Thaddeus McCarthy: The Bishop Who Never Was

This is the story of a man from West Cork who was appointed a bishop not once but twice, by two different popes, but prevented from assuming his duties by warring clan factions; a man now venerated in two countries.

Thaddeus in his dedicated chapel in St Colmán’s Cathedral in Cobh

I had never heard of Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy until I stumbled upon his curious shrine in Cork’s North Cathedral. It’s a strange and glorious thing – two golden angels holding an ornate, bejewelled casket within which a glass tube contains, of all things, a leg bone. Nearby, a statue and a plaque provide more of the story.

The relic of Thaddeus’s leg bone and a prayer to him, both part of the shrine on the North Cathedral, Cork

Once I had seen the shrine in the North Cathedral, it seemed I met the Blessed Thaddeus everywhere I went, and I came to know about his life over time. It is as much a story of the struggle for supremacy of some of the great Irish houses – the McCarthy Reaghs, the FitzGeralds and the O’Driscolls – during the turbulent fifteenth century, as it is the story of a holy man.

Thaddeus is often depicted wearing the scallop shell – symbol of a pilgrim

Thaddeus was born in 1455 in West Cork into the reigning Munster family of the McCarthy Reaghs, powerful lords who held sway in Carbery and Muskerry at the time and whose principal seat was in Kilbrittain. He studied under the Franciscans, probably at Timoleague Friary, and took holy orders before going off to Rome where he impressed the Pope (Sixtus IV) so much with his saintliness that he appointed Thaddeus Bishop of Ross (Rosscarbery See). Upon his return home, however, he found that an O’Driscoll was already Bishop of Ross (appointed by the same Pope – he had apparently forgotten, oops). The O’Driscolls were certainly not about to give up their hold on the See of Ross, so back went Thaddeus to Rome to ask the Pope to sort it out.

Thaddeus in Italy, dressed as a simple pilgrim, looking resigned and thoroughly saintly

After many inquiries and rumination, another Pope, Innocent VIII, appointed him Bishop of Cork and Cloyne. Once again, when he returned home, it was to find that the FitzGeralds had their own man in the position. Through all these trials Thaddeus bore himself with patience and dignity and encouraged his followers not to engage in violent behaviour on his behalf. His enemies worked to get him excommunicated and so off he went to Rome one more time, where the Pope confirmed his credentials.

A window dedicated to Thaddeus in the Catholic church in Caheragh, near Skibbereen

On his journey back to Ireland he travelled alone in the guise of a simple pilgrim. He was only 37 years old, but worn out by his many travails he died in the night in a hostel near Ivrea in Italy. In the morning a bright light was seen to shine from the room where his body lay and the monks found him bathed in this mysterious glow. When they examined his possessions they realised he was an Irish bishop.

Thaddeus appeals to the Pontiff (detail of the Thaddeus altar, Cobh)

The Rev Patrick Hurley has written a full, two part account of the life of Thaddeus, published in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society for 1896 (here and here). The occasion for the paper was that the Irish, who had essentially forgotten about Thaddeus (although the McCarthy’s held on to a tradition of a saintly ancestor) had recently become aware of his status in Italy. I will let Fr Hurley take up the story of what happened next when Thaddeus died:

On hearing the news people flocked from all parts to see the pilgrim-bishop, who they regarded as a saint, and many sick were here cured and restored to health. Seeing this the bishop ordered the body to be carried to the cathedral, which was accompanied with great solemnity, the chapter, clergy and religious orders all going with a great multitude of people more in the way of a triumph than a funeral.

Depiction of the funeral, based on Fr Hurley’s account  (detail of the Thaddeus altar, Cobh)

Thaddeus was placed under the altar alongside the body of St Eusebius and there he is to this day. Eventually the tombs of both saints were opened and Thaddeus’s remains were re-interred in a reliquary (he was found to have red hair). His feast day is celebrated in October every year in Ivrea and many miracles have been ascribed to him over the centuries.

Blessed Thaddeus’s Reliquary in Ivrea, Italy

There’s even a 15th or 16th century poem, in Latin, about him. Fr Hurley provides a translation. Since he gives no author, it may be his own work, which would not surprise me as this is obviously an erudite and talented scholar. He started his career as the parish priest of Schull, was the priest responsible for the chapel and stations at Gougane Barra and also established the Irish training college at Ballingeary. He was a frequent contributor to the JCHAS.

Fr Hurley had attended a ceremony in honour of Thaddeus in Ivrea ‘recently’ when he wrote his two pieces. He remarks in awe on the majesty of the ceremonial and the great crowds who took part. Above all, he says, the solemn procession when, as if in triumph, the remains of the poor unknown pilgrim were carried through the streets he passed so many years ago, will not be easily forgotten.

Above, the magnificent church in Ivrea, Italy, where Thaddeus lies and below, the equally magnificent side-chapel dedicated to his memory in St Colmán’s Cathedral, Cobh

In more recent times, it was agreed that some relics of the saint could be returned to Ireland – hence the leg bone that caught my attention in the North Cathedral. Ireland, and particularly Cork, had rediscovered their saint and veneration of this fifteenth century holy man spread rapidly. In St Colmán’s Cathedral in Cobh (the subject of Robert’s post this week) one of the side chapels is dedicated to him: this probably happened in a time of great enthusiasm for the revival of his cult following the rediscovery described by Fr Hurley. The design of the altar, the carvings, the mosaics and stained glass show that the artists were familiar with Fr Hurley’s account. 

The death of Thaddeus, St Colmán’s Cathedral, Cobh

In the years that followed, as new churches were built and older ones refurbished, Thaddeus lived on in stained glass and small shrines. I have no doubt that part of this comes down to his surname – we love the idea that the McCarthys, of a proud, ancient and powerful lineage, and the people of Cork, have our own saint.

A shrine to Thaddeus, including a reliquary (not sure what it contains) in the Catholic church in Clonakilty

Memento Mori

Fanlobbus

It’s Halloween – what better time to take a wander round an old graveyard! Fortunately, we’re well endowed with them in Ireland, in varying states of preservation and decay.

Old graveyard, near Dunmanway

Except for the wealthy, who could afford to erect tombs and decorate churches with effigies of themselves and carved wall plaques, most people who died in Ireland up to the 1700s lie in unmarked graves. However, in the 18th century the practice of erecting carved headstones become commonplace for those who could pay for it. Styles of headstone carving evolved over time. Local craftsmen used the symbols in vogue, interpreting them according to their own ideas and their level of skill. The result can best be described as folk art.

Bridget Sweeney Kilmallock

Bridget Sweeney’s grave in Kilmallock Co Limerick is memorialised with a great example of a nineteenth century carved headstone

One recurring theme is the passion, or crucifixion of Christ, and a headstone we saw recently in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, is an excellent example of the crucifixion and other symbols.

Bridget Sweeney Closer

Top: Not only a crucifixion image,  but various other symbols feature on the headstone, such as a chalice (eucharist) and a rooster (awakening or time). Below: close up of the two angels: left is Michael blowing his trumpet and bearing a set of scales (reflecting his role of weighing souls at the gates of heaven); right is another angel bearing a book (in which might be recorded a person’s good and bad deeds) and keys (to the gates of heaven?)

Denis Sheehan, Kilmallock

Another crucifixion headstone, also in Kilmallock: harder to make out, but full of interesting elements

You may have noticed the letters IHS on Bridget Sweeney’s grave. Ubiquitous on old gravestones, on its own, accompanied by a simple cross, or as part of a more elaborate decoration, IHS stood for the name of Jesus. For a full explanation, see this post from the always excellent Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland.

Thomas Donahoe Clonfert

Another favourite symbol was a head with wings, usually representing the soul on its flight to heaven, but perhaps also an angel. 

Alice Bolster, Kilmallock

A particularly fetching angel/soul on the grave of Alice Bolster, Kilmallock

St Michael, blowing his trumpet to welcome that soul to heaven, was a favourite motif. We found one behind a bank of ivy in the old Aughadown graveyard near us, down by the Ilen River.

Aughadown

AughadownCan you make out Michael, blowing his trumpet? The enemies of all headstones are ivy and lichen and this one has been overtaken by both

Symbols of mortality decorate some of the earliest Irish headstone – skull and crossbones, hourglasses, books and bells, skeletons, even rotting corpses – all represent the finite nature of life on earth. Memento Mori literally means Remember, you must die. These images were supposed to encourage us, apparently, to lead better lives by reflecting both on the futility of relying on earthly delights and on the reward awaiting us in heaven. Mortality symbols generally date to the 1700s.

Cloondara, Co Longford, no inscription

Top: this slab is in the churchyard at Cloondara Co Longford and has no inscription. The two images below it are from a grave in Castlelands, near Kinsale. These two images are courtesy of our friend Amanda Clarke: she was told by a man doing maintenance work that this was the grave of Anne Bonny the pirate – hence the skull and crossbones!

Sun, moon and star images represent the glories of creation and we’ve seen many instances of sunbursts, often enclosing the IHS lettering. Here’s a nice example, below, from Kilmallock, which also has winged heads and beautiful lettering.

William Jones Kilmallock

Lettering styles varied widely, as did the carver’s ability to spell and to ensure he had left himself enough room. Anyone wanting to invent new fonts (yes, that’s a thing) could well study old headstones and admire the incredible variety of lettering. Carving some of the more elaborately rounded scripts must have been a job for only the most highly skilled.

Dan Linnehan, Cullen, Co Cork

We often see instances where letters and words have to be added above or below the line, where the carver ran out of room

The Lamb of God is another common image – although it can be hard to recognise a lamb in the often lumpen carving at the top of a headstone.

Headstone, Cullen

At an old graveyard in Cullen, Co Cork, there are several stones that appear to be in a local style with a head on either side of the top of the stone

We can’t resist old graveyards – we seldom pass an opportunity for a stroll and an explore. Sometimes we find interesting headstones, sometimes we just soak in the atmosphere, sometimes we worry about the neglect that allows them to slowly disappear into a jumble of brambles and nettles.

Four Children gravestone, Bandon

It’s hard to make out what’s on this old headstone in the churchyard at St Peter’s C of I church in Bandon. The words include a reference to ‘his four children’ so I am tempted to think these four heads representing those little souls.

Here’s some good new – there is an Irish organisation, Historic Graves, that is doing outstanding work in saving our historic graveyards from that fate. In their own words:

The Historic Graves project is a community focused grassroots heritage project. Local community groups are trained in low-cost high-tech field survey of historic graveyards and recording of their own oral histories. They build a multi-media online record of the historic graves in their own areas and unite to form a national resource.

Lissagriffin

Kilmoe churchyard, in LIssagriffin on the MIzen Peninsula, has benefited from a Historic Graves survey

I used information from the Historic Graves survey in my posts about the Stouke Graveyard (Priests and Poets Part 1 and Part 2) and I hope to learn more about their methods and objectives in the future.

Another Historic Graves project was Castlelands, near Kinsale. These photographs are by Amanda Clarke, used with thanks

One thing we have seen is that once a graveyard has been surveyed it’s important to keep it well maintained. The Cloyne graveyard was surveyed in 2013 and many fine old headstones were found and recorded. We visited in May 2014 and loved our walk through the flower-strewn pathways and the newly-revealed headstones. However, earlier this month when we dropped in it had started to resemble a jungle again. 

Cloyne Graveyard

I will leave you with a couple of my personal favourites from graveyard visits – not elaborate, not particularly old, but saying so much. The first is from Castlehaven graveyard in West Cork, the second from Kilbarry, near Dunmanway.

Castlehaven Bridge McCarthy

Crowley Castle St

Mosaics and Maharajas, Part 2

East Window

The more I look into the Church of the Ascension in Timoleague the more fascinating it becomes. Last week I concentrated on the mosaics and the story of the Maharaja, but what I failed to say is that the mosaic tiles were made by Minton, as were the encaustic tiles on the floor. Minton is known for its bone china but in fact it was also was the leading producer of British ceramic tiles during the 19th century.

Encaustic Tiles

The encaustic floor tiles as well as all the mosaic tiles were made by Minton

The windows were also produced by the most famous British stained glass artists of their day, as we shall see. Taken as a whole then, the architecture and decoration of this singular church leads us directly to Augustus Pugin, one of the giants of the Victorian Age, and locates it in the highest echelons of the Gothic Revival Movement. This hidden gem is even more of a jewel than I suspected!

Pugin

Who was Augustus Pugin? Born in 1812, son of a French emigré draughtsman and an English mother, Pugin trained in his father’s workshop, becoming proficient in design and drafting by aged 9. Conversion to Catholicism and a visit to Nuremberg in Germany convinced him that the greatest expression of church architecture was High Gothic and he set about challenging, and ultimately revolutionising, the prevailing design norms of the Victorian period. He was incredibly prolific and influential, such that today when we think about Victorian architecture and gothic revival, we are really thinking about the work of Augustus Pugin – even though he died in 1852 at the early age of 40.

The signature of the Warrington Stained Glass Company on the East Window

Pugin designed several churches in Ireland (mostly Catholic), especially in Wexford, where you can follow the ‘Pugin Trail’. (I don’t know who wrote the Wexford Pugin Trail brochure, but it is one of the best explanations of his style and influence that I have read.) While he did NOT design the Church of the Ascension, his influence is everywhere in evidence, along with the use of his favourite suppliers – Minton for the mosaics and tilework and Warrington, Lavers and Westlake, and Mayer for the windows.

Church interior looking east

Hallmarks of gothic revival: a beautiful hammer-beam ceiling, tall pointed windows with simple Y tracery, everything to lead the eye upwards

The real art of making stained glass in the medieval style had been lost and during the 18th century colour was mostly painted directly on the glass using an enamel technique. But part of the gothic revival ethic was to base manufacturing technology as closely as possible on the original so there was also a re-discovering of real stained glass processes where the colour was fired directly into the material and sections of glass were separated by lead. This art was revived in the 19th century by artists and craftspeople who studied medieval glass and learned through trial and error how to make it again.

The Presentation

The Presentation, East Window

Let’s start with the East Window, the work of Warrington. William Warrington was one of the leading stained glass artists of his day. Like Pugin, he was a student of the gothic style and he strove to reproduce glass work as close as possible to medieval models. He had trained with his father as a painter of armorial shields, an influence that can be seen in his designs. He wrote a book in 1848 on The History of Stained Glass, but fell afoul of the group called the Cambridge Camden Society (or CCS) who had set themselves up as the arbiters of taste in all things related to church architecture. Partly this was the outcome of class prejudice: the CCS, all university educated men, did not believe that a “mere artisan” should be allowed to have an opinion of what they saw as their own exclusive preserve.

supplicants

Detail from The Raising of Dorcas, East Window

By any standards, this is a beautifully executed window. According to the Wikipedia article, Warrington’s figurative painting strives towards the Medieval in its forms, which are somewhat elongated and elegant, with simply-painted drapery falling in deep folds in such a way that line and movement is emphasised in the pictorial composition. His painting of the details, particularly of faces, is both masterly and exquisite.

Raising Dorcas

The Raising of Dorcas, East Window. In this story, from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter prays over the dead body of Dorcas, who returns to life

This is all clearly visible in the East Window, a masterful set of three lights depicting the Crucifixion in the centre, Raising Dorcas on the left and the Presentation in the Temple on the right. Note the use of heraldic motifs above the main panels, and the tall medieval-style spires of foliage, all typical of Warrington glass.

East Window heraldic

For some reason, this was all too much for the Bishop of Cloyne when he came to consecrate the new chancel in 1861. Cloyne Cathedral itself was a true medieval building but much simpler in its interior decoration. The Bishop obviously had less sympathy with this new style of highly decorated church interiors and objected in particular to the East window, which he viewed as similar to the ‘graven images’ popular in the Catholic churches.

On the cross

He refused to conduct the consecration unless the window was covered in a cloth. The cloth, apparently stayed up a long time, and when it came down the window continued to attract opprobrium – it was even attacked and broken on at least one occasion! It’s hard to understand now how such a beautiful piece of devotional art could have inspired such an over-the-top reaction.

Jesus Walking on the Sea

The Sermon on the Mount by Lavers and Westlake

Three sets of windows in the nave are by Lavers and Westlake, yet another of the London-based stained glass firms that responded to the new demand for gothic-revival glass windows in 19th century Britain. Nathaniel Westlake was another scholar of stained glass, publishing a four volume work, A History of Design in Painted Glass, and also a decorative painter of wall and ceiling panels. He was considered one of the leading exponents of stained glass art with a style considered to be Pre-Raphaelite. He worked with William Burges for a while – the one who designed every aspect of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork – who recommended him to the firm of Lavers and Barraud. In 1868 he became their chief designer and was responsible for much of the success of the firm, which captured a large share of the booming stained glass industry. Unlike Warrington, however, Westlake did not clash with the CCS, probably because his partner, Lavers, was a member of that society.

Loaves and Fishes detail

A detail from the Lavers and Westlake Loaves and Fishes window showing Westlake’s Pre-Raphaelite tendencies

The three windows by Lavers and Westlake are in the nave on the north and south walls. Those on the north wall depicts the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes and the Sermon on the Mount. That on the south wall is of Jesus Walking on the Water.

Loaves and Fishes Detail

Jesus Walking on the SeaAbove, detail from the Loaves and Fishes. Below, Jesus Walking on the Water

The final window on the south wall is by the firm of Mayer and the subject is The Good Centurion. Franz Mayer and Co was possibly the busiest stained glass company of all and are actually still in business under the name Mayer of Munich. The founder, Franz Mayer, started a company dedicated to “…a combination of fine arts, architecture, sculpture and painting…”. This firm was officially recognised by the Vatican so it was very popular with Catholic churches and there are many examples of Mayer windows throughout Ireland. In 1865 the firm opened a London branch, which supplied this window.

The Good Centurion

The Good Centurion, a window by Mayer of Munich and London

There are three more windows in the south transept although we could not find a maker’s signature on any of them. But they are very fine and I particularly like the east and west window pair which depict, apparently, Life and Death, for their wonderful luminous colours.

We don’t know who made these windows but the colours are wonderful

There are several more noteworthy features of this fine little church (the pulpit, the carved wooden furniture) but I think I will leave it at that for now. I’ve learned a lot about the Gothic Revival Movement through this exercise, and about some of its chief practitioners. I’ve been struck, as the reader might be, at how British (rather than Irish) the influences are in this church, but that of course was very much a function of the times. At some point I will write about the enormous Catholic church that dominates the village, with a view to showing how the great era of Catholic church building in Ireland finally led to an emphasis on Irish architecture and Irish artisans. For a very brief word on that, you can read my post A Tale of Four Churches.

Timoleague Three Churches

Timoleague. On the left are the ruins of the medieval friary, the Catholic Church dominates the hilltop, and the Church of the Ascension is behind the green building on the far right

And as for Augustus Wellby Northmore Pugin – you can learn more about this complex genius through the BBC Program Pugin: God’s Own Architect, available on YouTube.

The Love Which He Bare Her

Nothing beats a romantic walk in a graveyard

Nothing beats a romantic walk in a graveyard

In honour of the upcoming St Valentine’s Day, and of course because it’s now officially spring, my thoughts have turned to love. As we travel, here in West Cork, and in Ireland generally, we have a habit of dropping into churches. I’ve been struck by the eloquence – the purple prose – of memorial inscriptions in many Church of Ireland  (Protestant) churches, dating from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Why only in those churches? There weren’t many Catholic churches in Ireland until after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. In the wave of Catholic church building that followed that Act there are few examples of individual memorial tablets on the walls: instead, the walls are filled with Catholic iconography, such as the Stations of the Cross and statues of saints.

Although most memorial tablets commemorate men (particularly ministers, soldiers and noblemen) here and there you can find memorials to couples, or to beloved women, erected by their ‘disconsolate husbands’ or by a grateful parish. The first two below are from the ruined Muckross Abbey in Killarney. Here we found a stone erected by Stephen Coppinger of Cork, recounting the many virtues of his cherished Helen. The Coppingers were a Catholic family, one of whose members was the infamous Walter Coppinger of Coppinger’s Court.  Another, Elizabeth Coppinger of Barryscourt, in 1760 in defiance of the Penal Laws joined with Nano Nagle and five other Cork ladies in founding a Convent of the Ursuline order in Cork.

Helen Coppinger's memorial tablet

Helen Coppinger’s memorial tablet

Erected by Stephen Coppinger of the City of Cork in Memory of his late Wife HELEN Whose Accomplishments and Goodness of Disposition were her lowest Recommendations. Her solid Understanding, her diffusive, tho. judicious Charity, and strict Adherence to every Principle of the Christian Religion, the Duties of which she never ceased to perform, her Patience and Resignation during a lingering and tedious course of Sufferings, rendered her an Object of Admiration to all who had the Happiness of knowing her. She lived beloved and died lamented the 9th of August 1802. Aged 49 Years.

Also in Muckross Abbey we found this stone to Lucy Gallwey – so generally esteemed that the inhabitants of Killarney erected the memorial. A little sleuthing on my part discovered that Lucy was born Lucinda Grehan in Dublin, and that she and Christopher Gallwey had nine children.

Lucy Gallwey

Lucy Gallwey

Lucy

Wife of Christopher Gallwey of Killarney, Esq. This monument was erected By the inhabitants of Killarney and its neighbourhood to testify The deep sense of those amongst whom she lived And the Exemplary fidelity With which she discharged the relative duties of wife mother and friend as well as to perpetuate the recollections of the many benefits she conferred upon society and to hold up to the emulations of posterity her active useful yet unostentatious exercise of the most ardent charity directed by a singularly sound and well regulated understanding. She died the 14th of December 1829 aged 57

In St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin we came across this lovely plaque for Elizabeth, Viscountess Doneraile. (In the same Cathedral is an enormous memorial to the Boyle family built by Elizabeth’s great-grandfather Richard Boyle, Great Earl of Cork – but that’s a whole story in itself.) I love the wording of this one – not just that he loved her, but sincerely respected her.

Elizabeth, Viscountess Doneraile

Elizabeth, Viscountess Doneraile

      ELIZABETH, VISCOUNTESS DONERAILE

Wife of the Right Hon Hayes Sentleger, Lord Viscount Doneraile, Daughter of the Right Hon Joseph Dean, Lord chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer in 1715, and of Margaret Boyle, Daughter of the Hon. Roger Boyle, of Castlemartyr, in the County of Cork, Esq. She departed this life on the 3rd day of Dec, 1761, in the 59th Year of her age. She lived universally esteemed & died universally lamented. Her disconsolate husband, with whom she lived in perfect harmony forty Years, hath caused this Monument to be erected in testimony of the Love which he bare her, and as a memorial of his sincere respect for her many great & amiable Virtues.

Here’s one from Cloyne. And what a lovely thought – to have years of uninterrupted conjugal affection and then to “gently fall asleep.”

James and Lucinda Hingston

James and Lucinda Hingston

The final one is also from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and it’s for Stella, whose real name was Esther Johnson, lifelong friend and companion of Dean Swift. At his request, he was buried alongside her.

Stella

Stella

Dear Reader, do you have a favourite memorial tablet erected by a disconsolate husband, or extolling conjugal affection? If you do, post them to our Facebook page – we’d love to see more of these.

Stella - Swift's Beloved

Portrait of Stella

I’m now busy composing a suitable epitaph for myself…let me see, er, amiable accomplishments Well regulated mind joined with admirable charity. The kindness of her disposition was matched only by the elevation of her thoughts. Natural perfections. Guess I’ll keep working on it. The emulations of posterity can wait a while.

Midsummer Maunderings…

Beautiful Cappaghglass

Beautiful Cappaghglass

…or Life Seen Through a Lens… Things found, places visited, mainly in the environs of West Cork, often just a few steps from Nead an Iolair, although one or two are from further afield. We have been away in Tipperary this week, so these posts are ‘ones we have prepared earlier’.

A reminder of Megaloceros - the extinct Irish Elk

A reminder of Megaloceros – the extinct Irish Elk, at Ballymaloe

curraghs

Currachs at Baltimore

Shelly Beach - our local secret

Shelly Beach – our local secret

Hugo helps himself!

Hugo helps himself!

guiness

Maestros Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly playing in Ballydehob

Maestros Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly playing in Rosie’s

An ordinary day in Ballydehob - with seanchaí Eddie Lenihan

An ordinary day in Ballydehob – with Seanchaí Eddie Lenihan

Ferdia - our garden companion

Ferdia – our garden companion

Dawn Moon over Rossbrin Castle

Dawn Moon over Rossbrin Castle

***

By the way… Dictionary definition of Maunder: to move or act in a dreamy, idle or thoughtful manner. Synonyms: wander, drift, meander, amble, dawdle, potter, straggle… Finola has only ever heard the word used in Ireland.

thady's

Thady’s window on the World

Cloyne Connections

sir edward fanshawe 1856

During our anniversary trip to Ballymaloe (over the other side of Cork) we couldn’t resist a diversion to Cloyne, where Finola remembered having visited a round tower in her youth, just a few years ago. At that time it was possible to climb up inside the tower, after calling in at the local post office to collect the key. Round towers are a significant archaeological feature of Ireland and I like the enigma of them: no-one knows quite when they were built or why (a bit like Rock Art), but there are 65 of them still standing in the Republic in various states of repair. We proceeded to the post office to be told that it had been possible to climb up the tower up until ‘just a few years ago’ – now, health and safety regulations prevented it. Later, I read an account of someone who went to see this tower in 2004, 10 years before, and was told that it had been possible to climb up the tower ‘just a few years ago’… which shows that time and memory are relative.

tower

Although we were disappointed in our aspirations to climb the tower, our visit to the post office turned up a very friendly lady who said that she held the key to the adjacent cathedral, and would be pleased to let us go in there instead.St Colman's Cathedral at Cloyne - a print from 1853St Colman’s Cathedral at Cloyne – a print from 1853

Cloyne Cathedral: the worship area, a small part of the large building

Cloyne Cathedral: the worship area, a small part of the large building

An 11th century gilt bronze cross was found in the Cathedral grounds

An 11th century gilt bronze ‘pilgrims cross’ was found in the Cathedral grounds

The Cathedral of St Colman in Cloyne is well worth a visit. To this Englishman the term ‘cathedral’ conjures up images of Gothic magnificence with soaring spires, arches and intricate buttressing – and set picturesquely within a medieval city centre; this, however, is a humbler structure – although grand in size – constructed in 1250 and located in a somewhat overgrown graveyard in the back streets of a small East Cork town. For more detailed information on the cathedral, have a look at the excellent blog Pilgrimage in Medieval Ireland.

blue flowers

Every day you should learn something new, and until then I had heard nothing of St Colman: St Colman mac Lenene lived in the sixth century and was a friend of St Finbarr, who we have encountered previously. He founded his monastery in Cloyne in 560 here and the cathedral is built over a network of caves, now inaccessible but used in the penal days by priests as a secret underground link from Cloyne House to the Catholic graveyard in order to say mass for the people.

pye window

A window by artist Patrick Pye

Nor did I know anything about the Bishop of Cloyne whose alabaster effigy rests in the north transept of the cathedral, watchfully guarded by a wonderfully personable Lion: it all made me think about how I would like the world to remember me after I’m gone…

bishop b

George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne – with Guardian

You may know – or you may not – that it was Bishop Berkeley who gave his name to the University of California, Berkeley, although he gets a very scant mention on the University’s website. George Berkeley (correctly pronounced bark-lee) was born on 12 March 1685 in Kilkenny and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he later became a lecturer in Greek. He was a radical thinker and philosopher whose best known achievement was the advancement of a theory he called Immaterialism, also known as Subjective Idealism. This theory denies the existence of material substance and contends that familiar objects like tables and chairs are only ideas in the minds of perceivers, and as a result cannot exist without being perceived.

 

He left the British Isles for the American Colonies in 1729, settling in Rhode Island but determined to found a Utopian city in Bermuda based in principles which he set out. One was: …for the better supplying of churches in our foreign plantations and for converting the savage Americans to Christianity… while …being in Bermuda would prevent the Native American youngsters from “returning to their brutal customs, before they were thoroughly imbued with good principles and habits.”

The 'Bermuda Group' - George Berkeley with his family on Rhode Island

The ‘Bermuda Group’ – George Berkeley with his family and friends on Rhode Island (John Smibert)

Berkeley’s social experiments didn’t get off the ground, mainly due to lack of funding, and he returned to London in 1732 and then to Ireland where he was appointed Bishop of Cloyne in 1734, a post which he retained until his death in 1752.

It's a long way to Indian Rock: Berkeley, California - named after the Bishop of Cloyne

It’s a long way to Indian Rock: Berkeley, California – named after the Bishop of Cloyne

George Berkeley wrote Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America – inspired by the colonisation of the New World: …Westward the course of empire takes its way; The first four Acts already past, A fifth shall close the Drama with the day; Time’s noblest offspring is the last…  and it was these lines that were remembered when the city and University of Berkeley were founded in 1866. This Californian institution ‘…became a catalyst of economic growth and social innovation — the place where vitamin E was discovered, a lost Scarlatti opera found, the flu virus identified, and the nation’s first no-fault divorce law drafted…’

graves

From the time of Colman and Finnbarr Cloyne was a great centre of ecclesiastical power. Today the cathedral is a Church of Ireland (Protestant) house and in need of maintenance and repair – a problem for a small population of worshippers. The churchyard is overgrown, and a sanctuary for wild flowers; the ancient gravestones are leaning and barely decipherable. All in all, a place – like so many in Ireland – imbued with a fascinating history which embraces the world.

St Colman

St Colman