Exploring Enniskillen's 'little gem' of a convent
The striking Convent Chapel at Mount Lourdes Grammar School in Enniskillen is an important part of the town's cultural and historical heritage
"A little gem of Irish architecture, perfectly unique among Irish conventual chapels" - that is how the Convent Chapel in Enniskillen was described by the Rev J.E. McKenna, a Fermanagh historian and archaeologist, after its completion in 1907.
It was a sentiment frequently echoed by many noted architects and art critics since the chapel's dedication.
The Convent Chapel was designed by one of the most prominent architects of his day, William Alphonsus Scott.
It was he who had designed Enniskillen Town Hall in 1897, described as "about the best designed and arranged town hall in Ireland".
He was also responsible for the design and building of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Monea, Irvinestown Catholic Church, St Patrick's Basilica at Lough Derg, Killyhevlin House and several other churches and buildings throughout the Diocese of Clogher.
With such a pedigree, it is little wonder that in the Convent Chapel he produced such a masterpiece.
The chapel is built in the Neo-Byzantine style, the masterpiece of which in Britain is Westminster Cathedral in London, but there are also strong Hiberno-Romanesque features, especially in the interior.
The stained glass windows in the Convent Chapel are its most unique feature. There are 23 in all and they are the work of the renowned Dublin-based stained glass studio, An Túr Gloine, 'The Tower of Glass'.
At a total cost of £236 the windows represented outstanding value for money and by today's standards would cost many thousands of pounds.
The carved oak choir stalls are another unique feature of this delightful building.
Each of the 28 stalls has its own individually carved motif, with such inspirational slogans as 'Hope', 'Charity', 'Obedience' - entirely apt in the context of the Sisters of Mercy in Enniskillen
They are the product of yet another William Scott - the wood-carver - who, among many other works, was responsible for the magnificently carved doors on Enniskillen Town Hall.
There are 28 stalls altogether and each of them has its own individually carved motif, with such inspirational slogans as 'Hope', 'Charity', 'Obedience', 'To the Greater Glory of God', all entirely apt in the context of the Sisters of Mercy who have devoted so much of their existence to education and the relief of poverty and distress in Enniskillen.
It is a tribute to Scott's superb craftsmanship that after all these years there is neither a squeak nor a cheep when the stall seats are raised or lowered.
- Frank Rogers is a former head of History at Mount Lourdes Grammar School in Enniskillen. He is the author of The History of the Convent Chapel. Copies can be ordered from: Mr Rogers at 7 Whitehall Close, Ballycastle, BT54 6WR, telephone 028 2076 8850, email email@example.com; or from Sister Bridie Rogers, Convent of Mercy, Enniskillen, BT74 6AA.