RCB Library Notes
An Architectural History of the Church of Ireland
The book, its author, and commendations.
About the book
An Architectural History of the Church of Ireland, which was launched in Dublin on Tuesday evening (28th March), is a study of the contribution of the Church of Ireland to the landscape of the island in terms of churches, glebe houses and cathedrals using the records of the institution and discussing this within the context of its wider history. The main record of this inheritance is in the buildings themselves and many are pictured in this text.
The book is mainly illustrated with examples from the very extensive collection of architectural drawings held in the Representative Church Body Library and further drawings held in the parish and diocesan collections. These drawings, for the most part, represent the work of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Ireland (from 1833 to 1871) with some earlier and later material. This collection was digitized and catalogued by Dr Michael O’Neill in recent years and can be freely consulted online at https://archdrawing.ireland.anglican.org
Chapter by chapter
The chapters of An Architectural History cover how inherited medieval churches remained in use, often well into the nineteenth century, and how many of the replacement churches are on the same site, expressing continuity of worship; the development of urban churches in a Classical style; and the legacies in design of the Board of First Fruits and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of Ireland, including some spectacularly large churches from this time. Post–Disestablishment activity of the Church is discussed in some detail, as is the twentieth century architectural contribution.
Detailed attention is given to internal furnishings, in particular seating, pulpit design, and – perhaps most dramatically – the intervention of stained glass. In addition, An Architectural History discusses the heritage of glebe houses and cathedrals with a concluding chapter briefly suggesting a theological approach to the architectural inheritance of the Church of Ireland with a view to seeing this less as a problem of maintenance and historical legacy and more as a resource to be cherished and valued, as indeed is the Church’s archival legacy.
Within its genre, An Architectural History can be seen as a successor to The Cathedrals of Ireland, by Peter Galloway (1992), and gives a broader picture of how the built environment and its surrounding natural settings have set the scenes for generations of local parish life. The front cover features St Paul’s and All Saints parish church, in Moyglare, Co. Meath, as drawn in pen and ink by Edward McAllister. The drawing dates from 1864 when it was presented as part of plans for the church’s rebuilding.
Dr Michael O’Neill is an architectural historian and digital archivist who has researched and written on all aspects of Irish architecture and undertaken extensive fieldwork for the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage and the Buildings of Ireland series.
Michael holds a PhD in architectural history from Trinity College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His other books include Bank Architecture in Dublin (2011), Episcopal Visitations of the Diocese of Meath, 1622–1799 (2017), and most recently, with Kevin Mulligan, Sean Duffy and John Montague, Dublin Castle: From Fortress to Palace, Volume 1. Vikings and Victorians: a History of Dublin Castle to 1850 (2022).
Commendations for An Architectural History of the Church of Ireland
Architectural historian Kevin Mulligan writes:
“This is a really tremendous and exciting piece of scholarship on what has been such a neglected subject, in effect taking up where Peter Galloway left off but filling out the picture rather well, and so comprehensively, especially in lifting a trove of archive material out of obscurity and sharing it through skilful interpretation. I think it is very timely that a definitive work like this is being presented at this time.
“I hope the book will be made widely available, especially as it promises to highlight the significance of the surviving Church of Ireland legacy at a critical period where buildings everywhere seem increasingly vulnerable. Mike’s book will certainly broaden appreciation and understanding of the uniqueness and significance of this great architectural legacy.”
Former Church of Ireland Youth Officer Anne Winslow, who read early drafts, comments:
“The book feeds my heart and soul and speaks to my interest in the Church’s heritage and culture. I have been telling family, friends in Cork and Dublin, and fellow vestry members in Malahide about the book’s content. The feedback is overwhelmingly one of delight and fascination. Consequently, it seems that there will be interest from the clergy and laity in this work. The interest is not limited to my Church of Ireland contacts; my colleagues and others who like to follow Irish heritage and history also express interest.
“I hope that the Church of Ireland community and the wider community will be made aware of the existence of the book when launched; that the book will be promoted widely and continuously amongst our parishes and dioceses and on various heritage and architectural publications and sites; and that it will be accessible through bookshops.”
An Architectural History of the Church of Ireland is currently available from the Church of Ireland’s online bookstore at £50/€55.
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