This is the inscription on the mosaic over the main arch in the sanctuary of St. Fintan's Church, Taghmon.
By accepting the Ten Commandments the Israelites made a covenant/agreement with God;
If you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant,
you shall be my very own. Tell the Sons of Israel to
set aside a contribution for me. Build me a
Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them.
The two tablets of stone on which the Commandments were recorded were placed in a wooden coffer - a box for holding valuables - which was called the Ark of the Covenant. The Israelites carried the Ark in the Tabernacle, a portable curtained tent. It served as a Sanctuary until the building of the Temple in Jerusalem. There it was placed in the position of honour.
On his arrival in Ireland, Munn travelled southward. 'He came to a rich and sloping plain. Here he rested. Pleased with the situation and finding a gentle and docile people, he erected a humble tabernacle to God's glory' Later he built a monastery in the vicinity, Teach Munna - the House of Munn - known to-day as Taghmon.
Ever since the end of the sixth century the people of Taghmon have endeavoured to have a dwelling for God to live among them. The present Church of St. Fintan is a worthy testimony to their faith, fidelity and generosity.
His Lordship complimented the people of the parish on the contributions they had already made towards the erection of their new Church, and felt satisfied, they would continue to co-operate with their Pastor in what they had so liberally begun....In the conclusion of his Lordship's address, he paid a marked compliment to the architects and also the contractor and assured the people they might rely on them for the satisfactory execution of the work in hand.
Having blessed the spot marked out by a wooden cross, as the site of the future altar, he proceeded to bless the foundation stone, in which a zinc box, containing the date, name and coins, usual on such occasions, had been inserted, and finally he blessed the foundations themselves, after which an Indulgence of Forty Days was announced, as imparted by His Lordship to all present at the ceremony. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament closed the functions of this interesting day'.
'On March 10, 1744, William Hore, Portreeve of Taghmon, (an agent who collected rent for a landlord) reported Fr. Patrick Redmond as a "Popish clergyman in the Mass-house of Taghmon, residing at the house of his brother, James Redmond of Harveystown". Hore locked up the Mass-house and "allowed" as he writes, "no admittance into it, in the shape of the popish (or any other) worship'.
The Irish referred to the community as 'an pobal' and to their place of worship as 'teach pobail' (people's house) or 'teach De' (God's house).
In the diocese of Ferns, during the 1798 Rebellion, thirty four of these 'chapels' were burned or destroyed. The parish of Taghmon escaped.
In 1831, Samuel Lewis writing in his Topographical Dictionary describes Taghmon; 'the church is a small but handsome edifice with a square embattled tower: the chapel is a spacious and handsome edifice, partly concealed by some fine beech trees; there are chapels also at Trinity and Caroreigh, and at Forest, about a mile from the town is a place of worship for the Society of Friends'.
He came to an Ireland which was experiencing an upsurge in Church building. There was a spirit of triumphalism - grandeur could now displace discretion. Pugin introduced the Gothic Revival style and developed a close professional relationship with Richard Pierce, who became his principal associate in ensuring the successful execution of his designs.
The strain of duty and daily scenes of death and misery, told upon their weakened conditions. Fr. Scallan was the first to fall a victim, passing away on May 1 1849, aged 71. Fr. Warren survived him a few months. He died on September 3, 1849, aged 36. The parishioners were deeply grieved by the deaths of their two beloved priests.' Two monuments to their memory were erected in the old chapel. At the time the old church was demolished these were taken down and not reinstalled in the new church. The old tablets can be seen on the boundary wall at the back of the Church and there is a new tablet in their memory in the present church.
From 1840 - 1860 he was a curate in Enniscorthy during the building of the splendid Cathedral, designed by A. W. Pugin. He was a good organiser and had an interest in church architecture.
On his arrival in Taghmon, he set about planning the building of a new church and 'finding the money'. Some money towards the project had been collected in his later years by Fr. Brennan. A committee was formed.
No site could compare with the one on which the existing church stood, so it was decided to build the new church there. It is generally believed, that the old church was kept in use while the new church grew around it. Even though A.W. Pugin had died in 1852 , aged 40, and Richard Pierce in 1854 , aged 53, this church would be in Pugin Gothic Revival style.
In 1863, Bonaventure Pierce, Richard's younger brother, had built Lady's Island Church, designed by Pugin's son, Edward Pugin, together with his associate, Ashlin, architects. He was awarded the contract to build the new church in Taghmon.
Those involved in raising the necessary funds and planning the building project, were supported by the parishioners. A church is not just stones, slates, glass and marble. It is a symbol of the parochial pilgrimage of the people of God. St. Fintan's was built by faith, skill, intelligence and sweat. It was paid for by the pounds of the well to do, the shillings of the working class and the pennies of the poor, who provided a dwelling for God in a God-centred community.
By 1869 the work had begun and on May 9 the foundation stone was in place and blessed.
Bond: Bonaventure Pierce of Summerseat, Builder, Jasper William Walsh of the Castle, Wexford, Merchant, and Patrick Clancy of College, Barntown, Farmer, all in the County of Wexford, entered into a building contract with the Reverend William Murphy, Roman Catholic Parish Priest, and eight others, Stephen Prendergast and Joseph Cullimore, Shopkeepers of Taghmon, Richard Roche and Matthew Parle, both of Poulmarle, Thomas Walsh of Coolcull, Edmond Fortune of Brownscastle, Patrick Ryan of Mulmintra, and Martin Whitty of Coolategurth, all in the County of Wexford, Farmers, to do the whole of the works in removing the existing Roman Catholic Church at Taghmon, and to erect and completely finish the building of an intended new Church.
It was agreed that Bonaventure Pierce (spelt Pierse) would be paid £2000 for the works, which were to be completed in a specified time, in accordance with the building contract and document, called the 'Specification Of Works', and in a good and workmanlike manner. Bonaventure Pierce and two sureties, Jasper William Walsh and Patrick Clancy agreed, at the time Bonaventure Pierce was awarded the building contract, that they would enter into a Bond or Obligation in respect of the proper performance of the building works.
On June 3, 1869, they executed the Bond. Under the Bond they each agreed with Rev. W. Murphy and the eight other parties to the building contract with Bonaventure Pierce, that they would jointly and separately (as would their heirs) be liable to pay Rev. Wm. Murphy and the eight others £500, if the builder did not complete the building works in good time, in conformity with the 'Specification of Works' and in a good and workmanlike manner.
On June 3, 1869, The Bond was signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of James Bolger by Bonaventure Pierce and Patrick Clancy, and by Jasper William Walsh in the presence of Patrick J Gaffney.
Bonaventure Pierce was in charge of the entire project. A master mason was responsible for laying the foundation stones and erecting the walls. The church, apart from the granite corbels (supports), quoins (corner stones serving to form angles) and door and window surrounds, was built of local stone, a mixture of Cambrian Quartzite and Cambrian Siltstone, most likely from the Quarry at Knockarone. The granite probably came by sea from Wicklow to Wexford Harbour.
The stone was ferried to the site by horse and cart, the only available transport at that time. Ms. Kit Rossiter, Market Square, Taghmon, late of Slevoy, remembers her father and grandfather speaking about this.
When the foundations were laid and the walls at roof level, the other master craftsmen - carpenters, stone cutters, glaziers , tilers - moved in. The work was done by axe and chisel, saw and adze, rope and pulley. Unskilled labourers did most of the heavy work. Like a mighty jig-saw, the vision of the architect became a concrete reality. There was keen interest and intense observation of progress by Fr. Murphy, the committee and the parishioners.
On the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone the intention seems to have been, to call the new church 'the church of Our Lady and St. Munn'. From the time of the dedication, when it was placed under the patronage of the 'Sainted Fintan Munn', the church has been known as 'St. Fintan's'.
The church was solemnly dedicated by the Bishop of Ferns, Dr. Furlong.
'The usual prayers, prescribed by the Roman Ritual for the solemn dedication of a Church, having been read by his Lordship, in front of the Church, the procession moved round the Church, his Lordship sprinkling the walls with Holy Water, and the priests in attendance chanting appropriate Psalms.
His Lordship then made a circuit of the interior of the Church, sprinkling the walls, while the prescribed Psalms were being chanted by the clergy. All of them moved up through the Church to the Sanctuary where the Litany of the Saints was sung at the High Altar, and immediately commenced the Solemn High Mass, 'Coram Episcopo'.
The celebrant of the High Mass was Rev. Loughlan Druhan, C.C. Caroreigh, deacon, Rev. John Parker, C.C. Barntown, sub-deacon, Rev. James Ryan, C.C. Wexford; master of ceremonies, Rev. John Kehoe, O.S.A. The deacons at the throne were Rev. P. Crane, Prior O.S.A., Grantstown and Rev. Walter Barry C.C. Enniscorthy. There were also in the Sanctuary - Rev. William Murphy P.P. Taghmon, Rev, Thomas Roche P.P. Lady's Island, Rev. P. Neville, P.P. Newbawn and Rev. John Doyle, C.C. Taghmon.
The music of the High Mass was sung by the choir of Wexford Parochial Churches. Mr. Patrick J.Breen, Professor of Music at St. Peter's College, presided at the harmonium, a fine rich toned instrument from Anglim's Music Saloon, Anne Street, Wexford. Previous to the commencement of the ceremonies the choir sang Handel's sublime piece, 'Marvellous Works'.
Immediately after the first Gospel, Rev. M. Kavanagh, St Peter's College, ascended the pulpit and delivered an excellent discourse'.
Described as a very promising young preacher, Fr. Kavanagh gave 'an appropriate sermon with many beautiful and eloquent passages, which was listened to by a vast congregation with breathless attention for at least three quarters of an hour. The benediction and blessing were given by Dr. Furlong.
During the Mass a rich selection of music from the works of Mozart and Von Webber was sung by the choir, the solo parts being given with good effect by Miss Ellen T. Holbrook.
In the evening pontifical vespers was given, the choir again taking part. This concluded the ceremonies of the day.'
On the site of the old church stood a sturdy, compact, elegant neo- Gothic Church in Pugin style. It was fully aisled with a lofty vaulted roof over the nave, and sloping roofs over the two side aisles. Two rows of granite pillars supported pointed arches which separated the nave from the aisles. They looked as if they were stretching to and pointing towards Heaven. The arches in the Sanctuary, windows and doors completed the Gothic picture. There were two side altars as well as the main altar.
The Church had seating for four hundred people. A spiral staircase to the right of the main door led to the organ gallery. The Baptistry was to the left of the main door. There was no tapering spire, but the octagonal tower, with its clock, was distinctive and memorable.
'Above me smokes the little town,
With its whitewashed walls and roofs of brown
And its octagon spire toned smoothly down
As the holy minds within'.
In the following years the Church was furnished and embellished. A beautiful Sanctuary lamp was placed in the Sanctuary and vestments and sacred vessels were acquired. An organ was installed on the organ gallery and Stations of the Cross were donated.
The names of deceased members of the donors' families are inscribed on plaques under each station.
The names of others are forgotten, but are known to God.
Rev. Wm Murphy, later Dean and Vicar General of the diocese died
on May 28, 1896 in his 88th year and is interred in the church. There
is a marble plaque in his memory on the wall nearby.
'Behold a great priest who in his days pleased God and was found just: Ecclesiasticus 4.4.C.'
Bonaventure Pierce died on August 27, 1910 aged 82. He is interred in an unmarked grave (no. 9) in Crosstown Cemetery, Wexford. Lady's Island Church and St. Fintan's Taghmon are his memory stones -'si monumentum requiris, circumspice' (if you need a monument look around).
There is no available record of Martin Farrell.
L. Oppenheimer Ltd., Blackburn Street, Old Trafford, Manchester, were 'artists in mosaics for church decoration', and advertised in the 'Irish Catholic Directory'.
On June 28-29, 1925, a monster bazaar was held in Taghmon to raise funds for parochial purposes, mainly the mosaic setting. Preparations for the bazaar took months of intense parochial involvement which ensured that it was a financial and social success. Taghmon Fife and Drum Band provided music and there were football matches on both days. A short time before his death from pneumonia, on October 30, 1925, Canon Fortune had the sanctuary ''adorned with beautiful mosaics', though sadly, he did not live to complete the project.
The walls around the Sanctuary were finished in mosaic, the floor artistically tiled and the wooden rails were replaced by a marble structure.
Two statues of Our Lady were erected, one on the lawn and one which adorns the alcove over the entrance. A mortuary chapel was built. A special plot with a Calvary, was provided for the burial of priests. St. Fintan's new cemetery was consecrated on Low Sunday (the Sunday after Easter Sunday) in 1938.
'At the conclusion, he made reference to the beautiful church and the great improvements for which their beloved pastor had been responsible. He knew that the parishioners appreciated what had been done, but more than heartfelt appreciation was necessary to assist Fr. Scallan in bringing to a close the noble work he had begun'.
In glass, he achieved 'a jewel like twinkle and depth of colour by using many small pieces, and deep, mainly red and blue colours'. He died at the age of 42, but the Harry Clarke style was faithfully continued by the Studios until their closure in 1973.
The windows in the nave of St. Fintan's Church bear testimony to his talent and to the fidelity of the Studios to his special style.
The magnificent windows in the Sanctuary and one in the present porch, in memory of Mary Ann Kavanagh, are completely different in colour, form and style. They belong to an earlier period. Gregory Walsh donated the window of St. Fintan in memory of his parents. His father, a widower, died in 1894, and he died in 1913. The windows must date from the intervening period.
The Abbey Stained Glass Studios, through the good offices of director, Ken Ryan, has supplied a copy of the original order for the Clarke windows. (see box)
Sacred Heart and St. Mary windows are not in the church. In addition to those named in the orders are windows of St. Patrick, St Ita, St. Aidan and St Laurence O'Toole in the nave and St. Cecilia and St. Columba on the organ gallery.
|St. Brigid||John and Ellen Rossiter|
|Our Lady Refuge of Sinners||Edmond & Joanna Fortune|
|St. Aidan||Gregory Walsh.|
|St. Patrick||James and Annie Keating|
|St. Ita||Thomas and Dora Egan|
|St. Luke, Evangelist||Matthew Quigley, Old Boley|
|St. Matthew, Evangelist||O'Brien Family, Ardinagh|
|Holy Family||Frances Mary Williams, Taghmon|
|St. Aidan||Matthew and Margaret Kavanagh|
|St. Laurence O'Toole||Richard Neville|
|St. Mark, Evangelist||Denis O'Brien, Ardinagh|
|St. John, Evangelist||John Scallan Old Boley.|
|St. Teresa, The Little Flower||Cait Ni Riain, Bean Sheain T. Ui'Cheallaigh|
|St. Anthony||Thomas Francis Bennett|
|Jesus and the children||Mary Ann Kavanagh|
John Milton, the poet, aptly described stained glass windows as 'storied windows'. 'Rich in colour and mellow in light', they tell the story of Christianity and illuminate the lives of those who accepted Christ's invitation, 'Follow me'.
Canon Scallan, a good and faithful disciple, died in 1956, and is interred in the priests' cemetery beside the church he had helped to beautify. President Sean T. O'Ceallaigh, a personal friend, was represented at the funeral by A.D.C. Colonel M. Heffernan.
Thanks to Canon Scallan's zeal and endeavours, Taghmon Church is one of the most beautiful in the diocese.
|Order Book 2: Pg. 114 September 17, 1934|
|Place:||Taghmon, Co. Wexford|
|For:||Very Rev. T. Scallan P.P.|
|Order:||To make, supply and fit 6 nave windows lead lights with medallions, 4 Evangelists, Holy Family, St. Teresa, also 2 windows, Sacred Heart and St. Mary, 1 window St Anthony as per estimate. 11/8/1934||£100.|
|Order Book 2 Pg 117 November 9, 1934|
|Order:||To make supply and fix two light and tracery leaded windows, 30 circles and 20 cusps, clerestory||£100|
|4 ventilators @ £3-17-6 each||£ 15|
|Order Book 2 Pg 122 December 13, 1934|
|Order:||To make and fix 4 nave windows to match existing ones as estimate 11/12/1934.||£ 45|
|(£1 in 1934 = £42 in 1995 - Central Statistics Office)|
The Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy allowed a series of liturgical reforms, which were gradually introduced in the church. For example the vernacular replaced Latin in the Liturgy, the priest faced the congregation at Mass and the laity become more actively involved in Eucharistic and Sacramental celebrations. These reforms necessitated modifications to church design, particularly with regard to the layout of the Sanctuary.
Dr. Donal Herlihy was appointed Bishop of Ferns in 1964. He was ordained in Rome in 1931 and had been Vice Rector of the Irish College and subsequently Rector 1947-1964. He arrived in a diocese where the majority of churches had been built shortly after Catholic Emancipation. They were cold, damp, musty and in need of repair. St. Fintan's Taghmon, on the eve of its centenary, was no exception. The parochial house also needed re-roofing and extension.
Bishop Herlihy, fresh from Rome and imbued with the spirit of Vatican Two, endeavoured, by encouragement and support, to have the churches restored and Vatican Two principles implemented. Fr. James Murphy and the people of Taghmon again rose to the occasion. The task ahead was formidable. The firm of Lennon, Meehan and Levins, Wexford, was chosen as architects and Richard Browne, Wexford, as contractor.
In 1968 the work began on the Church and parochial house. Fr. Murphy moved into the curate's house in Forest. He was a meticulous person and there are precise records of the plans, the progress and costs - the contract sum being £20,233-15-6 and agreed extras £4,572- 18-8. A donor subscribed £200 for the new Tabernacle, so £24,600 had to be raised - £210,412 to-day (C.S.O.)
A new Tabernacle, in rough copper with a matt gold door, was
placed in the centre of the Sanctuary on the back wall. The
marble from the reredos was used to form a ledge to support the
new Tabernacle. The side altars were lowered and white Sicilian
marble placed behind them.
The Sanctuary Lamp was lacquered.
A new Crucifix, new candlesticks and a new vestment press were purchased.
The interior and exterior of the church were re-decorated.
A suggestion that the mosaic work be painted was not followed through, to the great relief of the parishioners.
Outside the Church, the walls bordering the road were lowered, and new gates erected.
It had been intended to replace the broken figure of Christ in the Calvary, but as this figure is missing, it must not have materialised.
The repair of the clock was tedious and not a lasting success.
Fr. Murphy did not enjoy the fruits of his endeavours. In 1972 he retired through ill health. He went to live in Rathangan where he died on Jan 2, 1979. He was interred in the local cemetery.
Mounting the granite steps (reputed to have come from Castleboro House which was burned down during 'the Troubles') to St. Fintan's, Taghmon, one sees the symbols for God and for Christ on the front of the church. On entering, the symbol for Christ on the Tabernacle welcomes the caller to pray, to admire the surrounding beauty and to exclaim - 'Alleluia!'
Ad multos annos.
Central Statistics Office Staff
County Wexford Library
Rev. J. Curtis
Mary Rose Curtis
Canon John Gahan
The Irish Architectural Archive
Kirwan and Kirwan, Solicitors, Wexford.
Rev. T. McCormack P.P.,Taghmon
Hilary Murphy, 'People', Wexford
Sylvia O'Connor, Solicitor.
Ken Ryan, Abbey Stained Glass Studios
Mary Stewart (Architect; London)