A city centre sanctuary

Project Coordinator Sean Hennessy

Project Coordinator Sean Hennessy

St Saviour’s Dominican Church on Bridge Street offers an oasis of calm and tranquillity within the hustle and bustle of Waterford’s busy streets.

The beautiful church has been a place of sanctuary for people from across Waterford, South Kilkenny and beyond for many years.

This historic building is an important part of Waterford life, and its imposing bell tower is a familiar sight on the city’s skyline.

An extensive three year restoration and renovation project has taken place at the church, and a special fundraising event will be held this week to help with mounting costs.

The restored main sanctuary with the mosaics and frescoes of the apse

The restored main sanctuary with the mosaics and frescoes of the apse

The Dominican Church, in conjunction with the award winning Granary Café on nearby Hanover Street, will hold a coffee morning on Sunday 4th December.

As well as helping to alleviate costs, it’s hoped that the event will encourage churchgoers to meet each other for a coffee and a chat after attending Mass at the beautiful church.

The Dominican Church is steeped in history and tradition and was opened for worship in 1876, after the grounds were purchased from a small grain store operator.

The interior of the church is richly decorated in fine stone carving Corinthian capitals, and placed on the top are twelve stone statues depicting twelve Dominican saints.

The stone capitals and statues were all carved by Padraig Pearse’s father James Pearse.
The main apse is decorated with fine Italian mosaic, depicting the transfiguration, and directly above the mosaics are frescoes depicting the Holy Spirit.

Mihai Cuhu restoring the Stations of the Cross

Mihai Cuhu restoring the Stations of the Cross

These frescoes were painted by the famous Irish Dominican Fr Angus Buckley O.P. in 1948.
Also, on the side altar to Saint Joseph, Fr Buckley painted the scene of St Joseph surrounded by four angels.
The altar to Our Lady is richly decorated by mosaics and is carved from fine Italian marble and Irish red marble pillars.

The altar was installed in October 1892, and is perhaps the finest work of art in the church.
Time, pollution and surrounding building works have all taken their toll on the Church internally and externally, and the decision was made to carry out a full building survey, and to define the condition of the Church, which proved to be in very good structural condition.

Much work was needed on the main roofs and external guttering and the church has been totally re-plastered externally.

Work also took place on the famous bell tower and the dome was re-leaded.
Project Co-ordinator Sean Hennessy outlined the huge effort involved in embarking on the restoration project.
“Our aim inside was to make the church more inviting and welcoming to all who support us down through the years,” he said.

Statue to Our Lady of Waterford which is believed to have been placed on the city walls during the 1650 Siege of Waterford

Statue to Our Lady of Waterford which is believed to have been placed on the city walls during the 1650 Siege of Waterford

“The interior has totally been redecorated, and a new lighting scheme has been devised to sensitively light so many beautiful features. The seating has been reduced to create more room for the congregation, and the centre isle has now been linked with the side isles, giving ease of access internally. The project has been treated very sensitively, especially when approaching any restoration features.”

He continued: “Mihai Cuhu is a Romanian iconographer who has sensitively restored the frescoes by removing years of soot grease and carbon from the paintings and reconsolidating the paint work. We employed a very talented painting contracting firm, Billy Sinnott & Sons from Ferrybank, who sensitively carried out the redecoration internally including cleaning the mosaics and the ornate polished granite pillars. The Sinnott family have carried out their work with such a sensitive and skilled approach and we thank them for their support and dedicated help.”

The Statue to Our Lady of Waterford, which is believed to have been placed on the city walls during the Siege of Waterford in 1650, has been restored.

This is a special time for the Dominican Order as they are currently celebrating 800 years since the order was founded in 1216 by St Dominic Guzman.

“In honour of this great centenary we have commissioned a new shrine in honour of St Dominic, which incorporates the original high altar gates originally placed in the main sanctuary,” explained Sean.

“The church restoration project is now practically completed, although we have had to stop all works to the front façade of the church as funding is a major issue for us in St Saviours. The project has escalated financially over the three years as we found problem after problem as the scaffolding was erected to the top of the tower. The decision was taken to carry out as much work as financially viable, as we would not get a chance to erect such scaffolding of this nature again.”

He added: “The front facade has been cleaned, and tidied up for now, although much work is required to repoint and replace some ornate stone features. The pipe organ requires much work to keep it in good working order. Unfortunately we are unable to carry out any work on this fine instrument at present.”

All involved with the project are very grateful for the support that the congregation have given over the past three years, and would like to thank all who have donated towards the project.

They have recently launched a fundraising envelope appeal, and envelops are available at the back of the church and are also located in St Saviour’s Priory Shop, located in the main Priory House.

There will be a cake sale after the Saturday Padre Pio mass on the Saturday 3rd December at 10.30am.
He is also encouraging everyone to support this weekend’s coffee morning at The Granary.

“After mass on Sunday 4th December, we invite you to attend The Granary for a free coffee and a pastry,” said Sean.

“Restoration donation envelopes will be available in The Granary. If you can in any way help, we would be ever so grateful for your contribution.”

Peter Fowler at The Granary, who is generously supporting the event, is encouraging everyone to support the event and believes such an event will help foster a greater sense of community.

The coffee morning at The Granary Café takes place on Sunday December 4th at 10.30am

For full story see The Munster Express newspaper or
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