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Photography : Frank Cawley Last Updated: 28, Jun 2007 - 19:59

Things to do in Ballinrobe when it's raining
By Frank Cawley
27, Jun 2007 - 10:48

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Some pictures for Harry Clarkes stained glass windows in Ballinrobe Catholic church.  Harry Clarke was one of the great masters of 20th-century stained glass. He trained in his father's studio and at the Metropolitan Art School in Dublin, which gave him an intimate understanding of the nature of glass.

He soon learned to employ sophisticated techniques to create decorative effects. He toured Europe to study medieval glass, and was especially inspired by the 12th-century glass in the French cathedral of Chartres.

Clarke was a dab hand at illustrating children’s fairytales, and this blind young lad in this picture must be trying to read one of them. I’m almost sure that glasses weren’t invented until well after the death of Christ. In fact I think they were seen as the greatest invention of the middle ages because you could knock another 10 years out of a skilled laborer. Maybe this isn’t Jesus in this photo; maybe it’s the patron saint of fairy tale reading blind young lads St Steve

Here you have a depiction of a group of mourners at Christ’s feet, but in the middle of all these saints is a sinner, I know how she feels.

Clarke was born in Dublin in 1889. His father was a craftsman who produced, among other objects d'art, stained glass windows. He studied in his father's studio and for a short time in London. By 1909 he was accepting the occasional graphic commission and working at the more creative and critical aspects of the stained glass process. That same year he was awarded a Scholarship in Stained Glass and commenced daily classes with A.E. Child at the Dublin Art School.

This looks like a wedding, I've no idea who is getting married. The detail in the glass behind the padres head is unbelievable.

The last time I saw a group of faces as distraught and miserable as these mourners at Christ’s funeral was the mayo supporters marching in their droves from croke park last September. No artist could replicate that sadness.

I would imagine that this might be Mary’s ascendancy into heaven. I like the blue colours that Clarke uses extensively in his work. You can see his stain glass windows throughout Ireland and especially in the west. I believe he has some windows in Tuam Cathedral, I’d say there wasn’t very much crack putting them in. Legend as that his work can be found in Glenamaddy Church, and Keadu co Ross. One of his most famous pieces was commissioned for the Honan Church in UCC.

He created the design for the Apparition of the Sacred Heart in 1918. This was in preparation for a window for Phibsborough Church in Dublin, commissioned by the Arch-Confraternity of the Sacred Heart. The window was completed and installed in 1919. Subsequently, Clarke and his studio reused the original design to make other Sacred Heart windows like thos ine in Ballinrobe.

I believe this to be St Patrick, it looks like the depiction of St Patrick on the Irish stamp which I know was based on Clarke’s work. This saint is holding a shamrock, but I don’t know what’s the story with the single blue glove, maybe St Patrick was the King of Pop evangelists in his day? Castlebar people may be interested to know that the Kilkelly family sponsored some of the windows in Ballinrobe church. If any one knows whre there are other examples of Harry Clarke windows fire them up onto the bulletin board. Maybe someone could fill us in on what some of his windows mean.

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Frank Cawley
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