Thursday, February 27, 2014

St Catherine's

St. Catherine's Church, Meath St., Dublin 8
Click any image for a larger version.

On the morning of 2 January 2012, the Parish Priest of St. Catherine's, Fr Niall Coghlan, noticed a man in the church who had no shoes. So he got him a pair of shoes.

Later in the day, the man, Patrick Currie (49,) came back and burned down the church.

The interior in ruins

The PP likened the result to a scene from the London Blitz in World War Two. He said hundreds of years of history had been destroyed. The church had been built in 1857 on the site of an earlier church dating from 1782.
"The fire started at the crib. The fire brigade told me that fumes from the crib then got trapped in the upper parts of the church.

"As soon as that area received oxygen, it ignited and sent a fireball from one end of the church to the other. So the real damage is up towards the ceiling of the church.

"It's the whole church that is ruined, not just the front. We've been told it is now a dangerous building and so we can't allow parishioners in to look at it.

The stained glass window, beyond repair

One of the chief victims was the elaborate stained glass window above the main altar.

Patrick Currie, who claimed to be Jesus Christ, was arrested, charged and subsequently found guilty but insane. I had heard that he had been on his way to burn down John's Lane church when arrested, but accounts on the spot suggest that he simply stayed around to boast about his handiwork and was easily picked up by the Garda. He did claim at the time that he was on his way to Rome to burn the paedophiles. Unfortunately he never got that far.

I had heard part of this story from Kevin Costello about a year ago and was now in the Meath St. area for the first time since. So I thought I'd check out the ruin.

Beautifully restored interior

What ruin?

The interior, with the exception of the main stained glass window, has been magnificently restored. Most of the required €4m funding came out of insurance, but this was supplemented by local effort.

Fr. Coghlan again

"We did a street collection, we had a night out at the dog racing, and we had participants in the women's mini marathon. We also held raffles. And, parishioners bought a slate for the roof, each slate was €5."

"We employed people for two years in a very bleak time. The local area benefited from the fact that there were so many people working in the church."

I actually met a lady there who had bought two slates. She was not from the parish but had come over from Marino to pray in the adjacent Lourdes Grotto for success for a family member in her exams.

The Baptismal Font

Then I saw the baptismal font, and that reminded me of the rest of Kevin's story.

His niece, Imelda May, was about to have a baby, and she wanted the baby baptised in the same font as both she and her mother had been baptised in. The only problem was, that the church was then in ruins and could not be used, though the font was OK. So plans were laid to move the font to St. Catherine's sister church, John's Lane, in Thomas St. for the ceremony. I must ask Kevin how that worked out.

The Parish's Vision Statement

I'm not a great one for Mission or Vision Statements in general, but I'd definitely make an exception in this case. Not only is there a strong sense of parish and community in this area, but it has proved itself in the restoration of this church.


I gather the baptism font arrangement wasn't possible so a long family tradition came to an end.

I understand also that this is not the end of the high altar window story and that a replacement of some sort is being made up.

1 comment:

  1. Meath St. have had more than their fair share of problems over the last half century.