Harry Clarke windows return to Limerick parish after 45-year absence (489)


KildimochurchAndrew Carey

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TWO valuable Harry Clarke stained glass windows, once missing from a collection at a Limerick church, have been purchased at auction by the parish council who originally commissioned the works of art.

Kildimo/Pallaskenry Parish priest, Fr John Donworth, said that a parishioner noticed the glass pieces were up for sale on the internet at Kilkenny based Fonsie Mealy auctioneers, and subsequently the parish finance committee agreed to bid for the windows and return them to the original commission of Harry Clarke, Ireland’s most renowned stained-glass artist.

The panels, entitled “Jesus, Mary and Saint Anne”, previously hung in the old Kildimo church in county Limerick for almost a century – and were commissioned for just £20 some 88 years ago.

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After the auction, Fr Donworth remarked that the pieces were valued between €7,000 and €10,000.

With bidders in the room and online, Fr Donworth explained that bids went up by €500 and “I eventually got it for €12,500. But with commission, it cost us €15,000”.

Prior to this week’s auction it remained a mystery as to where the glass windows were for the past four decades, but Fr Donworth said that “it is great for the parish and the church to have these windows back, their importance and relevance to the community and the area goes beyond their value.”

In the aftermath of their removal from the old church in the 70s, High Court litigation had been started which drew a line with some in the community and it is hoped that the return of the glass will “heal old wounds – this is a new era for a return of these windows”, added Fr Donworth.

Speaking locally after the bid was won, Cllr Emmett O’Brien said that the windows were deconsecrated in the early 1970s when the old church in the parish was decommissioned with a view to building a new premises.

“The vast proportion of the windows had gone from the old church and had gone down to the new church which was built in 1971, but a couple of windows were missing and in particular these two windows which were Harry Clarke windows. We don’t know who was the keeper of the windows but in any rate they went for auction in Fonsie Mealy’s auction yard on Wednesday and there was a lot of pressure in the community that these would be retained for the purpose of the parish as there was an appropriate place to put them within the new church.

Following their 45-year absence, Cllr O’Brien said that it was a “fairly progressive move by the parish with a view to keeping or signature windows in the parish and it is great that after this time they are back again in the new church.

The windows, which originally hung in St Joseph’s Church in Kildimo are described as being somewhat unique as they “are some of the very few windows in Ireland that depict the three generations of the blessed family together” according to Cllr O’Brien.

It is the view now of parishioners that the windows will be integrated into the existing church and join the other works from the famous Irish artist.