Divine Illumination launched

News Type 
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Dun Laoghaire
Intro Text 

The Oratory of the Sacred Heart, Dún Laoghaire

Edited by David Gunning, Nigel Curtin & Marian Thérèse Keyes. Foreword by Margaret Mac Curtain.

The Oratory of the Sacred Heart was built by the Dominican nuns of St Mary's Convent Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) in 1918 and dedicated to the Sacred Heart in 1919. It celebrates peace at the end of the Great War and commemorates the many local Irishmen who fought and died in the conflict. From 1920-36, it was hand-painted by Sr Concepta Lynch, a Dominican nun at St Mary's and the result is a stunning example of the Celtic Revival style. This is the first full-length publication on the Oratory, an Irish artistic treasure and a unique three-dimensional illuminated tour de force. Stained glass windows in the building were created by Harry Clarke Studios in Dublin and Sr Concepta’s work emulated the work of the medieval Irish monks who produced the Book of Kells.

Divine Illumination explores various aspects of the lives and ministries of women religious orders in Ireland during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Using archival records and original research, these essays provide a comprehensive account to date of Sr Concepta’s artistic achievement and reveal new details of her life alongside previously unseen reproductions of her work. The collection of essays includes contributions by Margaret Mac Curtain, Prof Deirdre Raftery and Dr Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch.

An Cathaoirleach Cllr. Shay Brennan is pleased to note that the publication is supported by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and remarked:

It is the culmination of many fruitful partnerships, in particular with the Dominican Convent Dún Laoghaire, the Dominican Archives in Cabra, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Dún Laoghaire Borough Historical Society and all those in our community, past and present, who responded to the call to preserve the oratory for future generations. A particular thanks to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for their commitment to local history and heritage.

Divine Illumination is accompanied by an exhibition of the same name at dlr LexIcon to showcase the remarkable story of this unique work of art and an extensive programme of events, workshops, tours, seminars and talks throughout October and November 2019. The Peace Garden at the Oratory is also being restored and the foyer exhibition reimagined in time to celebrate the centenary in mid-October.

Speaking in advance of the launch of the exhibition and the publication, Minister Madigan said:

I wish to congratulate Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and New Island for their vision and commitment, in honouring the significance of the centenary of the Oratory of the Sacred Heart, built by the Dominican Sisters in 1918. The excellent exhibition and publication are testament to the deeply personal events 100 years ago, celebrating peace at the end of the Great War and commemorating the many local Dún Laoghaire men who died in such tragic circumstances.

Sister Concepta Lynch’s dedication over 16 years, to the hand painting of the Oratory in Celtic Revival style, has resulted in an artistic masterpiece, which can now be respectfully celebrated by the whole community.

This initiative typifies the collaborative approach between my Department, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and community groups under the Community Strand of the Decade of Centenaries Programme and will encourage citizen engagement, reflection and debate in an inclusive manner, of the many local events and themes comprising our shared history, which will be remembered in the coming years.

About the Editors

David Gunning is the Archivist in Residence at dlr Libraries

Nigel Curtin is the Local Studies Librarian at dlr Libraries

Marian Thérèse Keyes is Senior Executive Librarian at dlr LexIcon

The exhibition on Level 3, dlr LexIcon is on display in dlr LexIcon until 4 January 2020. Tours are being held in the Oratory on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in October/November and the publication Divine Illumination is for sale in all bookshops.