On the 3rd May 1959 the Very Rev. Dr. William J. Fitzpatrick cut the first sod in front of a cross erected on the site of the high altar for the new Raheny Church. The old St. Assam’s Church which had opened just 100 years before was now too small to serve the spiritual and community needs of the rapidly growing housing developments in Raheny. On April 24th 1960, his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid assisted by V. Rev. Dr. Fitzpatrick, Frs. R. Maher C.C., J. Stone C.C., and J. Randles C.C. laid the foundation stone. On May 6th work commenced. The building of the church took just over three years. The architects were Peppard and Duffy with John du Moulin Ltd. The new church is an example of good architecture; by this we mean it was planned, designed and built with modern materials and displays these materials openly. On the other hand it is a traditional church.
As you come along the Howth Road towards Raheny, the first part of the church you see is the belltower. This is fitting, for the tower of a church is held to symbolise Our Lady, who is always beside the Church, showing those who are far away where it is and calling them to it. As you approach, the entrance to the church is emphasised by the tall pediment with its triangulate window. This feature, though wholly contemporary in feeling, echoes the ancient pediment of Clonfert Cathedral. Perhaps the sculptors of that remote age had the Blessed Trinity in mind when they formed it.
Beyond is the Baptistry (not in use at the present time) which could be entered without going into the church. Thus the infant could receive the sacrament which makes it a member of the Church in a separate building in the traditional manner. The step down to the area about the baptismal font is said to symbolise the step Our Lord took when He descended into the Jordan for the first baptism.
The bell tower, (which has since been repaired and re-surfaced) the pediment and the baptistry, forming as it were an introduction to the church, are sheathed in green slate. This slate is about a half-inch thick and is affixed to precast concrete slabs into the face of the structure, but independent of it. The three units are linked by a low narthex, a traditional feature which has been revived here.
You enter the church under the choir gallery. The nave (navis, a ship), symbolising the Barque of Peter, is defined by tall, slender columns. It would have been best, with modern construction, to span the structure without these columns; but apart from the loss of the traditional form, so wide an area would distract the eye, which here is led by the perspective of columns to the sanctuary and the altar. The sanctuary is further emphasised by dark-green screen walls at each side behind the side altars. It is lit from the sides through large windows of reinforced concrete tracery.
The wall behind the altar is blank, except for a crucifix. Thus the worshipper is not distracted during the celebration of Mass.
The confessionals are recessed for greater privacy and to avoid impeding the side passages. It has been remarked that the hoods over these recesses are reminiscent of flat Gothic arches. This was not the intention of the architects: they are merely the expression of the reinforced concrete cantilevers which support the side walls. You will notice that these aisle walls fold in and out. This is the elongation of each window recess until it meets the next one, and is intended to avoid the monotony of flat wall surfaces. These walls are in patterned concrete block. Each of the facets nearer the spectator is of a slightly darker shade than the return face, to add emphasis to the arrangement.
From the nave, the triangulate windows at the south end can be seen to be composed of individual pieces of glass, each about an inch thick, set in cast concrete slabs. This is the modern mode of expressing the beauties of coloured glass now that there is no longer any need to tell a story in glass for the instruction of those who could not read. The shrine chapel of Our Lady Mother of Divine Grace, on the gospel side, has a ceiling of parana pine shaped to respond to the altar recess. Across the nave is the mortuary, and an external light is arranged to illuminate it gently through the stained-glass windows in the evening after the main mortuary lights are turned off.
The Stations of the Cross are in enamel on bronze. They were designed by Mr. Richard King, and in their Lenten colours and design are remarkably in character with the feeling of the building. At the rear, the sacristies and workrooms are linked by a short, glazed cloister. The shrine chapel and the tower form a shallow, quiet courtyard on the west side, overlooking the car-park and the stream below. In this particular area tradition places the holy well of Saint Assam, but all traces of it have now disappeared.
Over the mortuary there is a conference room. These two buildings – the shrine chapel and, on the other side, the mortuary and the conference room, punctuate the long length of the aisles. The baptistry and the mortuary form another shallow court on the east side. This is a magnificent site for a church.
The Church was blessed and dedicated by His Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. John Charles McQuaid on Sunday 22nd July 1962. The 1500 seat capacity Church was full with dignitaries and parishioners. This again could compare with some of the major events that had taken place in the village during the 19th century.
These Figures Tell a Story
The following materials were used in the construction of the Church
- 715 tons of Portland Cement
- 1,221 tons of hardcore
- 1,750 fire bricks
- 3,313 square yards of asphalt
- 37 tons of steel reinforcement
- 18,984 lineal ft of tongue & groove roof boarding
- 84 lbs of transparent wood filler
- 12 1/2 tons of sheet copper (19,189 sq.ft) for main roofs etc
- 18 cwt. (2016lbs) of water paint
- 10,129 tons of clay excavated from church site and dumped into the low-lying west end of the site to form a car-park
- 6,232 tons of sand & gravel
- 98,596 concrete blocks
(would stretch 28 1/2 miles laid end to end)
- 17,434 concrete bricks
- 282 gallons of wood preservative
(all timbers were treated)
- 30 tons of steel in roof trusses
- 170 1/2 gallons of varnish for ceiling members
- 47,968 nails
- 11,446 panes of glass in the windows
Born on Site: 20 wagtails; 37 sparrows; 5 foxes; 384 rats (estimated); 94 mice.
It looks as if the new church will never want for the proverbial church mouse.
Raheny Parish from the Beginning