Look at this.
I thought you’d enjoy these wonderful mural paintings. For those who do not know them they’re in a tiny chapel called the Oratory, which is the last remaining survivor of the old Dominican Convent in Dun Laoghaire, (the town just south of Dublin where I grew up).
Most of the convent has gone now. It was demolished to make way for the Bloomfield shopping centre and cinema complex. But this beautiful little chapel survives. It can be visited on special days during summer time. (Opening details can be found, in summertime, on the Dun Laoghaire & Rathdown council website)
The Oratory Chapel is dedicated to the memory of boys from the local Christian Brothers School. In 1914 and 1915, they joined the army and fought in the First World War, in the trenches and mud of the western front. The regiment they joined fought mostly in Belgium, where many of these young Irishmen died.
After the war, Belgium people from the local town were touched by the sacrifice. As a memorial to the young Irishmen, the townspeople donated and dedicated this sacred heart figure of Christ that you can see just above.
The chapel was then built especially to accommodate the sacred heart figure of Christ. But it was just a bare building, with plain white walls. But then, over a 19-year period following the War, the walls were all painted by a remarkable woman. She was a nun, called Sister Concepta Lynch, and she took this job on using all her spare time from duties at the convent.
It’s not hard to see why the chapel has been described as walking into a three-dimensional Book of Kells. Personally, I think it is stunning.
The stained glass windows are by the famous glass artist, Harry Clark. Many depict scenes from the Nativity. These windows were paid for by private donation or by public subscription. Sister Concepta Lynch donated all her own time and labour for free.
She was clearly an extraordinary woman. Prior to taking holy orders and becoming a nun, she had previously run a successful business in the centre of Dublin.
This room is her unique legacy, to the memory of young local men who had dies so young, fighting for something they believed in. The Belgium townspeople offered the Sacred heart figure to the Christian Brothers school the young men had attended. But in the new, nationalist era of early Independent Ireland, afte 1921, the school did not want to highlight the fact that many of its former students had fought in the British army in the First World War. That is why the Dominican Convent ultimately ended up accepting the gift from Belgium. And how Sister Concepta Lynch ended up creating this extraordinary, quite unique, work of art.
Taken all together, it’s a real piece of Hidden Dublin, and almost unknown. Even in Dun Laoghaire itself, not everyone is aware of its existence. But as a quiet piece of contemplation, of generosity of spirit and beauty, dedicated to memory and sacrifice, it’s hard to beat. Anyway, I thought you might like to see it.
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