Cathedral Exterior 1 - Gareth Wray

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The present church was built in 1833, when Fr. Patrick Brennan was Parish Priest; it is unlikely that an architect was employed. The tower was added in 1851. The church was extended and re-orientated following Vatican II and re-opened on 31 August 1975. Richard Hurley then a young man in the firm of Tyndal Hogan, Hurley Architects, was architect. His plan established a new axis - entrance, altar, Blessed Sacrament chapel - in strength and boldness for "his" St. Brigid's. Hurley's exercise in architecture at St. Brigid's is an exciting expression of post-Vatican II Catholicism in Ireland. His work attracted interna¬tional attention especially from liturgists and architects. A full study of the architecture of the "new" church was made at the time by Dr John O'Driscoll, St. Jude's, Kildare. Many of the leading artists in modern Ireland have contributed to the furnishing of the reconstructed church. The main door, designed by Imogen Stuart, is constructed in bronze, its six panels each having a raised St Brigid's Cross with an inset of blue, green and white mosaic. A special feature is the handles in the form of sensitive hands (each in solid bronze) which open outwards in a gesture of invitation to enter. The altar, ambo, baptismal font and tabernacle pedestal were executed by the artist Ray Carroll in polished and chiselled granite. The support of the mensa of the altar is of eight granite stones so cut as to form a St. Brigid's Cross on all four sides. The metal work and enamels are the work of Patrick McElroy of the National College of Art and Design. There is a biblical motif running through all his work in St. Brigid's. All the stained glass is the work of Patrick Pye. His window of St. Brigid is located in the Madonna shrine room off the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The statue of the Madonna in the shrine room is by Oisin Kelly; the Penal Cross and the Holy Family plaque are by Benedict Tutty; the Madonna and Child (plaster) in the Confessional room is by Nel Murphy.
The Carmelite Friary lies west of the cathedral and is approached by the first turn to the right from the Monasterevin road. There have been Carmelites in Kildare for nearly seven centuries. They first came in 1290, only seventy-five years after their founding as an Order, at the invitation of Lord William de Vesci. De Vesci, the then dominant figure in the locality also established Franciscans in the Grey Abbey and built the original castle of Kildare to protect his extensive lands and possessions. Under Henry VIII, at the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the Carmelites at the White Abbey, together with the Grey Abbey Franciscans, were suppressed and lost all their properties and possessions. In 1750, with the first relaxation of the Penal Laws, the Carmelites returned to Kildare and erected a church close to or on the original 1290 foundation. This eighteenth century church served the Carmelites and people in the district for more than one hundred years. When it was subsequently replaced, the building continued to be used as a community hall until the mid 1940s. Work on the present church began in 1884. It is gothic in design, the architect being William Hague of the Pugin school; the builder was John Harris of Monasterevin; the whole work took place during the priorship of Fr. Nicholas Staples whose grave is to be seen in the front grounds. He died in 1921. Wicklow granite and local stone from Boston, Rathangan, were used in the building. The stained glass in the church includes scenes from the lives of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, from the Scapular Vision, as well as Saints Patrick and Brigid, the four Evangelists, and Elijah, the prophet of Carmel, regarded as spiritual founder of the Order. The church is cruciform in plan, the nave being set off with alternating window and arched roof-truss. The transepts are defined by polished granite pillars, with moulded bases and carved caps, supporting coupled arches in line with the walls of the nave. The side chapels are seen from the transepts and chancel through arches springing from moulded piers, which also support the large chancel arch, with its polished granite corbel shafts, moulded bases and carved caps. The principal entrance doorway is facing east, with pillared jambs, carved tympanum, and moulded arches, set in a projecting porch. The tower, with its lantern belfry, extends above the level of the nave roof. It has deeply recessed windows on each face and is finished with a moulded cornice. From this point the elegant tapering spire rises to a height of 140 ft and is surmounted with a copper gilt cross. On the north transept wall of the church are inserted some interesting fifteenth/ sixteenth century stone sculptures which came from the ruins of the Franciscan Grey Abbey on the south side of the town. They are akin to the carvings from Great Connell and Dunfierth, also in County Kildare, and probably came from the same workshop. The carvings of mythical beasts and foliages are similar to some of the stones in the cathedral. It may be noted that extensive renovations were carried out in the Sanctuary area of the church; the high altar and other items date from the early 1970s. The alterations were made to bring the church into line with the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.
The Black Abbey ruins (in the grounds of the National Stud). The "Black" abbey, so-called because it was a preceptory of the Knights Hospitaller, or Knights of Saint John ("Black" Knights from their black habit emblazoned with a white cross), was established in Tully by the de Vesci family before they lost their Kildare lands to the FitzGeralds in the thirteenth century. The order, today known as the Knights of Malta, had been founded to sustain pilgrims to the Holy Land. To this end they were immune from all tithes and taxes and enjoyed enormous lands and privileges, their sole payment from Tully being one of ten pounds of wax yearly to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Like all their churches the Tully preceptory was dedicated to their patron, Saint John Baptist. With the suppression of monastic establishments at the reformation in the sixteenth century the priory came into the possession of the Sarsfield family. Patrick, later the famous Jacobite general at the siege of Limerick in 1690, is said to have been born at Tully about 1650. When the treaty of Limerick was broken by the Williamite supporters all the Sarsfield lands, including Tully, were confiscated by the Crown.
The Grey (Franciscan) Abbey lies to the south of the town. Its ruins are sadly depleted. Beside it is an ancient burial ground. A raised wooden boardwalk, linking the Kildare Village Shopping Complex and Grey Abbey Road, provides seating opportunities to view the Abbey.
Solas Bhríde is a Christian Spirituality Centre in Kildare town which welcomes people of all faiths and of no faith. The vision of the centre is to welcome all to know and be inspired by Saint Brigid whose legacy is ever more relevant for our world today. The Centre's ecologically designed main building is inspired by St. Brigid's Cross, and is complimented by a meditative garden and labyrinth, while there are future plans for a cosmic walk. In addition, hermitage accommodation is provided for those in search of quiet reflection and rest and/ or silence and prayer. The Brigidine Sisters who run Solas Bhríde have also developed Féile Bríde, a week-long annual festival to celebrate St Brigid's Day, and the re-lighting of St. Brigid's Flame in 1993 and the lighting of the perpetual flame in Kildare Town Square in 2006.
There are two local wells attributed to St Brigid. The first can be found in Tully East at the National Stud and Japanese Gardens. The second well is in Brallistown Commons, 1.5km south of Kildare town. Both are popular for pilgrims and visitors.