Saturday 24 July 2010

Mass for the Abbeyleix Martyrs

This afternoon, just after 12 noon (and after the recitation of the Angelus), Mass was celebrated in the Gregorian Rite in the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix, Co. Laois. The Church of the Most Holy Rosary was designed by William Hague (1836-1899), the protégé of Augustus Wellby Pugin and J.J. McCarthy. Foresaking Pugin's beloved Gothic style, the Church is an a Hiberno-Romanesque.

The foundation stone was laid in 1893 and the church was blessed on 26th May, 1895. The sanctuary, a riot of fresco almost contained within a top-lit apse, is surrounded by modern Altar rails. The High Altar and two Side Altars are intact and the new Altar is in keeping with the building. The adjoining Convent Chapel is similarly well appointed.

Hague was born in Cavan town. Having trained as an architect in Dublin and in 1862 he opened an office in Great Brunswick St., (now Pearse St.). He worked in almost every County in Ireland. He was responsible for a considerable amount of Church architecture in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. Of the 117 Churches currently in use in the Diocese, he is responsible for nine. His works in Kildare and Leighlin include the New Wing of Carlow College (1879), Parish Church of Ss. Peter and Paul, Monasterevin(1880); the Sacred Heart Chapel at Carlow College (now converted into a library(!)(1883); Parish Church of Ss. Patrick and Brigid, Clane (1884); St. Patrick's Church, Rathoe (Parish of Ballon) and St. Forchern's Church, Rathanna (Parish of Borris)(both in 1885); Church of the Sacred Heart, the Hollow (Parish of Mountrath)(1887); the Carmelite Church, Kildare Town (1889); the Parish Church of St. Patrick, Rathvilly (1898); the Parish Church of the Sacred heart, Stradbally, Co. Laois (1893), while work on the Church at nearby Abbeyleix was ongoing.

Incidentally, he also designed St. John's Church, Kilkenny and St. Patrick's Church, Kilkenny, where Mass is celebrated regularly in the Gregorian Rite. The Irish Architectural Archive holds undated drawings by Hague for proposed additions to St. Conleth's Parish Church, Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

The Mass was a Votive Mass of Our Lady, celebrated by Revd. Fr. Desmond Flanagan, Ord. Carm., who spoke in his sermon of the vital importance of devotion to Our Lady for our spiritual lives. He gave several examples from the virtues of Our Lady on why special devotion to her - hyperdulia - is a treasure and an essential component of our Catholic Faith.

The music was another selection of traditional vernacular and Latin hymns sung by the stunningly talented Miss Máire Mullarkey to whom we are once again deeply endebted for her great generosity.

The Mass was offered for the repose of the souls of three Franciscan Martyrs of Abbeyleix, John O'Molloy, Cornelius O'Dogherty, and Geoffrey Farrell, who were hanged, drawn and quartered by the English garrison of Abbeyleix on 15th December, 1588, for the crime of being Catholic Priests, of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and of ministering to the people of the locality. The Rite of Mass that was seen today, for the first time in more than 40 years in Abbeyleix, would have been very familiar to them.

With the Cistercians, the Franciscans had taken the brunt of persecution by English Protestants. In 1540, the Franciscans of Monaghan were martyred. In 1565, two Franciscans, Conacius Macuarta (Conn McCourt) and Roger MacCongaill (McConnell), were flogged to death in Armagh for refusing to pervert from the Faith. On 21st January, 1575, three Franciscans, John Lochran, Donagh O'Rorke, and Edmund Fitzsimon, were martyred in Downpatrick. The Guardian of Armagh, Fergall Ward, also received the martyr's palm in 1575, on 12th April of that year when he was hanged with his own girdle. On 22nd August, 1578, Patrick O'Hely, Bishop of , and Cornelius O'Rorke were martyred in Killmallock. On 1st January, 1579, in Limerick, Thaddæus Daly and his companion were hanged, drawn, and quartered. The bystanders reported that his head when cut off distinctly uttered the words: "Lord, show me Thy ways." Also in 1579, John O'Dowd, for refusing to reveal a confession, was put to death at Elphin by having his skull compressed with a twisted cord. On 28th March, 1580, Daniel O'Neilan was martyred by having fastened round the waist a rope and being thrown with weights tied to his feet from one of town-gates at Youghal, finally fastened to a mill-wheel and torn to pieces. On 6th April, 1580, Daniel Hanrichan, Maurice O'Scanlan, and Philip O'Shee (O'Lee), were beaten with sticks and executed before the altar of Lislachtin monastery, Co. Kerry. On 1st May, 1582, Phelim O'Hara and Henry Delahoyde were hanged, drawned and quartered in Moyne, Co. Mayo. Also in 1582, Thaddæus O'Meran, Guardian of Enniscorty was martyred there and no less than six Franciscans died in Dublin Castle, namely Roger O'Donnellan, Cahill McGoran, Peter McQuillan, Patrick O'Kenna, James Pillan, and Roger O'Hanlon (more correctly McHenlea). In 1584, John O'Daly was trampled to death by cavalry. In 1587, both John Cornelius and Walter Farrell joined the martyrology.

In the year of the Franciscan Martyrs of Abbeyleix, 1588, Fr. Dermot O'Mulrony, Brother Thomas and another Franciscan of Galbally, Co. Limerick were put to death there 21st March. Patrick O'Brady, Prior of Monaghan, and Thaddæus O'Boyle, Guardian of Monaghan, also suffered that same year.

The three Martyrs of Abbeyleix had spent the previous eight years travelling throughout this part of Leinster ministering to the people. As can be seen from the list above, they could be in no doubt about the danger in which they put themselves to bring the consolations of Holy Mother Church to the people. As the Actae of the Irish Franciscan Province put it: "In defiance of the danger by which they were encompassed, these holy men clung, with the affection of fathers, to their afflicted countrymen; they shared in their sufferings, partook of their sorrows, and never departed from them until they had at length fallen a sacrifice to their enemies. Whilst pursuing their journey through a remote district of the Queen's County, they were overtaken by a party of cavalry, bound hand and foot, and carried amidst the insults of a brutal soldiery to the garrison of Abbeyleix. Here they were flogged and put to the rack; having endured this torture for a length of time, they were ultimately strangled, disembowelled and quartered, and thus, with the spirit of Christian martyrs, did they generously lay down their lives, in support of the religion of their country and their fathers."

Edward Alfred D'Alton, in his History of Ireland mentions them: "Three Franciscans at Abbeyleix were first beaten with sticks then scourged with whips until the blood came and finally were hanged. One Roche was taken to London and flogged publicly through the streets and then tortured in prison until he died another after being flogged had salt and vinegar rubbed into his wounds and then was placed on the rack and tortured to death and Collins a priest at Cork was first tortured then hanged and whilst he yet breathed his heart was cut out and held up the soldiers around crying out in exultation Long live the Queen!"

Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us!
Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us!


Random Thinker said...

At last I made it! It was a beautiful Mass with beautiful singing in a beautiful Church. Congratulations to all concerned. Highly interesting about the Abbeyleix Martyrs. We should be doing more to keep alive their memories.

Knight of Our Lady said...

Wonderful pictures! What a beautiful santuary. It's nice to see the Tricolour and the Papal Flag being displayed.
Well done to all concerned.

JTS said...

Not sure what the deal was with the stole outside the chasuble. Otherwise well done!

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourite churches. I always love coming into Abbeyleix and seeing it from a distance. Whenever I can I stop off and visit. It is really beautiful. Is it true that the communion rail is new?

Anonymous said...

You are right about the singing. It made the day extra special. Thank you for this beautiful and spiritual Mass.

Anonymous said...

A great deal of love and attention went into that church and the preservation is amazing. Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

I've seen the poster for the Mass in Emo. That is how I found this site. Its amazing work. Well done to everyone who contributes.

Rathlin Child said...

Some time I'm going to try to go to one of these Masses of yours. Maybe Emo but I wish there was one closer to me.

Deise Girl said...

Now THAT'S what I call a church. Really cute.

Donnelly's Hollow said...

The beautiful pictures are a great reminder of the day. Father gave a powerful sermon on devotion to our Blessed Mother.

Shandon Belle said...

I remember Abbeyleix Church on the old road to Cork. Never saw the inside. Wow! I mean WOW! ;-) And to think you have nice churches in the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese too!

Anonymous said...

I will say this. Its good to see a church used for the rites that it was designed to hold. It all looks very well.

Veronica Lane said...

Congragulations upon another beautiful ceremony in another beautiful church.

Enigmatist said...

It's so lovely to find photos of the interior of this church. My great-grandfather, Peter Rogers, was a travelling painter who painted many of the frescoes. The cherubs have the faces of his children, and so one of them is my grandmother! My aunt could recognise all of them. Hoping to visit again in June. :)

Enigmatist said...

It's so lovely to find photos of the interior of this church. My great-grandfather, Peter Rogers, was a travelling painter who painted many of the frescoes. The cherubs have the faces of his children, and so one of them is my grandmother! My aunt could recognise all of them. Hoping to visit again in June. :)

Convenor said...


Please get in touch. We'd like to hear a lot more about your great-grandfather Peter Rogers. Contact me at

God bless,


Little Al said...

Enigmatist it would be good to read more about the artist and the paintings.

Enigmatist said...

Hi Al

Sadly, I have little information. As far as I know, Peter Rogers was born in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan, and was a travelling painter. My aunt - Peter's grand-daughter and the daughter of one of those cherubs - could recognise the faces (her mother, aunts and uncles); unfortunately, I didn't get that information before she died (in 1998). I have all their names, as I have a fairly extensive family, but no dates or other details. I'm planning to put the family tree up on the Ancestry website, so maybe someone will fill in some blanks for me. :)

We visited the church last month, and got some great photos.

Best wishes