St Patrick's Campus - The Chapel

Posted on: 10 November 2017

St Patrick's Campus chapel has been around since the 17th Century and has undergone some amazing transformations. Here is where you can read more about this fascinating history. 



St. Patricks Campus’ Chapel has gone through numerous changes and challenges since the establishment of the College in the 1830’s. The chapel was erected as a bequest to the most Rev Patrick Everard, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, who, when he died, generously left £10,000 to the establishment of the college in order to advance the education of the Catholic youth in Ireland at the time.

 Since then, the Campus and the chapel has defended itself against the Great Famine, the Black and Tans and financial bankruptcy on numerous occasions. It has also undergone transformations from a private boarding school, to a seminary, to the third level institution we all see today.

The art and design of the Chapel is also very unique. Specifically, the captivating Harry Clarke stained glass windows. Likewise, the remarkable craftsmanship of Fergus Costello’s bog oak and ash furnishings, is something that any visitor to the college could appreciate and we here at St. Patricks Campus feel so privileged to be able to exhibit these masterful pieces.


The History of the Chapel

The first time the chapel was renovated, was in the 1850’s when the college hosted the First National Synod, 20 years after Catholic Emancipation was announced in Ireland. It was later again renovated in the 1880’s when the college started to show financial improvement. This renovation was to see the chapel dedicated to the memory of Rev. Patrick Everard and it was refurbished and decorated to the cost of £855 pounds. The chapel received new altars, windows, seating, the Memorial plaque and a communion rail. It was before this time we believe, that the chapel had been relocated to the area where it is now situated.The College was established in 1839. However, the construction was a lot more extensive and expensive than anyone had predicted. It cost over £16,000 to make the building habitable and open to incoming students. The Croke Library is currently residing where the initial chapel was and where the chapel is now was originally unfinished and used as a dairy.

 Then in 1956, the chapel area was again refurbished and the altars and pillars were replaced.  Shortly after this in 1965 Vatican II came into place, which meant that the chapel yet again needed to be refurbished. The main refurbishment was the altars as one of the changes that came from Vatican II was that the priest no longer turned his back to the congregation during Mass. So initially, they introduced an altar that could be wheeled in and out but eventually they decided on getting main altars made of beautiful marble. There was also an extension built on at this time to the east wing of the chapel. 


It wasn’t until 1994 that the Everard Memorial Chapel once again experienced another major renewal. The chapel was left, this time, to the hands of Fergus Costello a well renowned liturgical artist. This renovation resulted in the chapel we see today.congregation during Mass. So initially, they introduced an altar that could be wheeled in and out but eventually they decided on getting main altars made of beautiful marble. There was also an extension built on at this time to the east wing of the chapel.

The renovation was very slow moving at the start and by the time, the students came back in September there was no visible difference. However, over the summer the plumbing and electrics had to be redone. When all the behind the scenes construction had been completed the next big adjustment was installing the exquisite tabernacle that was too big to come in the door so it had to be brought in through a window and then put in place using a forklift. There was new carpet put down along with a new alter, presiders chair and ambo. The Stations of the Cross were recreated and by the end of the renovation, the chapel was unrecognisable to anyone who had been there through the transformation.


Harry Clarke

Harry Clarke was an internationally renowned stained glass window designer from Dublin who specialised in creating colourful and expressive religious and commercial windows. Born in 1889, this craftsman has legendary pieces displayed across the world and we are so lucky to have three of his pieces displayed in our very own chapel here in St Patricks Campus.Three previous presidents of the college donated the three stained glass windows along the side of the Chapel. One of those, Rev. James Ryan, is actually displayed in one of the windows created which was a common tradition at the time for anyone who donated a stain glass window.                                                                                    

The other Harry Clarke window is of St Thomas Aquinas. He was a theologian and wrote many books during his time and this is represented by the book and quill he is holding. On his right, is St Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, and is seen to be holding a number of scrolls. He is also holding a sword, which represents martyrdom. On the other side then is Moses who wrote the majority of the Old Testament. We can see his is holding one of the commandment tablets.  These two men are present because Thomas Aquinas’ theology writings were based on the teachings of the bible, and both St Paul and Moses made significant contributions to both the old and new testaments of the bible. The two angels at the back signify his reputation as the “Angelic Doctor”. Therefore, this window represents the life of St Thomas Aquinas and his influences in his work.Harry Clarkes’ stained glass windows are distinctive because they are designed with bolder colours than Victorian style windows. He also used unique symbols and pictures to display his message, such as the bear that appears in the window above. This bear protected St. Columbanus in the cave when he went to seek refuge. The candle is representing Christianity and the prince in the blue garment is trying to blow out the candle or in broader terms, paganism trying to extinguish Christianity. The overall picture represents the Irish missionaries going abroad to preach about Christianity.

During the residency of Archdeacon Cooke, the Harry Clarke windows were installed in the chapel and because we are not sure of the exact year, it is difficult to tell whether the windows are originals created by Harry Clarke himself or made in the Harry Clarke Studios. After Clarke’s death in 1931, his wife continued to create stained glass windows through the Harry Clarke Studios. The studios ensured that Clarkes family would continue to make money long after he was gone and there are thousands of churches around Ireland with Harry Clarke windows but unfortunately most of them were not made by his own hands but that makes them all no less beautiful.

These Harry Clarke windows are quite a contrast to the other Cox and Buckley windows in the chapel. These circular, late Victorian style medallion windows are much simpler and duller in colour but are in the chapel as long as the Harry Clarke windows.


Fergus Costello

Fergus Costello is a highly prominent liturgical artist who works mainly with bog oak, pine and ash. His highly unusual contemporary design of the chapel we see today is what makes the chapel so significant. One of his most beautiful pieces is the bog oak tabernacle at the rear of the chapel. The tabernacle is infused in the centre, as can be seen above.

The Costello renovation has seen the chapel transformed into a more modest, intimate space. The pews were angled to face each other in a choral collegiate style and lovely ash centrepiece stands are placed down the aisle. Another piece that is very atypical  is Costellos crucifix statue. He used the acidic reaction of the bog oak wood to make the wood turn black and then use it in contrated to the pale colour of the ash and pine. This is a common theme used throughout his pieces in the chapel. Costello chose the use of wood especially because he thought the ‘enviroment should be native’. He wanted to create something authentic and Irish and avoided using the Italian marble that we can see in so many other chapels and cathedrals.

The marble altar was removed from the chapel during this transformation and a more modest wooden altar was put in its place. It is circular rather than the rectanglur or square shaped altars that are customary. There are also five circular pieces of bog oak wood on the top of the altar to signify the five wounds of Jesus at the crucifixion.

Even the Stations of the Cross were replaced and made of wood during the refurbishment. Again they are the same theme in the same colour as the rest of the chapel. They are beautifully etched to show all the details you would see in a painted one. Costello obviously shows great pride in his creations and everything from the altar to the candle stick holders are steeped in his influence.

Costello’s renovation of this chapel was also very significant to him because at the time of the construction his young son was tragically killed in a car accident. Costello exclaimed that he took solace in the work he was doing at the time in the chapel and he “wanted to be in a peaceful place…a place where you could go in and perhaps cut off the thinking mind.” Anyone who takes a minute to sit and reflect in the Everard Memorial Chapel can feel what Costello was aiming to convey.