Thursday, 7 May 2015

St. Mary's Church, Navan

The Navan Historical Society tells us:

On 30th July 1796 Bishop Plunkett signed a lease from Peter Earl Ludlow for the site of the chapel for a period of 61 years and a new church was built.

By 1830 the newly appointed parish priest, Father Eugene O'Reilly, decided that a larger church was needed. He had been to Paris and was very impressed by the interior of the Metropolitan Opera House.

His church was modelled on it. "I will build a church that will hold 3000, where everyone can see and hear the priest," he is reported to have said. So a gallery was built all  around the church  (in 1847) to bring the congregation closer to the altar so that everyone could see and hear the priest.

The present St. Mary's Catholic Church is marked as R.C. Chapel. Although the 1837 O.S. map illustrated here predates the Church by 2 years we can assume the basic shape of thechurch had taken form, and was recorded by the map makers.

A local farmer from Clowanstown near Skryne, Thomas Maher offered Fr O'Reilly £50 if he started a new church but not a ha'penny if he didn't.  Subscriptions came on from Protestants and Catholics alike, and within months £600 had been raised. 48 stonemasons offered a fortnight's free labour, farmers gave the use of their horses and carts to haul gravel from Athlumney; the curate Fr McAlroy collected £470 from exiles in England, and so the new church began with Mr Bulger as architect and Mr Madden as foreman.

By the time of its opening in 1839 £4000 had been spent on the building, and a further £2000 would be needed to complete the interior.

Fr O'Reilly did not forget the past. The Edward Smyth Crucifix of the old church became the Crucifix of the new one.  Above all, the patron of the new church was that of the old Abbey - St. Mary or Our Lady under her title of the Assumption. He was laying continuity between his new church and the old Abbey church founded 700 years before. Edward Smyth, a Meathman, and possiblly a Navan man was one of Gandon's sculptors who worked with him on the riverine sculptures on the Custom House Dublin. His  Crucifix is carved from lime wood - his only known work in wood. There is an inscription on the back "EDW SMYTH - DUBLIN - sculpt - 1792." The galleries were installed in 1847 and the bell in 1858.  The high altar was added as a memorial to Dean Anthony Cogan (1826-1872) the Historian of the Diocese, and author of the seminal "History of the Diocese of Meath Ancient and Modern" in 3 vols. Above the altar are the images of the Four Evangelists by Richard King which are rich in colour.

Other Features of St. Mary's:
St. Joseph's Altar on the Trimgate Street side: erected by John O'Neill of Navan and his neice  under  the auspices of Bishop Nulty.
Main Altar in memory of Rev. Anthony Cogan, Historian of the Diocese of  Meath 1823 - 1878. Side Altar, Trimgate Street side. Most Rev. Patrick Plunkett, Bishop of Meath. 1778 - 1827.
Over the High Altar. The painting of the Holy Land landscape is by Navan artist Patrick Reel.

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