by Terence Sheehy
THE "Mass Rock" on a mountainside, or in a secret glen, was very much the traditional scene of Irish worship for several hundred years. In persecution times there were no Gothic cathedrals, no stained glass, no wealth of vestments or church ornaments. The celebrant was invariably on the run, with a price on his head. It was the most simple of sacrifices, with look-outs posted to warn of priest-hunters.
Despite this tradition, Ireland today has achieved a unique position in Europe for its stained glass work.
When you are on tour in Ireland it is always worth your while, even in the remotest of places, to drop in on the local chapel or church to locate some of these treasures.
In fact, all the ingredients are there for a stained glass ramble in Erin.
Edward Martyn began the revival, at the turn of the century, with the aid of Sarah Purser. It was Martyn's opinion that the artist • should, adorn, the.. -church • "idther than the local gom been men.
They, the small town merchants, were the greatest offenders in stuffing their local chapels with cheap commercial glasswork, with plaster statues from Italian factories, and with a plethora of Sacred Heart statues which a visitor once described as tap dancers with arms outspread about to go into a routine.
Martyn began by employing a follower of William Morris, Christopher Whall, who was in the great tradition of medieval craftsmen. It began with work in the then new cathedral of Loughrea.
Before long the first native artists were flourishing, notably Michael Healy and Harry Clarke. The work of the latter began to appear like flaming jewellery, and his name was made by his works which can be seen today, for example, in the Honan Chapel in University College, Cork.
Healy took his inspiration from the people around him in the streets of Dublin. Clarke's. work in stained glass began to take on the style of Beardsley. Healy influenced Evie Hone, the greatest of all Irish stained glass workers, and probably the greatest the world will have seen this century.
She was greatly inspired by the paintings of George Rouault. Her work remains throughout Ireland today like a burning fire.
Richard King, from Coun ty Mayo, joined Harry Clarke for a time. Patrick Pollen, an Ampleforth product was so inspired by the "Crucifixion and Last Supper" window by Evie Hone at Eton College that he went to Ireland to work and study with her.
Examples of her now famous works may be seen in the most diverse of places. In Dublin, in the CIE offices in O'Connell Street, is her "My Four Green Fields."
The Irish Army esteems her work in their chapels in Portobello Barracks in Dublin, and in Collins Barracks in Cork.
The Jesuits have major works of hers in their college chapel in Clongowes, in Dublin in University Hall Chapel in Hatch Street, and in their house and refectory in Milltown Park, Dublin.
The Holy Ghost Fathers were inspired to have her works in their college chapels in Blackrock, County Dublin, and in Rockwell College in County Tipperary. • Church of Ireland places of worship adorned with her craftsmanship include their church in Dundrum, County Dublin; in Ardcarne, Boyle, County Roscommon; at Tara in County Meath; at Clonsilla, County Dublin; in Saint Thomas's at Foster Avenue, Mount Merrion, Dublin; at Howth, County Dublin, and in Fahan, County Donegal.
Catholic churches with the vision to commission her work include the cathedral in Loughrea, County Galway; Kingscourt, County Cavan; Greistones, County Wicklow; Kilmilkin, County Galway; the Ennis Road chapel in Ilimerick; Peterswell, County Galway, and in Cloughjordan in County Tipperary. The works of Patrick Pollen, the disciple or Evie Hone, are best seen in the Catholic chapel in Tralee, County Kerry, in Ballinasloe, County Galway, in Glenstal Abbey, County Limerick, and in Milford, County Donegal. In a small town, such as Balbriggan in County Dublin, the local Catholic chapel has several superb Harry Clarke windows, notably his "Raising of Lazarus." Most famous are his Stations of the Cross in the Basilica of Lough Derg.
Other splendid examples of his craft are in the windows of chapels in Carrickmacross in County Monaghan, in the chapel of the Oblate Fathers in Raheny, County 'Dublin, and in the chapel in Ballinrobe, County Mayo.
The Jesuit retreat house in Rathfarnham is graced with seven of his works. In the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Parnell Square is his "Geneva" win d ow composed of 14 happenings from Irish literature.
For those who choose to tour in Ireland and/or pub crawl, church-crawl and art crawl in gentle fashion, Cork city presents an attractive and relatively unknown source of some quite dramatic art.
It can be discussed in comfort in such hostelries as the "Green Room," near the College of Art, or in the famous charcoal-grill steakhouse, "The Oyster Tavern," to suggest but one or two places from a great variety available in the "Rebel City." Cork city has produced, in its time, some extraordinary talent in the form of painters such as Daniel Maclise, who rose to be President of the Royal Academy, and James Barry, who rose to be expell e d • from •the• Royal Academy, and to die in poverty, but with a bishop to give him the last rites.
The Crawford School of Art, and the Art Gallery, is not all that well known, but well worth a visit. It has a delightful collection of paintings, presented by Sir John Lavery, and is famous for its painting of a flying column, "Men of the South" by Sean Keating, RHA.
"It was here that the classical sculptor John Hogan learnt his craft, his most famous piece being "The Dead Christ," which is under the high altar of the Carmelite church, off Grafton Street, in Dublin.
And speaking of Dublin, if the visitor has, perhaps, mis sed seeing the Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, in Parnell Square, then there is a very special feast in store for the lover of more recent art.
In addition to the fabulous Lane collection, 50 great Impressionist paintings, now shared with London, there is an incomparable collection including Orpen, Jack Yeats, Sargent, Lavery, Whistler and others.
The National Gallery of Merrion Square, which owes much to the revenues from the musical version of Shaw's "Pygmalion," "My Fair Lady," is a particularly attractive gallery of great masters, and, incidentally, has a good and reasonable restaurant — particularly useful for eating in en famille.