaggin being one example where the reredos that received so much praise when first installed in St. Patrick’s have been disappeared and all that remains is the altar table. To add further support to the contention that liturgical changes impacted upon and disturbed the original function of Goldie’s designs, two examples will be discussed – the Church of the Sacred Heart, part of the Ursuline convent in Waterford, and St. Finbarr’s South Chapel in Cork. Initially some background into the purpose of the liturgical changes and how these changes altered the emotional and physical encounter within the church building will be outlined.

When discussing the interior of the building we are, following Zevi, engaging with the purpose of architecture; that is to contain space and to exclude space, to create space, to separate the exterior from the interior while maintaining a presence in both – ‘architecture is environment.’ (Zevi and Barry, 1993, p.32) In the environment of the church a body is located not only in a physical space but also in a spiritual space and in this environment the combination of both forms affects the emotions.

That people are emotionally invested in church architecture of the past can be gauged by their reactions to its loss and to changes within it. As this essay is being written news has come through of the burning of Notre Dame de Paris; across the world there have been reactions of shock and of disbelief. We can only measure this by social media and traditional media where people recount their experiences and their hopes. The attachment of people to Notre Dame and the remembrance of their experiences in the cathedral is, perhaps, an indication of the spiritual encounter via the corporeal presence in a place of worship.[2] The perception of space through the embodied senses affects the body and architecture as space perceived affects the emotion through the body. During the nineteenth-century, the conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics was also one of the senses, this was a prevalent state even since 1708 when Christopher Wren, (quoted in Whyte) stated ‘The Romanists, indeed may build larger churches, it is enough if they hear the murmur of the mass and see the elevation of the host, but ours are to be fitted for auditories.’(Whyte, 2017, p.72) During the nineteenth-century as emancipation was achieved and Catholic churches were being built they also brought with them the reintroduction of Catholic rituals into the public domain. Ritual involved looking, as the congregation viewed the celebrant and his gestures, from the rear, the performance of assistants that turned the pages of the Bible, lit candles, held chalices and waved censors. Sight and smell played a role in bringing the lay members into the body of the church and the performance of ritual but excluded them from contact with the sanctified area of the sanctuary and the words of the priest. But, even in this exclusion there remains an emotional element that draws its source of inspiration from the collective of ritual and architecture, the mystery of the silence unified with the height and light of the building and the aura of the unseen presence symbolised by ritual and sacred space. Rudolph Otto terms, this ‘most fundamental element in all strong and sincerely felt religious emotion…found in the fixed and ordered solemnities of rites and liturgies and again in the atmosphere that clings to old religious monuments and buildings, to temples and to churches’, mysterium tremendum.(Otto and Harvey, 1923, p.12) The very body of the church takes the form of the crucified Christ in the cruciform shape and the verticality of the building adds to the transcendental that heightens the emotion as the eyes look heavenward.(Rose, 2001, p.17)

Prior to Vatican II, the celebrant and the congregation both faced the altar and, even though the tradition of a coming together of the faithful anchors itself in any setting, this has changed as the Church grew and spread.(Debuyst, 1968, pp.20–1) As we have seen there was a virtual cessation of Catholic church building in Ireland during the Penal Laws period and during that period worship often took place in homes and in the landscape.(Whelan, 2018, p.179) When building recommenced, Ireland adopted that form which had been in place from the Classical period and influenced by architecture in Rome – the basilica – typified by churches like St. Mary’s, Pope’s Quay, Cork, and by the Medieval period, that looked to the Gothic influences and which gained greater acceptance post-Famine. Both genres followed the ritual system that had priest and laity facing the altar, Ad Orientum, and the congregation acting as spectators to the priestly ritual rather than full participants, a situation that Vatican II would change. The primary aim of the liturgical reform was to bring the laity from the role of observer to active participant. This was clearly stated in section fourteen of the Sacrosanctum Concilium:

Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.(Sacrosanctum concilium, 2019)

The transition from participant via spectatorship to participant via a shared performance in the ritual of the mass could not take place while the altar remained attached to the reredos and the celebrant remained orientated away from the congregation. In newly built churches after Vatican II there was a transition away from the cruciform shape and older buildings were altered to reflect the changed liturgical demands. The body of the church, the space of performance was realigned and the interactions between the corpus of the congregation and the corpus of the celebrant were redefined by these alterations. Richard Hurley provides a chronology and examination of the influence that Vatican II had on churches built in Ireland from the 1960s that demonstrates the efforts toward architectural conformity to the change in internal layouts demanded by the liturgical renewal that altered both the structure of the church in the landscape and the internal designs that adhered to lay participation.(Hurley, 2001) But, even as these new churches were adding to the architectural landscape, the older churches were being reconfigured in ways that involved removals and alterations that distanced themselves from the original intention of both architect and pre-Vatican II performative ritual. The stage which the bodies sensed ritual becomes a ‘stage on which our lives unfold’ and this unfolding of separation to reveal and encourage participation in turn alter the stage.

In the two churches to be considered here – St. Finbarr’s South Chapel and the Church of the Sacred Heart in Waterford – we are addressing two distinct settings; St. Finbarr’s is a church used by the public laity while the Church of the Sacred Heart operated within the confines of a convent.

St. Finbarr’s South Chapel is the oldest parish church in the city of Cork. Built in 1776 it underwent structural alterations in 1809 and 1866. A report in The Cork Examiner in May 1866 suggests that George Goldie was the architect involved in a major extension to the sanctuary.(Meeting For The Repair and Renewal Of St. Finn Barr’s Church. | Cork Examiner | Monday 14 May 1866 | British Newspaper Archive, 2019) This extension would permit the installation of a new high altar in 1873 by the ‘eminent ecclesiastical architect’ George Goldie. The Cork Examiner dedicated substantial space to its description and praise of the new high altar in January 1874.(st.finbarrs-south.pdf, n.d.) The newspaper report speaks of Goldie personally supervising the work on the altar and of the altar table designed to hold the Dead Christ, by the Irish sculptor John Hogan. The table was of ‘Sicilian white marble’ supported by ‘neatly carved piers of Caen stone.’ The reredos was flanked by pilasters that contained carved angels ‘with the flowing drapery of the early Tuscan school.’ The sanctuary was remodelled in the 1970s in accordance with Vatican II. This involved the moving of the altar table nearer to the congregation while the dome of the tabernacle and the carved angels were removed from the reredos. The Irish Examiner commented on how the alterations ‘achieved a very successful compromise between the old and the new’ but the main concern was about how the Dead Christ would be accommodated by the new configuration.(The Irish Examiner, 1972) When Goldie had constructed the original altar he had received praise for every aspect of his work on the altar and reredos, the sculpture of the Dead Christ being incorporated into the altar table merited just one line in the report.(st.finbarrs-south.pdf, n.d.) The space above the altar used for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament received the highest praise in the same article as the most prominent and most important aspect of the sanctuary. In making this assertion the report confirms the significance of the Body of Christ and the rituals surrounding the performance of the exposition in the centrality of the bodily practice focused on the separated sanctuary space which the laity observed at a distance. In figure 15 the altar can be seen elevated by a series of steps and isolated spatially from the lay members of the congregation by the altar rails that separate the sacred from the profane. The division reiterates Wren’s comments on the visual, gestural and, by inference, elevation of the ritual above the Word. The public body en masse are required to remain remote from the sacred body of the church as a site and to isolate themselves on the profane side of the rail outside of the sanctuary. Simultaneously, the embodied senses remain connected through ocular and olfactory encounter with the performance of the priest and altar assistants. The prominence of the candles and flowers around the altar contribute to the mysterium tremendum, the aura of the religious space in which the body of the church goers are subsumed by the body of the church and the Body of the Church.

The body of the Dead Christ contained in the altar table designed by Goldie is advanced toward the congregation in figure 16. The altar rails have been removed and the height of the tabernacle has been lowered through the removal of two of the, formerly more elevating, three steps up to the altar when incorporated into the reredos. The sacrament of the Eucharist is performed closer to the laity as both celebrant and participant share the performance area without a division between sacred and profane – the laity become ‘fully conscious and active’ participants in the ‘liturgical celebrations.’ The centrality of the Body of Christ held within the ciborium, praised so highly when it was first designed by Goldie, for the purpose of remote exposition is now the Body of Christ at one with the body of the Church that expresses itself with all its members as a united ‘royal priesthood.’ At the time of the realignment removals also occurred. The angels draped in the Tuscan style have been taken down, the candleholders that surround the ciborium have been reduced in size and the ciborium,(this term is used here to describe the canopies incorporated into the reredos that serve a function relative to the Eucharist as that of the ciborium/baldachin to the altar as a whole) itself has been jettisoned. This combination of relocations and removals acts to transfer the sanctity of the distant and isolated location of ritual performance that demanded sensual awareness of the sacred from its space of privilege to an arena that allows the sensual to be replaced by the corporeal participation of the laity who now share the activity within the opened and expanded stage.

When considering the importance of the division between clergy and congregation we must be aware that this division was also an important consideration for Goldie and his fellow architects of the nineteenth-century. In a lecture given by Goldie in Sheffield in 1856 he highlighted the perfection of the separation of the chancel from the nave in earlier architecture and in the case of St. Vincent’s, Sheffield, designed by Goldie, he stated that the chancel was set apart for ‘the special service of the altar’ and would devote a large part of his lecture to how this earlier perfection would be replicated in this new church.(Goldie, 1856, pp.20–2). In the same lecture, Goldie was strident in his defence of architecture of the ‘middle ages’ and of how Catholic architecture of his own time was working in the service of the ritualism of Catholicism and, even though he saw Protestant architecture engaged in the Gothic Revival as praiseworthy,  any other denomination that did any revival that could not ‘by the laws of their own church’ ensure that the performance of ritual, as we have described it here, could be enacted then that architecture was ‘little better than a weak and purile imitation, without an end.’(Goldie, 1856, pp.19–20) Goldie was expressing a sentiment that evoked the ritualism that the body of the church facilitated for the congregation, as observers and emotional receptors of the environment and actions taking place there. But, this emotional involvement could not exist without the architecture directed toward this end and unless both ritual arising from practice and co-existing within  the architectural body of the church functioned in harmony, unlike other denominations, then it was a futile and pointless experience for both architect and religious practice. The very concept and intention of Goldie’s architecture is undermined if this ritual practice is redirected and demolishes the division that it served to enhance as part of the sensual cohesion of the Mass as practiced. In essence, for Goldie the division enhanced the sacramental by ensuring the sanctity of where the sacrament took place, the body of the church building directed the mode of participation and sensorial engagement toward a contemplative silence. The realignments brought about by Vatican II demanded the rewriting of the architectural space, the ‘stage’ flowed outward and engulfed the congregation but in doing so submerged in a destructive way the foundation that had constructed the contemplative arena.

Fig. 15: St. Finbarr’s South Chapel, Cork, (1873)

Fig. 16: St. Finbarr’s South Chapel, 2018.

Thus far, we have been discussing an architectural space that had a division between the lay members of the congregation and the priest but what of the convent setting where meaning in the building held symbolic references that transcended the physical division of the sanctuary and the nave? To investigate this we can look to Goldie’s design, (Fig. 17), for the Ursuline convent in Waterford, its original form and the removal of the internal religious furnishings after the chapel was closed. Goldie’s designs show a fourfold division of the spaces within the convent chapel – the sanctuary, a boarder’s chapel, a secular chapel and the nun’s choir. We can see that even as he terms these spaces and as they can be seen in his drawings, (Fig. 17), that there is an immediate hierarchy established in which the nuns are above the boarders and the secular members of the congregation and involved in the spiritual direction of the sacrament but also physically separated. The status of the Sister’s within the chapel building is also emphasised by they having a sacristy within the sanctuary. The central nave and choir are occupied by the nuns but they are also present in the sanctuary area as themselves and through the representations of their saints on the reredos.

Fig. 17: Designs for Ursuline convent chapel, Waterford.

The reredos was designed with the significance to the Order built into it. In the niches stood a  statue of St. Ursula and a statue of St. Angela. St. Angela Merci was the founder of the Order and St. Ursula is their patron. The photograph, (Fig. 18), showing the original interior of the church makes it difficult to identify the saints but this has been verified by Sr. June Fennelly of the Ursuline convent, who also confirmed that the statues were retained by the convent and located within the school buildings.[3] Contained in the annals of the Ursulines in Waterford there is mention of an instruction to ensure that the chapel would have ease of access from the other parts of the convent and also that the plans by Goldie were carefully considered prior to the project proceeding.[4] This shows that the Sisters had an interest in and, perhaps, an input into the design of the chapel to conform to their own spiritual demands. The nuns would not have been unfamiliar with architecture or art in general as one of their number had published a collection of lectures on the subject as early as 1845 and had corresponded with Pugin (Fennelly, 2016, p.12).

Fig. 18: Original Interior of Ursuline convent chapel, Waterford.

The chapel, as designed by Goldie, allowed the Sisters to be close participants in and to integrate themselves closer to the sacred space. We can see that there are areas within the chapel that are clearly identified as the locations of the boarders and the secular and the nuns are not part of this separate arena of worship. The transfer of the reredos and altars to a different site and in conformity with Vatican II requirements changed the meaning and symbolic richness from that which was engrained in the structure designed by Goldie.

The reredos and altar were moved to St. Brigid’s church in Ballycallan, Co. Kilkenny in 1995, after the convent chapel had been closed, (Fig. 19).

Fig. 19: Ursuline convent reredos relocated to St. Brigid’s, Ballycallan, Co. Kilkenny.

Fortunately, unlike at Gaggin, the entire reredos and altar table have been retained. The addition of an altar table closer to the laity and the lack of dividing altar railings adhere to the demands of Vatican II and, in doing so, change the visual and symbolic dynamic that attached to the reredos in the convent chapel. The removal of the statues have altered how the reredos was to be read by the original congregation and instead now acts as mere decoration and an ornate container for the tabernacle. The meaning of the reredos within a structured and hierarchical layout has been lost as the boundaries between sacred and profane have been realigned and the ability of the Order to converse with the sacred performance through their founder and their patron is removed. The extraction of the reredos from the chapel has also extracted from the reredos all intended function and meaning.

Meaning and emotion are linked, the intended reading of internal church furnishing can only retain that reading in its intended setting and in its original form. The relocation of altars and reredos rewrite the architectural plans to suit either liturgical modifications or, as in the case of the Ursuline convent, repurposed as a form of semi-preservation. Neither act serves to preserve the language of the original and both conspire to eradicate meaning and intention. Goldie’s reredos are not unique in being moved or lost but serve as an example of how these destructive interventions have impacted on the textual nature of the internal decoration of the churches as objects that spoke to the emotional and spiritual body of the congregation and how this connection is removed as they move or disappear.

In the examples discussed above we are addressing changes that occurred to existing churches and these changes happened even in churches of the early to mid-twentieth century. We have noted that most churches being built prior to Vatican II adhered to the cruciform shape and, even if materials and means of construction altered, the divisions between the sanctuary and the nave were in most cases maintained. There were exceptions to the rule and this was brought about by the different materials that became available and by the influence of modernist architecture in Europe and the United States as applied to church building.(Hurley, 2001, pp.16–24) Hurley refers to the architect, Brendan O’Connor, who designed the Church at Rossguill, Donegal, that appears to preface the demands of Vatican II but built in 1954 and including an altar that has the congregation on both sides, as well as in the main nave.(Hurley, 2001, p.31) Hurley’s Irish Church Architecture in the Era of Vatican II is, perhaps, the most important investigation of the development of church architecture in Ireland of the twentieth-century and follows an evolution of styles that arise with the fading of the Gothic designs of the nineteenth-century and the attempts to create a uniquely Irish style in the early-twentieth-century. It is possible, using Hurley, to determine that changes in material and technological developments were having an impact on the design of ecclesiastical buildings that would be rehearsed in churches post-Vatican II.

Churches that retained the cruciform shape and built prior to Vatican II underwent realignments post-Vatican II that were largely limited to the removal of altar rails and the bringing forward of the altar table. Earlier, we looked at how Vatican II affected the existing nineteenth-century churches but there was also an immense impact on architectural approaches to newly built churches. This new approach, guided by Vatican II, changed utterly the spiritually inspired spatial relationships so important to Goldie.

Immediately before the commencement of the Second Vatican Council, the interior design of the Catholic church was being discussed at many levels and the integration of the tabernacle into the altar was seen as paramount and the continuation of a tradition that maintained the Ad Orientum arrangement.(Murray, 1962, p.506) However, even at this earlier point in time there was an understanding being voiced that the barrier between the sacerdotal space and the congregation needed to be dismantled in order to allow for and encourage a greater participation by the laity, using the vernacular and active in the Liturgy.(Murray, 1962, p.510) As these ideas were developed and were pronounced at the end of the Second Vatican Council, any new church building would differ greatly from the designs by Goldie and his peers. The function, intention and meaning of the post-Vatican II architecture of the once sacred space would no longer be perceived as a distant physical object that was connected via the emotions and the senses to the community in a spiritual encounter, as was the case with Goldie. From that moment the sacred space was also a secular space in which both priest and laity functioned as deliverers of the Liturgy and, while not equal in the hierarchy of the Church, equal participants in the Liturgical Ritual.

Writing in The Furrow in 1962, Gerard and Lawrence McConville insisted that ‘a different space in a church was necessary, an arrangement whereby the people would take part in divine worship, not only by seeing and hearing, but also joining with the priest in prayer and action.’(McConville and McConville, 1962, p.650) For McConville and McConville it was essential that a free-standing altar (devoid of reredos and rails) would be orientated toward the congregation and within a crescent shaped space that ensured the laity embraced the formerly isolated sacred space and the introduction of any barrier to participation would be a ‘distortion’ of the intention of the church’s role as a shared arena of worship.(McConville and McConville, 1962, pp.650–1)

In the aftermath of Vatican II, when ideas expressed by the McConvilles and Murray became more widely accepted and applied to practice, architects were afforded a freedom to respond in their own way to a demand that was limited to a ‘free-standing altar and, with the priest facing the people and a gathering of worshippers around the sanctuary.’(Hurley, 2001, p.43) As Hurley pointed out, this new architecture left nothing of the ‘nineteenth-century attempt to recreate medieval symbolism in church buildings’, a symbolism that was for Goldie and his like essential to communicate the divine through the physical, emotional and spiritual conversation of ritual and light.(Hurley, 2001, p.45)

It was this degradation of the symbolic power of the church as a symbol of the Church that would play a major role in the loss of many of Goldie’s work  and  the work of other architects of the nineteenth-century. The Advisory Committee on Church Art and Architecture approached the issue of reredos and the tabernacle from the standpoint that ‘The majority of existing altars cannot be said to have genuine artistic value’, that ‘Their retention can make the planning of a proper liturgical space very difficult’ and that ‘the artistic quality and intrinsic financial value of these altars are often over estimated.’(Advisory Committee on Sacred Art and Architecture, 1977, p.258)  The Advisory Committee were of the opinion that more was required than a simple turning around of the altar and the priest to face the congregation in order to realign the liturgical practice- a wider change was needed and this change demoted the reredos and its symbolic and spiritual import and allowed it to be designated as an unnecessary decoration within the church.(Advisory Committee on Sacred Art and Architecture, 1977, p.258) It was this license to remove that led to the loss of reredos in Bothola, Co. Mayo, the Loreto Convent, in Letterkenny, St. Patrick’s, in Monaleen and St. Saviour’s, in Waterford, (and this is just a short list of works by Goldie alone). It was also the approach that would lead to a neglect of many of the nineteenth-century churches based on a subjective valuation of the artistic worth of the reredos, a valuation often challenged.(Duffy, 2019) An example of the impact of the subjective can be found in a description of a memorial by Goldie built for St. John the Baptist church in Ovens, Co. Cork. When it was built in 1865 the memorial was described as ‘in a pure Italian character after the manner of the mural monuments of Rome’, the report went on to paint a picture of a most elegant and decorous work, however, all that remains after a renovation to the church interior carried out in the mid-1970s is a tablet attached to the memorial, hidden in the sacristy of the church.(Monument To The Late Very Rev. Canon Walsh, P.p. | Cork Examiner | Wednesday 06 September 1865 | British Newspaper Archive, 2019)

The Office of Public Works has, since recognising the destructive nature of the Catholic Church’s reaction to Vatican II, said that such memorials should be ‘protected as important and integral parts of the overall architectural composition’ and, similarly, saw the other aspects of the internal furnishings, such as reredos and pulpits, as ‘part of an overall, unified vision of the interior of a church that should be protected and respected accordingly.’(Howley Hayes Architects and Ireland, 2011, p.55) Unfortunately, for many of these artistic interventions that were an essential part of Goldie’s spiritual vision, this revision of the value of the church interior decoration has arrived too late.

Church Building in the Nineteenth- Century Irish Novel

As we have seen in the introduction and literature review of this essay, there are multiple examples of church architecture and church building being incorporated into the English novel and even being the subject of some novels in their entirety. Considering that a similar expansion of church buildings, and indeed convent and other religious buildings was taking place in Ireland, one would expect that there would also exist a space for the Irish novel of the nineteenth-century to also engage with the architecture of the period as it was being inserted into the landscape. This chapter seeks to examine a limited corpus of novels that might shed some light on this question. The findings, while narrow and perhaps inconclusive, leave open the door for a more in-depth investigation of how Irish literature compares with English literature in its use of church architecture and if there exists a deliberate omission of the phenomena by Irish authors of the period. The investigation was carried out using a combination of Voyant Tools, close reading and digital repositories. An indication of the corpus results are given in the images below (Figs 20 & 21)

Fig. 20 Indicative Corpus Results Using Voyant Tools.

Fig. 21 Indicative Result (Rory O’More) Using Voyant Tools.

Tourists to Ireland of the nineteenth-century recorded their impressions of the architecture that was extant or in the process of being completed. Anna Maria Hall and her husband Samuel Carter Hall visited Killarney and wrote of the new cathedral by A.W.N. Pugin ‘occupying a commanding site’ and how the neighbouring Protestant church was a blot on the landscape by comparison.(Hall, 2019, pp.71–2) Of course, like many tourists to Ireland the Halls were travelling to experience the ‘picturesque’ and their focus is on the landscape and on the ruins there in; just one example of such a description is given from their time around Glengarriff where they encounter ‘the ruins of one of those small ancient churches.’(Hall, 2019, p.45) Thackeray, in The Irish Sketch Book, also engages with the picturesque,(‘the town is most picturesquely situated’) but also mentions ‘an ugly church with an air of pretension and a large grave Roman Catholic church, the highest point of the place.’ (Thackeray, 2019, p.164) Thackeray also mentions a ‘large, dingy, Catholic chapel, of some pretensions within; but as usual there had been a failure for want of money, and the front end of the chapel was unfinished’ presenting the butt-end of a portico.’[5](Thackeray, 2019, p.81) Thackeray, like the Halls, also engages with ruins, of just one example, coupled with the picturesque he writes, ‘Close by the church there are the ruins of a fine old abbey here, and a still finer one a few miles on, at Thomastown, most picturesquely situated amidst trees and meadows, on the river Nore.’(Thackeray, 2019, p.75). Other instances of mentions of Irish churches in the nineteenth-century, of ruins and of their importance to the idea of the picturesque are to be found in many travel books of the period. But, does this awareness transfer itself into the novel? The building of Catholic churches was, as we have discussed, an important part of the Catholic community’s sense of identity and status and it is clear from the two examples given above that it was a visible and knowable community activity. While accepting that the picturesque could lend itself to romantic imagery and the ruin played an active role in this concept for the artist, the architect and the writer, the link with the past and the romantic may well have prevented the writers of the period from engaging with the visible present.[6]

Gerald Griffin, writing in the early part of the nineteenth-century, when some church building was taking place but not to the extent that would occur after the Famine, gives some insight into the manner in which churches were used in novels of the time. In one of his most famous novels, The Collegians, the church or chapel is a location of destination. Characters attend chapel, run into the chapel, went there to pray, wed, or hurried out of, without commenting on the physical presence of the structure.(Griffin, 1829a, pp.12, 13, 29, 312, 317) Gardens can look as grave as a ruined churchyard, but we have no indication of how a ruined churchyard appears.(Griffin, 1829a, p.7) But this lack of description of the churches and chapels is not for lack of architectural vocabulary as Griffin proceeds to paint a picture of Castle Chute in most eloquent language using terms such as ‘Grecian architecture’, ‘heavy Norman archway’ and ‘richly ornamented Gothic archway.’(Griffin, 1829a, pp.156–8) The author does, however, quickly dismiss such language as ‘mere description’ and an interference in the story’s narrative.(Griffin, 1829a, p.157) In volume two of The Collegians we meet a ruined church that, again, acts as a location point, a mere directing reference point on the landscape, while Volume Three maintains a similar approach to church buildings.(Griffin, 1829b, p.22) In his short novel, Suil Dhuiv,The Coiner, we get from Griffin some idea of church architecture that corresponds with our expectation of early nineteenth-century Catholic churches, when he describes a church as ‘a thatched chapel, a plain oblong pile with a small iron cross fastened at the top of the gable, into which the door, an unpanelled plane of timber, marked with the same sacred symbol in red paint, was made to open.’(Griffin, n.d., p.405) In Tracy’s Ambition, the main protagonist sees the ‘magnificent chapel: a vast building…lost and buried among a conflux of miserable lanes and allies.’ and a brief mention of an ivy-clad ruin of an Augustinian friary.(Griffin, 1857, pp.299, 240) The Rivals, in the same volume as Tracy’s Ambition, contained much discussion about Protestantism and Catholicism, about ritual versus scripture, but very little by way of description of the building.

Perhaps, we might suggest that the ecclesiastical building programme taking place when Griffin was writing is a reason for his unwillingness to see that which was part of the community he wrote about and from but there was an expansion of  church building even during the earlier part of the century, as we have learned from Keenan and others. The reasons for this lack of engagement raises problematic questions for literature’s ability to represent the changing topography in which its characters dwelt and needs further investigation; for now the task is to highlight this lack and where it exists within a limited corpus.

Writing later in the century, at a point when much building had taken place, Violet Florence Martin, writing under the name Martin Ross, in collaboration with Edith Somerville, writing under the name Geilles Herring, wrote An Irish Cousin in 1889. In the novel we are often given a sense of the internal setting of the church and the customs attached to seating and, as discussed earlier, the practice focussed on the word.(Herring and Ross, 1889, pp.36–7) However, as with Griffin albeit in a Protestant setting, there is little attention directed to the structure of the church buildings other than one reference, again like Griffin, that describes the church in Rathbarry, Co. Cork as ‘an ugly oblong building.’(Herring and Ross, 1889, pp.3–4) The use of a ruined church is also introduced as a symbol of time passing following an ubi sunt motif.(Herring and Ross, 1889, pp.201–2)

A writer that wrote both before and during the Famine, Samuel Lover in Handy Andy: A Tale of Irish Life tells of his belief that the Irish peasantry had a preference to the ‘half-thatched ruin by a lone hill-side’ than a ‘gorgeous temple.’(Lover, 1842, p.367) This stance is rebuked by a member of the peasantry who says that just because God was born in a stable does not mean that his house should always appear as one.(Lover, 1842, p.371)Nonetheless, he does mention of some building work taking place on the repair of a church tower and the introduction of an altar piece to the Catholic church along with an ‘illigant’ painting of a crucifixion.(Lover, 1842, p.300) In Rory O’More: A National Romance, written in 1837, Lover deals with many of the issues of the day around the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland. Lover does take time to describe  Catholic ritual (Lover, 1901, pp.8–9) and references a small ruined church as telling of ‘decay’(Lover, 1901, p.246) and also hints at some older churches being modified as Protestant churches (Lover, 1901, pp.244–5). However, as with the other writers mentioned, he limits the church to acting as a location, a place to attend, without subjecting the site to any architectural elucidation.

It is interesting to learn that there is very little change across genders as female writers too temper their encounter with churches to a place of happening rather than a place with its own characteristics and ignore the building activity of which they must have been aware, given the extent of construction taking place.

Kathleen O’Meara (1839-1888) might be excused for her novels set in Ireland not conversing with the architecture or the newly constructed churches as she left Ireland for France at a young age and did not return. But, that is not the case, in The Battle of Connemara, she mentions a church that is ‘a beautiful little edifice, pure Gothic’ a style which the character of the novel sees as ‘the only style for sacred purposes’ and which has been newly built.(O’Meara, 1878, p.33) In the final pages O’Meara tells of a new Catholic church about to be built without demolishing an ‘old consecrated barn’ mentioned at the beginning of the novel.(O’Meara, 1878, pp.33, 206) The positioning of the ‘roadside’ chapel as a reminder of the demoted past of the Catholic Church and the new building that replaced it as Catholicism reasserted itself in the novel is reflective of the progress of Catholicism that we have discussed in chapter 2.

Maria Edgeworth rarely uses the word church or chapel in her most famous novel, Castle Rack Rent, but this might well be due to the very early period in which it was written, it being published in 1800, and its chronological setting of before 1772. The same can be said of her final novel, Helen, published in 1834.

And, finally, Margaret White Hungerford, (1855-1897), who was born in Rosscarbery, West Cork, and who lived and died in nearby Bandon, in her most famous novel, Molly Bawn (1878), has ample opportunity to discuss churches and their building, given her upbringing in the area discussed in chapter 2. The church is a site of attendance and primarily Protestant. The church building discussed is ‘Low’, that is conforming to pre-Gothic revival, with high pews, ‘gloomy and antiquated.’(Wofle Hungerford, 1886, pp.215–6)

It is clear that the church as a building in itself is rarely touched upon by the authors examined and is limited to a place of attendance, ritual and activity or a landmark without reference to its own construction or as an entity under construction. Debates take place about religion, society and church officials and allegiances throughout novels of the period but the contentious issue of style and how a church’s form can represent a Church’s status is, on the whole, neglected. While this is a limited interrogation of the theme it does point to a need for a more detailed investigation of church architecture in the nineteenth-century Irish novel.


George Goldie was an architect that had an impact on the Irish landscape through revisions of the topographical appearance of towns that were contentious during the nineteenth-century Catholic revival in the country. His work helped to alter the Catholic perception of self and of the Protestant ‘Other’ during a period of immense social shift. The use of the fabric and location of the church building, its height and its site, imprinted itself into the landscape and the religious and social relationships that were at play in Ireland in the aftermath of Catholic Emancipation. The new found and elevated status of the Catholic Church in Ireland sought a physical expression of this promoted rank, uplifted after the Penal Laws, and as Catholics in society became freer to contribute on a grand scale to the erection of religious edifices. The case study taken here, Bandon, while not unique in Ireland is extremely apt as a focus point for an examination of this manifestation of Catholic resurgence. The instance of Bandon allows us to read the attitude of the Catholics of the town to their own churches, their aspirations and their understanding of how the buildings reflected the change from oppressed to visible section of society. We can also engage in our own visual perceptions of the church buildings of both communities to identify in the present the ocular encounters of the past in the landscape occupied by the different  religions.

As the Catholic building programme expanded during the early twentieth-century, Goldie’s internal furnishings were affected by this expansion through relocation, realignment and removal. These interventions, whether in response to liturgical change, vocational reductions or church and convent closures, altered the intention and meaning of the reredos and altar pieces. Taking Goldie as just one instance, in what were many such revisions of church interiors at the time, we are provided with the opportunity to investigate how internal architectural change can create a spiritual, physical and emotional transmutation in the conversation that exists between the different parts of the church congregation – laity, clergy and Sisterhoods. Erasures took place in a re-writing of the text that was the original reredos and this editing of meaning deprives the present viewer of both context and content in the work as a response to a specific demand that, in the case of the Ursulines, challenged the hierarchical make up of the church layout. In the case of St. Finbarr’s we learn of the way the body of the church and the bodies of the Church experience an alteration in their relationship to each other as the physical structure of the interior is redefined. This has both emotional, spiritual and corporeal affects; the body of the congregation becomes more in contact with the sacred space while the sanctity of the sacred space is secularised. Goldie’s own writing indicates to us that the physical divisions that existed in the church were part of the language of the ecclesiastical architecture that allowed the members of the congregation to participate in the rituals in a deeper and more meaningful way. The movement within the church had as profound an impact on the reredos as did their complete relocation, as in the case of Gaggin and Ballycallan. The result of the realignments denied the reredos of their intent.

As we have seen their was an immense ecclesiastical buildings programme taking place from the mid-1840s onward. If we consider just Bandon, there were two large churches, St. Peter’s and St. Patrick’s built during this period. This was echoed across many parishes, rural and urban, throughout Ireland, as in England. We know that writers in England used churches as sites of activity and reference points but also that there were efforts made to engage with the architecture itself. In Ireland, in the limited examples examined, we find that there is a distinct lack of reference to a phenomenon that was changing the landscape, visually and societally. As the church building programme progressed and the Catholic community saw themselves being more and more represented in the physical fabric of the country there is a noticeable gap in this topographical metamorphosis manifesting itself in the Irish novel of the time. This is an area that is deserving of further and deeper investigation across a number of disciplines – social history, nineteenth-century Irish literary studies, art history and religious studies. There is a need to explore if the lack identified here is indeed representative of the wider canon of nineteenth-century Irish literature and, if so, is this a deliberate omission on the part of the writers or if these buildings were deemed to have no other purpose other than a space in which narrative is located, a vessel for setting rather than an entity deserving of interrogation in itself.

The wider implications of churches on the Irish landscape, the internal configurations of the churches and how these churches were engaged with by the literature of a most contentious century can be used as a means of deriving a deeper understanding of the self-perception and perception of ‘Other’. In this project just one architect and a representative sample of his work demonstrates for us how such an interrogation might function and serve as in inroad to a past that remains as part of our physical present and whose stories have been seen to change in line with societal progressions and regressions.


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[1] For a detailed discussion on this period, the conflicts and their outcomes see: Childs, John, The Williamite Wars in Ireland: 1688-91, (New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2007). Edwards, David, Pádraig Lenihan & Clodagh Tait, Editors,  Age of Atrocity : Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland, (Dublin: Four Courts, 2007). Lenihan, P., Confederate Catholics at War: 1641-1649, (Cork: Cork University Press, 2001).

[2] The burning of Notre Dame occurred on April 15, 2019. Social media, traditional press and other media reacted widely to the event. No example from social media is given here as a bibliographical entry as to include an active social media stream may lead to perceptions of imbalance.

[3] In conversion within the present writer.

[4] Annals of the Ursulines in Waterford, 1872. M.S., 71.

[5] This unfinished church might well be St. Mary’s on Pope’s Quay, Cork.

[6] For more detailed discussion of the ruin in the Irish landscape, the picturesque and the romantic see: (O’Kane, 2004) and (Scott, 2017)


It is almost impossible to consider Goldie’s work in Sligo without reference to the Bishop of Elphin, Laurence Gillooly. Goldie had already been engaged by Gillooly to complete work on St. Vincent’s church in Cork and on the attached Vincentian presbytery. Gillooly was a Vincentian and was educated in the Irish College in Paris.(Bowen, 2006, p.225) He was appointed Bishop of Elphin, which incorporated parts of the counties of Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and Galway, in 1858. According to Cullen, Gillooly was involved in the construction of thirty churches, along with many convents and schools. (Canning, 1987, p.340) When we consider the dates for churches built in the nearby diocese of Achonry, such as St. Nathy’s, it is possible that Bishop Gillooly became aware of Goldie’s work during his term as Coadjutor Bishop of Elphin (1855-6) while still Superior at St. Vincent’s.(Canning, 1987) Goldie also carried out improvements on a Vincentian church in Sheffield in 1856. He would also be involved in other Vincentian buildings in Ireland such as St. Peter’s, Phibsboro and Castleknock College. Aside from these circumstances of possible awareness of the architect’s work, it is difficult to definitively state how the connection between Goldie and Gillooly came to be but whatever the root of the friendship it would lead to a very fruitful partnership between the architect and the bishop.

Goldie built two convents, and three churches in Sligo, including the cathedral and the Bishop of Elphin’s residence; he also designed the Bishop’s crozier, which is still in use to this day. Not all of the churches in Sligo came under the remit of Bishop Gillooly, Ballymote is in the diocese of Achonry, just as not all churches in Roscommon were part of the diocese of Achonry, such as Strokestown and Castlerea which were part of Elphin. The other churches within the diocese designed by Goldie are discussed under their relative counties.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ballymote, (1859-62).

The site for the church was granted rent free by the owner of the town, and grand-father of Countess Markievicz, Sir Robert Gore-Booth. (swords, 2007, p.52)The first tender invitations for the building of Ballymote church in the diocese of Achonry were advertised in 1859. By October 1859, the same newspaper was discussing the merits of the church building describing it as thirteenth-century Gothic in style with ‘a rose window of most beautiful and novel form.’ It was also mentioned that the cost of the church  would be £3,000, without including the tower and spires. In the event, it seems that only the tower was built but, even so, this creates a very well-proportioned building with a robust and powerful stature. The Evening Freeman declared in 1861 that the beauty of the church was not due to any elaborate ornamentation but came as a result of its ‘graceful and harmonious outline and proportion.’The building, although based on thirteenth-century gothic, sported none of the elaborate decoration found on the exterior of such churches but was adapted to the properties of the local materials and circumstance and displayed ‘simple geometric forms.’

In June 1861, a report from Goldie to the building committee was carried in the Sligo Champion. The report outlined the progress on the building, the finances expended and the urgent requirement of additional funding to complete the important roofing phase of the project. In June 1862, the Parish Priest of Ballymote Fr. Tighe, the individual responsible for the endeavours to build the church, wrote to the Sligo Champion outlining how the work had progressed and mentioned some of the financial supporters that helped see the task through to completion. In 1869, Tighe again wrote to the Champion to report on the addition of the tower and to thank the many benefactors who had assisted in the past and were continuing to do so.

The dedication of the church took place in September 1864 and was covered widely in the press at the time. The church was described as ‘one of the most spacious, most substantial, and at the same time one of the handsomest temples of Catholic worship to be found in the country districts of Ireland.’Close to the church were the ruins of ‘the venerable Abbey of Ballymote, founded by St. Columbkille and the same in which the famous book of Ballymote was written.’

Gothic revival in style, the church is a strong presence in the town’s landscape. The ashlar limestone used in its construction adds to its robust appearance. In the main portal there is an interesting mosaic feature and the interior presents a well lit and open space that invites the attendance to engage with the stained glass of the clearstory, rose window and lancet windows. The mosaic feature of the entrance is continued in the interior.

St. Patrick’s Church, Gurteen.

The church of Saint Patrick was built in Gurteen in 1866. The name of the parish was Kilfree and this is how the church was referred to in newspaper reports of its dedication in November 1866.According to the official parish website ( )the church designed by Goldie replaced an earlier church in the same site built in 1829, just after Catholic Emancipation had been achieved. The earlier church was described by Lewis as ‘a large chapel.’[1] Goldie’s church was described a ‘in the pointed Gothic style’ and able to accommodate 1,200 parishioners. The foundation stone for the church was laid in May 1866 but by August the building of the church ran into difficulties due to a lack of funding to complete the roofing of the church. The permission given by the bishop of Achonry to allow the parish priest, Roger Brennan, to seek support and financial assistance outside of the parish was due to the impoverishment of the people of the area, unable to raise adequate funds themselves. Even with these difficulties, the church was completed  by November of the same year.

 There were alterations to the church carried out in 1919 but early photographs show that, although the altar appears to have been changed, much of the interior and exterior of the church remained largely unaltered.

An interesting incident occurred in the church in 1882 . Damage was done to the altar and pews were smashed and removed in protest, this may have been linked to former members of the Land League as one of the seats targeted was that of the local landlord.

[1] Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Vol.II, 95.

Ursuline Convent of St. Joseph

In early 2019 planning permission was being sought to convert the convent to a nursing home and housing development. The building had ceased to function as a convent in 2004 when the nuns moved from the premises and some of the rooms where incorporated into the attached Ursuline College. The departure of the nuns from this wonderful example of Gothic Revival architecture saw the end of a continuous occupancy of over 150 years.

The convent had been built in 1850, around the same time that the Mercy Order moved in to a new convent in the same quarter of the town of Sligo. The press reports of the time pointed to the anti-Catholic ‘bigotry’ that had prevented the establishment of religious convents in the earlier part of the century.Goldie’s intervention came in 1862 when he designed the extensive new wings to the convent that would provide additional class-rooms and dormitories. Given Goldie’s future work on other Ursuline convents, in Ireland and in the U.K., it is unlikely that his input was limited to just the wings. A report in the Sligo Champion in July 1863 mentions the ‘new and expensive buildings which have been added to the convent’ that included a new library and chapel. The chapel within the adjoining school has many of the hall marks of a Goldie convent chapel – the NIAH suggests that the chapel was added around 1870, a year when Goldie was working on the nearby Sligo Cathedral so it is very possible that the chapel is part of his oeuvre.

Mercy Convent of St. Patrick

The Dictionary of Irish Architects  suggests that George Goldie’s work on the convent occurred in around 1862 from sources in The Builder .This is very likely as it coincides with the timescale for his other work in the town. According to The Builder Goldie’s input comprised of the addition of ‘a new porch and belfry.’ The DIA also raises the possibility that the chapel was also designed by Goldie, again, this would not be surprising given his reputation, his other work in Sligo and in the Diocese of Elphin, and that he was also working on the Ursuline Convent around this time. Jeremy Williams states that Goldie’s work on the building was ‘the best addition architecturally.’(Williams, 1994, p.337)

Although the convent is now used as a residence for asylum seekers and refugees, the exterior has been maintained and efforts have been made to preserve much of the interior. The condition of the building allows us to see hints of Goldie’s work in the presence of Romanesque features in the windows and interior arches. The floor tiling is very indicative of his designs and the exposed roof timber is typical of many of the churches he built in Achonry and Elphin. The chapel has been divided with an additional floor inserted at just below the clearstory and this, while preserving the structure, detracts from the visual impact. The removal of the stained glass windows is also a major loss. The exterior combines Romanesque and Classical features in a manner that is both harmonious and well proportioned.

The Bishop of Elphin’s Residence

Built in 1878-80, the Bishop’s Residence was commissioned from Goldie by Bishop Gillooly. The building was completed in time for Bishop Gillooly’s twenty-fifth anniversary as Bishop of Elphin. The building was described as a ‘massive square stone building of three stories’ and there has not been any alteration in the view that the presbytery has over the town of Sligo and of the Cathedral from those remarked upon in the Sligo Champion. The façade of the building is offered relief from the idea of a ‘massive square’ by the addition of the extending tower to the west and the mouldings and recesses around the main doorway and windows.

The small chapel in the building is very subdued and consists, primarily, of wood panel work and carvings. The Stations of the Cross are also very much a simple affair and are reminiscent of those in the Loretto Convent in Letterkenny, also by Goldie.

The crozier, designed by Goldie and carved from Irish bog oak remains in use today. At his Ordination, the present Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran described the crozier as a symbol of ‘continuity and communion’.

The crozier was carved by Arthur Hayball, notable for his other carvings after Goldie designs. The design was featured in The Builder in 1867 and it is fortunate that the descriptions in the article let us know that the crozier has remained as when it was first delivered to Bishop Gillooly.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1868-73, is very much underappreciated for the architectural gem which it is. Maurice Craig said that it was ‘a work of little-recognised originality.(Craig, 1982, p.315) Irish Cathedrals, Churches and Abbeys is so broad in coverage that it allows only brief entries for each building and this is true also of the description of Goldie’s cathedral in Sligo.(Curl and O’Neill, 2002, p.143) Jeremy Williams suggested that it had been ‘relegated to obscurity’ due to the advent of the Celtic Revival.(Williams, 1994, p.337) For all this, it is agreed by both Williams and Craig that the church is both innovative and exceptional.

The foundation stone for the Cathedral was laid in 1868, opened in 1875, completed in 1882 and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1897. One of the unusual features of the building, remarked upon by Craig, Curl and Williams, is in the style of the Cathedral. It is the only example of a cathedral in Ireland from the nineteenth-century built in the Norma-Romanesque style.(Beirne, 2007, p.126) The building follows the outline of a typical Catholic basilica with  large tower mounted by a pyramidal spire, the height of the tower reaches 210 feet. The main entrance to the building is at the foot of the tower and this portal is surmounted by a tympanum featuring  the Blessed Virgin Mary and other carved figures. The arch surrounding the tympanum is treble-recessed with moulded archivolts, chevrons and rounded ornamentation. Above the doorway there is a Crucifixion beneath a  marble canopy. The entire structure presents as an almost overpowering experience as on approaches the main entrance. Other entrance are decorated with the typical and symbolic fish-scale carvings in the archways, often found in earlier true-Romanesque churches.

Inside there are three aisles with three-stage naves, consisting of clearstory and gallery. The gallery layout was were a particular highlight for Craig as they stretched across the transepts, very unusual for the period.(Craig, 1982, p.315) The overall experience in the interior is one of awe. The Dublin Daily Nation reported that ‘The dim religious light so conducive to solemn thoughts, admitted through the  narrow windows, pervades the interior of the Cathedral.’ The same newspaper made favourable comparisons with the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and there are many visual similarities between the two, both in structure and in details.

The altar and the baldachin are wonderful and, when the light shines through the stained-glass windows, radiate a warming light throughout the interior. The altar and baldachin are made in hammered brass and the biblical scenes in the predella are of The Last Supper. On either side of the Tabernacle arc carvings of The Sacrifice of Isaac and The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek, these are made of alabaster and their translucence adds to the glow that emits from the entire sanctuary area. Directly behind the reredos is a large statue of the Virgin Mary, also in alabaster, looking down on the altar space.

The entire internal space brings together form, material and light to enhance the spiritual encounter in an experience of presence and solemnity.

Anon 2019. St Vincent’s Church, Sheffield – Wikipedia. [online] Available at: <,_Sheffield> [Accessed 2 Sep. 2019].

Beirne, F., 2007. Diocese of Elphin: An Illustrated History. Elphin Ireland: Booklink.

Bowen, D., 2006. Paul Cardinal Cullen and the Shaping of Modern Irish Catholicism. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press.

Canning, B.J., 1987. Bishops of Ireland 1870-1987. Ballyshannon [Ireland]: Donegal Democrat Co.

Craig, M.J., 1982. The Architecture of Ireland: From the Earliest Times to 1880. London : Dublin: Batsford ; Eason.

Curl, J.S. and O’Neill, B. eds., 2002. Irish Cathedrals, Churches and Abbeys. London: Caxton Editions.

swords, L., 2007. Achonry and its Churches. CU Signe.

Williams, J., 1994. A companion guide to architecture in Ireland, 1837-1921. Blackrock, Co. Dublin ; Portland, OR: Irish Academic Press.


George Goldie was very active in Waterford but much of his work there consisted of buildings for religious orders and he only completed one public church, St. Saviour’s, for the Dominican Order. Before moving on to his work on St. Saviour’s we will deal with his work on educational institutes and convent chapels.

St. John’s College, located at Manor Hill on the outskirts of Waterford city, is now a housing development converted to its current use by the Respond Housing Agency. The college has a long history dating back to the late eighteenth-century as one of a group of three Catholic educational centres in Waterford but in 1807 all were amalgamated into one centre – St. John’s. (Parochial History of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries, 1912a, p.248)  Harvey’s Parochial History of Waterford and Lismore provides a comprehensive history of the college, its origins and developments as well as important information on many of the religious institutions of the area during the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries. By the time George Goldie was called upon to design the present building, the college had been operating on the same site as a seminary for almost sixty years. (Parochial history of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries, 1912a, p.253)

In 1868 Goldie was appointed to design and oversee the construction of the new college of St. John’s. The foundation stone was laid on October 27th of that year and the building was opened to students within three years, at a cost of £23,000. The seminary is a very impressive building and sits on an elevated site overlooking the surrounding landscape. The 1871 Ordinance Survey Map of Waterford shows the large edifice with the attached chapel as it looks down to the city and the nearby Ursuline and Good Shepherd Convents. The Tipperary Free Press remarked that the front of the building was ‘visible at a distance of several miles.’(Tuesday, July 5, 1870, p. 4)

Fig. 1. St. John’s College Exterior

As can been seen from the photographs here (Fig. 1), while certainly not  ‘one of the most commodious collegiate buildings in the United Kingdom’(Waterford Mail – Saturday 25 June 1870, p.3), it was a large building and the façade conceals the full extent of the adjoining wings and rear of the complex that contained Goldie’s ‘chapel of very beautiful design.’(Fig. 2)(The Irish Builder, November 1, 1868, p. 265). The Tipperary Free Press, which was profuse in its praise for the college, declared that ‘Whether viewed in its entirety or considered  in each separate detail, the work reflects infinite credit upon the talent and professional taste of the architect Mr. Goldie, whose plans have been faithfully carried out by the contractor, Mr. Barry McMullen, of Cork. (Tuesday, July 5, 1870, p. 4)

Fig. 2: St. John’s College Chapel Front View.
Fig. 3. Interior of Chapel (2008)
Fig. 4: St. John’s College Chapel, Antependium

The chapel exterior (Fig. 2) is very much in the style of Goldie and reminds us of his earlier work for the Presentation convent in Bandon although in Waterford we have a more elaborate expression of his Gothic Revivalism. The chapel is also incorporated into the building as it stands in the centre of the eastern end of the interior quadrangle. Although the interior has been almost stripped bare of all religious furnishings we can see that some of the original reredos have been incorporated into the now secularised space and a section of the altar table (Fig. 3 and 4) has been retained in a separate part of the building. Goldie is referenced as having worked on the interior in a stained glass window that calls for the faithful to pray for his soul ( Fig. 5). We have seen the inclusion of windows dedicated to Goldie in churches in Cork and in Bandon but such calls for prayers for his soul can also be found in the U.K (an example in Salford Cathedral shows Goldie presenting his designs for the high altar to St. George (Fig. 6)). This might be an indication of how important the ritual of prayer and the health of his eternal soul was to Goldie given his devout Catholicism.

Fig. 5: Stained Glass Window. Dedicated to George Goldie.
Fig. 6. Goldie Window, Salford

Not far from St. John’s stands the Ursuline Convent, now housing a refugee centre. The convent contains the Church of the Sacred Heart (Figs. 7 and 8) which was designed by Goldie along with St. Joseph’s House, also within the convent grounds.

Fig. 7 Exterior of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart
  Fig. 8 Interior of Chapel of the Sacred Heart as    designed by Goldie

The Ursuline convent had been founded in 1816 and had seen many expansions on the site prior to Goldie’s involvement. By 1867, fifty years after its founding, it was decided to build a new wing to accommodate the growing number of children attending school there and to allow for additional space for the community of Sisters. This would be named St. Joseph’s and is still in use today as an Ursuline School. Goldie and his then business partner Charles Edwin Child were asked to supply plans for a building that would contain ‘all that was necessary for the suitable, extensive and comfortable accommodation of the pupils.’ (History of the Ursuline Waterford: From the Annals 1816-2016, ed. Sr. June Fennelly) The building was opened in October 1869. Unlike St. John’s college, which owed much to Goldie’s Gothic influence, St. Joseph’s presents a façade that is very much devised from Classical roots (Fig. 9).

Fig. 9 St. Joseph’s School Exterior

A.W.N Pugin had been asked to design a church in the complex earlier in the 1840s but, although he supplied plans, due to the onset of the Irish Famine and subsequent lack of funding the building of the church did not go ahead. (History of the Ursuline Waterford: From the Annals 1816-2016, ed. Sr. June Fennelly) It would be much later that a purpose-built chapel would be added to the convent from designs by Goldie. The Freeman’s Journal carried a Tender Notice for Builders to carry out the building of ‘a New Chapel at the Ursuline convent’ from the drawings of Goldie and Child. (June 11, 1872, p. 1). When the chapel was finally opened for the Sisters on Good Friday 1874, the convent annals record that there was great admiration for the beauty of the work, work that would continue until 1879 as Goldie finished the interior furnishing and decoration. (History of the Ursuline Waterford: From the Annals 1816-2016, ed. Sr. June Fennelly) The exterior of the church owes much to early-French Romanesque architectural design with hints of Classicism as evidenced by the Diocletian windows at the gable end to the left of the apse and the interior echoes this stance with rounded arches throughout.

The chapel has fallen out of use and, like the old convent building, forms part of a refugee centre. The altar and reredos were removed from the chapel in 1995 and installed in the Church of St. Brigid in Ballycallan, Co.Kilkenny (Fig. 10) The statues of St. Angela and St. Ursula that stood in the niches of the reredos were retained by the Ursuline community in Waterford and remain in the schools on the site.

Fig. 10. The altar and reredos from the Chapel of the Sacred Heart now in St. Brigid’s, Kilkenny.

The Good Shepherd Convent – Questions of Attribution.

The Convent (Fig. 11)is now part of the Waterford Institute of Technology but begun its life as a Magdalen Asylum. The building that now stands is a rebuilding of an earlier convent on Hennessy’s Road that had stood from the early years of the nineteenth-century and housed the Presentation Sisters. (Finnegan, 2004, p.89) It is difficult to identify what buildings were designed by Goldie in the Good Shepherd Convent Grounds. Harvey and co. suggest that Goldie’s input was limited to the industrial school and his name is not mentioned by Finnegan. (Parochial History of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries, 1912a, p.259) Old images (Fig. 12) describe the building shown here as the convent and industrial school so it is most likely that this is the building designed by Goldie and it is in keeping with his design for the St. John’s college. It is probable, given the work that Goldie had been involved with in  Waterford, that he might be contracted to bring forward the designs for the building that we see here, it is also the case that this building is identified by former Magdalens from the twentieth-century as the industrial school and there seems to be no other building that could match the demands of convent, industrial school and attached chapel on the site.

The chapel (Fig. 13) itself seems to be of a later design and is unlike the other convent chapels Goldie designed for the nearby Ursuline convent and St. John’s college. One would also expect that, given the proximity, the chapel stained glass would contain a reference to Goldie but this is not the case. However, it is similar to other large churches that Goldie had built in other counties. The interior, which retains the reredos (Fig. 14) and other internal fittings, does contain elements familiar to us from other churches such as the Goldie Chapel in Nano Nagle Place, Cork and the original reredos in the nearby Ursuline convent. This is all visual evidence that indicates this could be a chapel built to Goldie’s designs but there is, as yet, no other support to establish this as being a work by Goldie. The Buildings of Ireland inventory does not attribute the chapel or the adjacent convent to any architect.

The three buildings stretching from St. John’s College as far as the Good Shepherd Convent form an impressive series of landmarks on the landscape of the  city and point to the strength of Catholicism in the area, a strength that we learn of from Finnegan and from Harvey’s Parochial History of Waterford existed even prior to the advent of Emancipation.

Goldie’s most important and substantial intervention in the architectural landscape of the city, in terms of a public ecclesiastical building, is St. Saviour’s church (Fig. 15). Sadly, much of the interior furnishings have been altered or removed. The site for St. Saviour’s came into the possession of the Dominican Order in Waterford on ‘the first Tuesday of October’ 1873 and Goldie, Child and Goldie,(George’s son Edward), were at once engaged to produce designs for ‘a Romanesque church.’ (Parochial History of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries, 1912b, p.219) An advertisement seeking tenders for the work on the church was placed in The Freeman’s Journal in February 1874 and the foundation stone was laid in May 1874. When the church was opened in December 1877 it was described in glowing terms in The Tablet and the Italianate style was described as ‘exquisitely elaborated.’ The Rosary side chapel (Fig. 16) is still extant as is the pulpit (Fig. 17) designed by Goldie  but not put in place until 1890 (Weekly Freeman’s Journal) and they lend us some idea of how the church would have appeared to mass goers of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries prior to the destructive alterations that would later take place in the Sanctuary area. A comparison between figure 18, which shows the interior of the chapel as it was prior to the installation of Goldie’s pulpit and figure 19, which shows the Sanctuary area as it is today, demonstrates both the structural and liturgical changes that have impacted on the completeness and integrity of Goldie’s design. According to information from the Dominican Order in Waterford, the original altar was taken apart in 1967, most likely to conform to the interpretations of Vatican II, and parts were relocated to a monument near the city quays. The exterior remains unaltered and stands out as a superb example of the Italianate style that it was considered to be in the nineteenth-century and it presents as a landmark contribution to the present cityscape of Waterford as one moves into the heart of the city from the river and the quays.

Goldie also made a submission of plans for the design of a new altar for the Church of St. Joseph in Dungarvan, not far from Waterford city, but the plans by Pugin and Ashlin were accepted. Goldie did, however, design a stained glass window for the Augustinian church in the same town in 1869. The window was dedicated to the memory of Dr. John Coman, a local surgeon that was held in high regard due to his work on an earlier cholera epidemic in the area,  and an altar was also erected at the same time but it is not clear from the newspaper reports of the day if this can be attributed to Goldie.

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity saw an intervention by Goldie in 1883-6. The Cathedral was built during the eighteenth-century and was redecorated toward the end of the nineteenth-century when Goldie designed a ‘magnificent baroque pulpit’ along with chapter stalls and Bishop’s chair, these were all made in oak by Buisine and Sons of Lille. (Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Waterford, n.d.) This may be an understatement on the amount of work carried out on the church as a meeting held in Waterford and reported in the Waterford News and Star suggests that there was an almost total rebuild of the interior, including the Sanctuary, baldacchino, main altar, side altars, Stations of the Cross and other works.

Fig. 20 St. John’s Church Reredos

Goldie is also identified as the designer of an altar for St. John’s parish church that ‘as a work of art is believed to be equal to the best altars in the country.’ (Waterford News and Star , Friday, November 01, 1929, p.2).

An interesting aside to Goldie’s connection with Waterford can be noted from his brother, most likely Francis, the Rev. Goldie, having presented a lecture at the Catholic Young Men’s Society in the town in 1863.


Anon 1912a. Parochial history of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries. [online] N. Harvey. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 May 2019].

Anon 1912b. Parochial history of Waterford and Lismore during the 18th and 19th centuries. [online] N. Harvey. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 May 2019].

Anon n.d. Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Waterford. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2019].

Finnegan, F., 2004. Do Penance Or Perish: Magdalen Asylums in Ireland. Oxford University Press.


Goldie was very active in Limerick and contributed to the architectural development of at least seven religious sites within the city. As with much of Goldie’s work, liturgical changes, renovations or simple neglect have seen drastic alteration or even obliteration of his contributions to the architectural landscape of the city.

While not a church he designed, Goldie did have a major input into the interior  and to the addition of a tower to the exterior of The Church of Mount St. Alphonsus. The tower, added between 1876 and 1878, contributes greatly to the visual impact that the church has on the surrounding streetscape. The tower is square containing both blind-pointed arcades and open louvre-panelled arches, and topped with an octagonal spire . The tower appears as a robust feature in the overall aspect of the church; it was funded by a local, wealthy merchant, John Quin.[1] According to Finbarr Crowe, the spire appears as it does, robust but ‘stunted’, because Goldie insisted that a more elegant and ‘elongated spire’ would be ‘out of proportion to the tower and would destroy the “character of massiveness and serenity”.’ Crowe also suggests that Goldie had attempted to have the bells of the tower set to be fixed and rung by an automated system but that this was over-ruled.

By far the most visually impressive experience of the church is the altar and reredos which remain, fortunately, in situ. The same John Quin who funded the tower gifted the Redemptorists community the high altar designed by Goldie.[2] The Builder carried an illustration of the high altar and considered it an accomplished work.[3] When the press attended the unveiling of the altar they could offer nothing but the highest of praise for both it and for its designer. The Tipperary Vindicator and Limerick Reporter said that ‘this altar may fairly claim to be the most important work of religious art erected in Great Britain. As a work of art and in reference to its extraordinary magnitude, its claims to this description are unquestionable.’ The same newspaper proceeded to describe in detail almost every aspect of the altar’s features and to heap praise on Goldie who they said ‘may justly pride himself upon the great success of this – one of the most difficult works of his art.’ We might also assume that Goldie spent a great deal of time on personally supervising the project as the Reporter was able to make observations on his personal character and attention to the project. Locally the altar is known as ‘The Angel Altar’ due to the profuse presence of angelic representations throughout.[4]

Goldie’s input was not limited to the high altar and the external tower, both highlights of the buildings architectural merits, he also designed the pulpit and the Stations of the Cross, the tabernacle and the shrine that contained the relics of St. Urban.[5] The Stations of the Cross were painted by Adolphe Alcan, a French artist active in the second half of the nineteenth-century, who painted Stations for St. Wilfrid’s in York, (also by Goldie), and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Waterford, again with an input from Goldie. The frames were carved by George Hayball of Sheffield who had worked on the production on many designs in wood for Goldie, including the reliquary for the relics of St. Urban, the bishop’s throne in St. John’s Cathedral and the stalls for the convent of the Good Shepherd convent chapel. Another important altar designed by Goldie, within the church, is dedicated to Our Lady of Grace.[6]

The corner stone for the foundation of the Chapel to Our Lady of Graces was laid on July 3rd 1866, the corner stone bore an inscription identifying the donors, Edward and Elizabeth Murphy and Jane Rochford, and the architect, George Goldie. The panels on either side of the central sculpture of the Blessed Virgin Mary most likely depict St. Alphonsus as both a young man and a mature priest writing at his desk.

The chapel to St. Joseph is very likely also the work of Goldie, it is mentioned in some of the newspaper articles that discuss his work at Mount St. Alphonsus but there is no direct attribution. The chapel was built within a short number of months after the Our Lady of Graces Chapel and visually reflects the designs used by Goldie for the earlier work, he was active around Limerick during this period so it is very possible that he would have been asked to continue his work on the chapel interior. In August of 1866 Goldie was reported to be working on a new oratory for the Redemptorists in the monastery attached to Mount St. Alphonsus. During early 1867 he had been working on the designs for a new memorial window to be placed behind the altar of St. John’s Cathedral dedicated to the Rev. Doctor Ryan. The glass was made by Wailes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a manufacturer we have seen Goldie work with in many other churches, including in Bandon and St. Vincent’s in Cork. It is also probable that Goldie designed some other aspects of the internal decoration as we know Hayball carved the bishop’s throne there from his design.

While working on Mount St. Alphonsus Goldie was also busy on the Dominican church of St. Saviour. By 1866, he had been already involved in the renovation of St. Saviour’s for three years. He had designed a new chancel that was built by 1863 and would go on to add the high altar, reredos and a new stained-glass eastern window. All this work received high praise from The Evening Freeman which, like those viewing the altar and reredos in Mount St. Alphonsus, deemed the designs by Goldie to rank very highly among the ‘many exquisite’ works by the architect throughout England and Ireland. St. Saviour’s had been built in 1816 by James Pain and had repairs and alterations carried out by the renowned Irish architect James Joseph McCarthy in 1860 and William Wallace extended the height of the building and added a clerestory and a rose window in the same year.

However, even with all this work being carried out at St. Saviour’s, by 1870 it had undergone a complete remodelling of both the interior and exterior. The Builder described the rebuilding as a ‘wonderful metamorphosis.’ The article in The Builder was extremely detailed and full of praise for the changes that had taken place and left no aspect of the interior or exterior alterations undescribed. It also hints that Goldie was present in Limerick as the work was carried out  under his direction. The work must have been carried out in a very timely manner as The Builder mentions that it took place in just a few months and The Cork Examiner mentioned that the work was only about to begin in early March of 1870. Goldie, his design and his attention to detail was eulogised in The Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator which suggested of the rebuild that ‘Rarely, if ever, has so entirely successful a work of this kind been done.’ It is interesting to note that the same paper dwelt on the importance of architecture as a statement of a nation and its religious status and on the difference between the earlier Classical church designed by Pain and the more Ecclesiastical, or Gothic influenced, work by  Goldie, the former being linked with Paganism and the latter more adherent to a Catholic ideal, very much in line with Goldie’s own beliefs. To summarise one reporter of the time, the building needed to be seen to be appreciated and hopefully the images here will act in some measure to achieving that end.

The Church of the Sacred Heart on The Crescent was closed in 2006 but was purchased and reopened by a Catholic Order – Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Before its closure it had remained as part of the visible presence of the Jesuit Community since 1868 and underwent many additions and alterations during its lifetime as a Jesuit church. George Goldie’s input occurred in the early 1870s when the church was closed for a period to allow for internal furnishings and decoration to be put in place. When the church was reopened in 1876 The Tablet provided a detailed account of the work that had been carried out. The paintings were described as influenced by fourteenth-century Italian art and painted by Hodkinson of Limerick following designs by Goldie and these paintings are still in place in the church. Additional paintings came from the Alcan studio in Paris, also under the direction of Goldie. Three new altars were put in place and it is difficult to be certain if whether Goldie was involved in all of these; we can be sure that he designed the new altars dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes and to St. Joseph, (from The Tablet report). The Stations of the Cross may have also be designed by Goldie as photographs show that they are similar to others he produced for a number of other churches he worked on but these are not those that are present in the church today.

A chapel that was designed by Goldie remains in Mount St. Lawrence’s cemetery but its condition is perilous and much of the interior has been removed, altered or damaged. The chapel is primarily used today as a store room for maintenance tools required for the upkeep of the cemetery and general storage. The tender for the building of the chapel was advertised in February 1867 and the chapel was completed in June 1869 by the builder, Scanlon of Limerick, and was described as ‘very pretty’. A report on the progress of the chapel in The Tipperary Vindicator and Limerick Reporter provides us with evidence that Goldie was in Limerick for periods overseeing the fulfillment of his designs. He visited the site in 1867 along with members of the building Committee and expressions of satisfaction with the ongoing work were voiced at the time.

Similar to many of Goldie’s smaller parish churches but on a more reduced scale, the chapel demonstrates a clear adherence to Gothic revival precedence externally but the internal decoration has been greatly altered. There are elements of early twentieth-century tiling that is at variance with the typical tile work evident in other Goldie projects and, although they might be by Goldie, they would be unusual for the period in which the chapel was completed. It is difficult to assess how the church might have appeared to visitors in the late nineteenth-century as the interior has been so much altered and damaged. The photographs serve as evidence of the dangerous condition of this once remarkable, if ‘pretty’, edifice while reminding us of its Gothic roots.

The Good Shepherd Convent, now the Art Department of Limerick Institute of Technology, is another work by Goldie in Limerick city. The Buildings of Ireland inventory makes no attribution to any architect but it can be tentatively attributed to Goldie. We know that he carried out work on the chapel there in 1866, from other reports we have mentioned earlier. It is also mentioned in Linehan’s History of Limerick that Goldie fitted out the chapel of the convent around this time. Goldie had worked on similar convents, industrial schools, reformatory and Magdalen asylums for a variety of Orders in Ireland and England, including the Ursulines in Waterford, the Mercy Sisters in Mayo and Sligo and the Loreto Sisters in Sligo. The Reformatory in Limerick was overseen by a Mrs. Lockwood who had previously founded the Dalbeth Reformatory in Glasgow.[7] This Mrs. Lockwood was in fact Mother of the Immaculate Conception Lockwood and she was the first Mother Provincial.[8] The Dalbeth convent was designed by Goldie and he had also submitted plans for the convent chapel.[9] There was significant work carried out on the Limerick convent in 1877 and Goldie had drawn up plans for a new oratory for the convent during the same year.[10] As can be seen from Goldie’s other works, such as St. Vincent’s in Cork and his churches in Elphin, he was often retained by previous commissioners of work to design other buildings. Goldie was also well known in Limerick, as we can see from his other works in the city discussed here. While we cannot be certain of the extent of his involvement in the Good Shepherd Convent we can say that he had an involvement and it is likely that this was more than just the chapel fittings referred to by Linehan and very likely that he designed the entire structure.

Monaleen church is an unusual building for the period. The Tipperary Vindicator and Limerick Reporter carried the advertisement for tender in May 1868 . The tenders were invited to view Goldie’s plans in the vestry of St. Patrick’s church, Clare St., directly across the street from the Good Shepherd convent. There is very little by way of description of the interior decoration of the church as Goldie had intended but the structural fabric remains as it was when it opened in 1873. The church contains all the elements of a Gothic Revival ecclesiastical building with lancet windows, pointed arches and exposed timber strutted interior ceiling. The tower follows many of Goldie’s other examples and contains elements of the Gothic but also presenting a Romanesque appearance.

[1] McConvery, Brendan, Church of Mount St. Alphonsus: 150th Year Anniversary Guide, Redemptorist Communications, Dublin, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Builder, 1865, (Vol. 23), 661-2.

[4] McConvery, Church of Mount St. Alphonsus: 150th Year Anniversary Guide.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ninth Report of the Inspector Appointed to Visit the Reformatory and Industrial Schools of Ireland, HMSO, Dublin, 1871, 40.

[8] Fitzmaurice, Rev. W, In the Shadow of the Spire: A Profile of ST. John’s Parish, Limerick, 1991, 29.

[9] Jordan,Kate, Ordered Spaces, Separate Spheres: Women and the Building of British Convents, 1829-1939, PhD. Thesis, University College London, 2015, 200.

[10] Ibid. n. 217. The Freeman’s Journal,  October 20, 1877, 5.

Cork City and County

The Consecration of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Mary's, c.1842, James Mahony (1810-1879).

St. Mary's R.C. Church, Dominican Order, Pope's Quay, Cork. Built in 1832 with the portico added in 1861, St. Mary's was designed by Kearns Deane. The church was opened in 1839. A painting by James  Mahony shows the interior of the church as it looked in 1842. George Goldie designed large scale changes to the interior between 1868 and 1871. This included designs for the sanctuary area including  the apse, high altar, the floor tiling and the  impressive baldacchino. Goldie also designed new side altar rails. The Shrine of our Lady of Graces, an ivory image dating back to the late- 13th/ early-14th centuries, to the left of the altar is contained within a reliquary that is further enveloped by a shrine made to Goldie's design. To see a video of the interior as it is today (2018) click on this link.

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farran, Cork, 1860

The Church of The Immaculate Conception, Farran, 1860. The church was consecrated on August 20th 1860 and replaced a church that had been built earlier in the century but was described by Samuel Lewis  in 1837 as 'a large plain old building.' The old church had a thatched roof and stood witness to the 'poverty of the times in which it was erected .' The Rev. Canon Walsh was credited with the drive to have the old church replaced and he is memorialised by a monument in the nearby church in Ovens.  The  monument was designed by and  its erection overseen by Goldie free of charge 'desirous of his regard and respect for the memory of the deceased.'



St. Finbarr's South Chapel Exterior
St. Finbarr's South Chapel, Cork, (1873)
Sanctuary St. Finbarr's South Chapel, 2018.

St. Finbarr’s South Chapel


St. Finbarr’s South Chapel is the oldest parish church in the city of Cork. Built in 1776 it underwent structural alterations in 1809 and 1866. A report in The Cork Examiner in May 1866 suggests that George Goldie was the architect involved in a major extension to the sanctuary. The same paper reports of the extensions to the church being completed by August 1866 and, although he is not mentioned in the report, it is likely that Goldie was indeed the architect involved as the building contractor was Barry McMullen. McMullen would be the contractor for other works designed by Goldie in Cork including the chapel in the Presentation Convent on nearby Douglas Street, St. Mary and St. John’s in Ballincollig and the orphanage on Wellington Road (these works will be discussed more fully in their own sections on this page). This extension would permit the installation of a new high altar in 1873 by the ‘eminent ecclesiastical architect’ George Goldie. The Cork Examiner dedicated substantial space to its description and praise of the new high altar in January 1874. The newspaper report speaks of Goldie personally supervising the work on the altar and of the altar table designed to hold the Dead Christ, by the Irish sculptor John Hogan. The table was of ‘Sicilian white marble’ supported by ‘neatly carved piers of Caen stone.’ The reredos were flanked by pilasters that contained carved angels ‘with the flowing drapery of the early Tuscan school.’ The sanctuary was remodelled in the mid-twentieth-century and this involved the moving of the altar table nearer to the congregation while the dome of the tabernacle and the carved angels were removed from the reredos. In the photographs shown here we can see the pre-1966, original Goldie design and the altar as it is today.


The chapel of the Presentation Sisters Convent in Douglas Street, now known as Nano Nagle Place, was built by Goldie in 1865. The chapel served as a ‘chapel of ease’ to serve the growth of the Catholic population of the South Parish. When the chapel was consecrated, in March 1865, it was ‘crowded to excess.’ The chapel design borrows much from thirteenth- century French Romanesque architecture and this should come as no surprise as an influence on Goldie given his connections with France (see Biography). The interior of the church is very simple in design and works well within the space afforded to it by the surrounding buildings. As with many of Goldie’s chapels, there is a stained-glass window calling on the faithful to pray for the architect.

South Presentation Convent Chapel Exterior
South Presentation Convent Interior
Stained-Glass Window, South Presentation Convent
St. Mary's and St. John's, Ballincollig


St. Mary’s and St. John’s, Ballincollig.

The building of St. Mary’s and St. John’s commenced on St. John’s day (June 24th) 1865 and the formal laying of the foundation stone  took place on August 13th, 1865. The church, as with many other Roman Catholic churches of the period, (see entry on Bandon), was situated on an elevated site in the town, although its impact on the topography of Ballincollig might not be so evident in the expanded modern urban town of the twentieth-first-century. Reports of the building of the church at the time pointed to the ancient faith being revived as the Catholic churches continued to be rebuilt and built anew throughout the country. The financing of these edifices was particularly difficulty in the years after the Famine but Ballincollig had also fell victim to a localised cholera epidemic during the year the church was being built.

Constructed by Cork builder Barry McMullen, the church had all the hall marks of Goldie’s smaller rural churches but adhering to the signatures of the Gothic Revival in a more elaborate form than his church in nearby Farran and the convent chapel in Bandon. The tiles on the floor of the church were made by Maw and Company of Shropshire, a company for whom Goldie made numerous designs. The stained glass windows were designed by Goldie and made by William Wailes of Newcastle, England, a firm that Goldie had recourse to on many occasions including the windows for St. Patrick’s, Bandon, and the magnificent east windows of St. Vincent’s, Cork. Special trains from Cork needed to be arranged to ferry the many dedicated Catholics of the city and its environs to see the church and be present for its dedication.

Ballincollig Interior
Exterior Window

St. Vincent's Orphanage, Marymount, Wellington Road.

When St. Vincent’s Orphanage was being built on Wellington Road, in the St. Luke’s area of Cork, it was praised by the local media even before its completion. The Irish Examiner reported on the progress of the building in early April 1876 and described it as ‘most picturesque’ and was struck by the ‘beauty of its exterior.’ There was an unusual treatment of the exterior stone work, of brown sandstone with limestone dressing, in that it was cut across the grain and laid in a natural position to make a tighter joint and prevent dampness. The report attributed the architectural design to George Ashlin but this was corrected immediately by the builder Barry McMullen.

The orphanage for young women, was funded entirely by Mr. John Nicholas Murphy, a founding member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cork and a part of the Murphy brewing family, and a Papal Count. The building is now part of a much larger complex that has seen multiple changes of use over its lifetime, as a hospital, a nursing home and a hospice – Marymount Hospice, now relocated and occupied by a private school, has been a major part of the social history of the city. Goldie’s orphanage remained as a convent of the Sister’s of Charity up until 2009.

The building by Goldie stands on elevated ground overlooking the city and with its expansive grounds would have been an impressive sight in its own right prior to the additions that were made from the early twentieth-century onward. The building is in a distinct Gothic Revival style complete with turrets  at the east and west ends of the building and  a central bay containing a statue to Goldie’s designs above the main door. The statue was carved by a London statue maker named Ruddick and was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition in 1875.

There was a chapel in the orphanage but this is no longer extant having been replaced by a new chapel in the adjoining building. The new chapel was built 1908-9 in the adjoining St. Patrick’s hospital which had been constructed in the 1870s. The new chapel was funded by Isabella Honan, of the same family that funded the building of the Honan chapel at University College Cork.

The original chapel was on the second floor above the main entrance. The apse was hexagonal in shape had stained glass windows and even though the shape and windows still maintain the original form the stained glass has been removed. The altar was destined for a similar fate but we do have descriptions from The Irish Examiner of 1877, the day of the orphanage’s blessing and opening. The reredos were particularly praised but rather than statuary in the niches there were paintings by the London artist Nathaniel Westlake. Westlake was a noted designer of stained glass during the Gothic Revival and his altar paintings are still to be found in churches in the United Kingdom. It is possible, given his reputation,  that Westlake also made the stained glass for the chapel after designs by Goldie. If this is the case then the loss of the reredos and windows in the chapel is also the loss of fine examples of a leading artist who had worked with, amongst others, William Burgess.



Exterior View, West End Turret
Exterior View, Upper Storey Chapel
Exterior View, St. Vincent's Orphanage
Exterior View, Rear of Building
Exterior View, East End Turret and Bay, St. Vincent's Orphanage.
Exterior Door Detail
Entrance and Statue of St. Vincent de Paul


This website hopes to serve as a repository for recording the work of the nineteenth-century English architect George Goldie in Ireland. Although born in York, Goldie was involved in the resurgence of Roman Catholic ecclesiastical building after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. His earliest work in Ireland was begun in 1855 – St. Nathy’s Cathedral in Ballaghadereen, in Co. Roscommon and part of the Catholic Diocese of Achonry – while he was still a partner in the London architectural firm of Hadfield and Goldie. Goldie would continue to build in Ireland throughout the mid-nineteenth-century and examples of his work are to be found from Dublin to Waterford, Cork to Limerick and in Sligo, Mayo, Tipperary and north as far as Letterkenny, Co. Donegal.

Goldie was not, or at least not now in the twenty-first century, a headline architect in the mould of Pugin and Burgess; he might and indeed did suggest that this was due to close family connections between Irish and English architects and their connections with the local Catholic hierarchy. Tellingly, unlike many other architects, Goldie was very much a Catholic architect not just an architect that built Catholic churches and convents. In his biographical outline it can be seen that he was a ‘cradle Catholic’ with a strong Catholic pedigree from both his parents and his siblings would be active in the Roman Catholic church in Great Britain as members of the clergy.

Goldie’s work in Ireland is only a partial record of his output; he designed churches and convents in France, South Africa, the United States and, of course Great Britain. The architect was baptised in  St. Wilfrid’s  in York and would go on to be the architect for the same church’s rebuilding in 1862.

Biography of George Goldie Ecclesiastical Architect

George Goldie, 9 June 1828 – 1 March 1887

George Goldie was born in York, United Kingdom, on June 9th, 1828 and died in Saint Servan, Brittany, on March 1st, 1887. Goldie was, what was termed in the nineteenth-century, a ‘cradle Catholic’, that is, he was born into that faith rather than being a convert from Anglicanism. George’s father was the son of George Sharpe Goldie and Sophia Osborne.[1] George Sharpe Goldie predeceased Sophia and Sophia at this point went to Rouen and converted to Catholicism. George’s father, also George, was a medical doctor who was active in the Catholic Emancipation movement and would marry Mary Anne in 1828, a Catholic and daughter of Joseph Bonomi.[2] Joseph Bonomi was an Italian who also had a son, Ignatius, who would also become an architect. George had eight siblings of whom three died at a young age and of those that lived Charles became an artist, Edward would become a Monsignor and Canon of Leeds, Francis became a Jesuit priest and writer, Mary became a nun who resided at St. Mary’s Convent, York as Mother Mary Walburga and Catherine who also became a nun in the same convent and adopted the name Mary but died at the age of twenty-eight.

Marie Madeleine Rose Simeon Stylite Sioc’han

In 1855 George married Marie Madeleine Rose Simeon Stylite  Sioc’han, the eldest daughter of the Vicomte Sioc’han de Kersabiec, from Kersabiec in Brittany, the priest that performed the ceremony was the Rev. J. Bonomi, perhaps a cousin or uncle of the groom.[3] The Tablet noted in 1919, that the de Kersabiec was an old Breton family that had fought as part of the Papal Zouaves.[4]

Given this background it seems natural that if George was to become an architect that he would also have a desire to practice his craft in the design of Roman Catholic edifices. Pope Pius IX awarded him the Cross and Order of St. Sylvester in 1877 for his work ‘as a Catholic architect.’[5] His father’s activities in support of Catholic Emancipation would almost certainly have endeared him to the Catholic Church in Ireland and aided him in his work in ecclesiastical architecture.[6]

George attended Ushaw College in Durham, a college with connections to the Pugin family of architects and included Nicholas Wiseman amongst its alumni. A.W.N. Pugin designed the chapel at Ushaw and his two sons Edward and Peter attended there and also designed the Junior House and the Refectory, respectively. Goldie met with A.W.N. Pugin at Ushaw and sought to become a student of his but ‘Pugin recommended him to enter the offices Weightman & Hadfield in order to gain more practical knowledge of architecture and building than Pugin could impart.’[7] Goldie remained with Weightman & Hadfield from 1850 until 1860.[8] Goldie would also have a rivalry with Edward Pugin when in Ireland, a dispute that was carried on through the press of the day.

Goldie along with J.J. McCarthy and Pugin & Ashlin had been asked to supply designs for a competition to design St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh. Goldie and McCarthy were not very happy with the competition going ahead without some assurances against possible bias on the part of the judging committee. Ann Wilson has shown that the Bishop of Cloyne, William Keane, had already corresponded with Ashlin & Pugin prior to the competition on the matter and that Ashlin’s brother was a priest in Cobh at the time.[9] George Coppinger-Ashlin, the Coppinger had come from his mother’s family, belonged to a family that had strong businesses in the area, were very well connected to the diocese; Dr. William Coppinger had been a Bishop of Cloyne and the Bishop of Cloyne at the time of the competition had been ‘mortgagee for the Ashlin-Coppinger family trust.’[10] In the end the assurances sought were not given and the contract was awarded to Pugin & Ashlin.

George became involved in another long and protracted pubic dispute in the form of a court case while a junior partner with Weightman and Hadfield. The case was between the builders Walter and William Doolin and the Rev. James Dixon and other members of the Vincentian community at Phibsboro and Castleknock and rested on a claim for unpaid costs incurred in alterations that had taken place as the building of St. Peter’s, Phibsboro progressed. According to reports of the case it was some of the alterations were being suggested while work was on going by Rev. Thomas McNamara that resulted in a dispute about the safety of the towers that had been added to the designs. The case was a long a protracted affair and was widely covered by the press of the day with special attention being afforded to it by The Irish Builder.

In the prolonged court case one lawyer stated that ‘though I am not engaged to defend Mr. Goldie, I must say that he did not do wrong; and I cannot avoid saying that the only pleasing and redeeming feature of in this disgraceful case, as far as I am concerned, is the fact of having made the acquaintance of Mr. Goldie.[11] Richard Denny Urlin, M.R.I.A. and later barrister described Goldie as a genius in the context of St. Peter’s. [12]

St. Peter’s was altered in the early twentieth-century after a hiatus in its construction as result of the court case and the incompletion of the tower to Goldie’s designs, completed by Ashlin & Coleman. These alterations and, in some cases removals, of work by Goldie from the interior of churches and the loss of complete buildings such as the Church of St. Joseph, Boyle, that was burned down in 1977 have had an impact on a full appreciation of Goldie’s work in Ireland. St. Mary’s in Convoy, Donegal, was almost entirely demolished and replaced in the early 1970s, recently the closure of St. Vincent’s, Sunday’s Well, Cork, has resulted in the removal of much of the interior décor, (fortunately with parts being relocated to St. Peter’s in Phibsboro and the Vincentian College in Castleknock, also designed by Goldie) have meant that even though his work endures it is displaced from its original context. Another recent development at the South Presentation Convent, also in Cork, has seen the small but interesting example of his work incorporated into the Nano Nagle Heritage Centre. The reredos and altar that once were set in the Ursuline Convent in Waterford are now to be found in the church of St. Brigid in Ballycallan, Kilkenny.

We cannot be sure of how Goldie would feel if he could see these changes to his work taking place but we can learn of his appreciation of architecture and his thoughts on the spiritual importance of the Church and its role in the lives of the Church’s congregation from reading some of the limited writings that have been handed down to us in journal articles and lecture transcripts.

Goldie’s brother, Francis, S.J., contributed numerous essays to and edited the Jesuit publication The Month over prolonged period towards the end on the nineteenth-century, and his brother Charles also made some contributions to the same journal. George had eleven articles published in The Month that focused mainly on the spirituality and perseverance of French Catholicism and on visits he made to convents and churches in France. His descriptions of the architecture of the ecclesiastical buildings he visited provide us with hints to his strong attachment to the idea of the church buildings as a statement of devotion to and the strength of the Catholic faith. An example of his language from an essay dealing with a visit to the convent of the Little Sisters of the Poor, in Brittany is a clear endorsement of his strong faith and belief in the resurgence of Catholicism:

There are few Catholics who have not now and then, in the course of recent years of trial and persecution of the Church not been tempted to lift up their clasped hands to heaven and ask God for some  sign that His divine hand had not left the rudder of St. Peter’s bark. And yet a moment’s thought, a rapid flight of memory of the world’s surface, far and near, would be all-sufficient to console us and afford an over-whelming sentiment of joy. It would give us the most entire certainty that not only was our Blessed Lord steadfastly directing the course of His Divine Institution , the Catholic Church, amidst the rocks and breakers of our age but, that who have eyes to see and ears to hear, He was performing in our midst miracles of grace as marvellous and sublime as were ever granted to the Church in her moments of the most complete triumph and prosperity. We need hardly suggest, as some special sources of consolation, the glorious spectacle of Christ’s Vicar, Pius the Ninth, erect and steadfast in the Vatican, the united, the universal devotion to his person of the whole Catholic world; the intimate bond of parsons and people never drawn so close in the whole history of the Church; the singular faithfulness and purity of the clergy; the rapid growth of the Catholic church in America and Australia.[13]

On architecture, we have a lecture given in Sheffield in which he states when comparing Classical architecture in church building with the Gothic

Its [Italian Architecture from the sixteenth-century onwards] productions have been various, very noble in its appliances to domestic architecture and to some few Churches, chiefly abroad, though, as I have said before, it never can demand or obtain that sympathy in Ecclesiastical Architecture that the Gothic style always must, simply because the one is Pagan and the other Christian in origin.[14]

And further:

It has been only within the present century that attention has been called to a vigorous effort made for the revival of the departed glories of the middle ages and a most happy abandonment of Pagan types almost generally accepted on behalf of Christian Architecture.[15]

It can be seen from his writings extant, of which the two quotes given are merely examples of an eloquence that express his devotion to Catholicism and to its expression in its architecture, that Goldie believed in his building as a statement of his faith. We are fortunate in Ireland to have access to these statements in his remaining buildings.


[1] Gillow, Joseph, A Literary and Biographical History, or Bibliographical Dictionary, of the English Catholics from the Breach with Rome, in 1534, to the Present Time, Volume 2, (London: Burns & Oates, 1885), 510-13.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Illustrated London News, September 15, 1855, 326.

[4] The Tablet, November 11, 1909, 22.

[5] The Waterford News and General Advertiser, July 13, 1877.

[6] Gillow, Joseph, A Literary and Biographical History, 510-13.

[7] Hadfield, Cawkwell, Davidson and Partners, 150 Years of Architectural Drawings-Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson, Sheffield. 1834-1984, (Sheffield, 1984), 14.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ann Wilson, ‘The Building of St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh.’, Irish Architecture and Decorative Studies VII, 2004, 233- 65.

[10] O’Dwyer, Frederick, ‘A Victorian Partnership- The Architecture of Pugin and Ashlin’, 150 Years of Architecture in Ireland, John Graby (ed.), (Dublin, 1989), 55-62.

[11] The Irish Builder, December 15, 1868, 313

[12] The Evening Freeman, May 10, 1871, 2. Urlin, Ethel Lucas Hargrave, Memorials of the Urlin Family, (Sussex: Private Publication, 1909) 35.

[13] Goldie, George, ‘La Tour St. Joseph: Mother House of the Little Sisters of the Poor.’, The Month, April, 1875, 448-55.

[14] Goldie, George, A Lecture on Ecclesiastical Architecture Delivered at a Meeting of The Young Men’s Society, Sheffield, (London: Richardson and Son, 1856).

[15] Ibid.