It is one of the greatest ironies of the modernist liturgical/architectural movement in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin that 20th century Churches, and mid-twentieth century Churches at that, have generally come off worst when it comes to the destruction of sanctuaries.
"They have razed our proudest castles, spoiled the Temples of the Lord,
Burned to dust the sacred relics, put the Peaceful to the sword,
Desecrated all things holy, as they soon may do again,
If their power to-day we smite not, if to-day we be not men!
One of the few early 20th century Churches in the Diocese - and a gem of neo-Hiberno-Romanesque - is new St. Mary's Church, Edenderry, Co. Offaly. It's own re-ordering was delayed by the Planning and Development Acts and the decision of An Bord Pleanala (Ref. No.:19.RF0970) which provided that the construction of a new sanctuary area, a modified seating arrangement and the conversion of the baptistry to a "reconciliation room" would require planning permission.
To quote again from a certain Cardinal Ratzinger to the then Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin: "It is certainly true that a great number of churches since the Second Vatican Council have been re-arranged; such changes, while inspired by the liturgical reform, cannot however be said to have been required by the legislation of the Church."
William Byrne and Son, who were responsible for the new towers additional to the Parish Churches in Abbeyleix (1906) and Mountmellick (1904), and for the Parish Church in Suncroft (1906) in a simple gothic idiom, had submitted a design for a romanesque Church with aisle, small transepts and short belltower with pyramidal roof in Edenderry. What was built was not far from that description but it was the work of Anthony and William Scott, father and son.
Anthony Scott designed the mortuary chapel in Naas cemetery (1907) as well as the Convent of St. John of God next to St. Mary's Edenderry (1914), However, his practice as regards Churches was generally confined to renovations and alterations of pre-existing structures. The elder Scott was to die in 1919. St. Mary's and the Convent seem to have been the only work undertaken by the younger Scott in the Diocese.
The first sod of St. Mary's was turned 1913 and the foundation stone laid in 1914 by Bishop Foley of Kildare and Leighlin. The Church was opened for public worship in June, 1919, and, in 1932, became one of the few Churches of the Diocese to be Consecrated. The entrance gates are attributed to Arthur Williams (1921). The magnificnet interior is partly the work of the firm of the great George Ashlin in partnership with Thomas Coleman. In his previous partnership with Edward Welby Pugin he was responsible for the Church of the Sacred Heart, Arles, and, appropriately enough, St. Coleman's Cathedral, Cobh. Ashlin and Coleman are responsible for the High Altar, Sacred Heart Altar, pulpit, Shrines of St. Brigid and St. Anthony, communion rail, mosaics, etc. In short, it is their contribution that was principally under threat from the new liturgical requirements of somebody-or-other.
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