The Dominican Church of St Saviour’s, Limerick (1815)

St Saviour's Limerick (6)
St Saviour’s Limerick

History and photos from Fergal, O.P.

St Saviour’s church is also the parish church of St Saviour’s parish. This parish was created by Bishop Henry Murphy in 1973 and was formerly part of the parish of St Michael’s.
The present day church in Glentworth Street was built in 1815/6 when the Dominicans moved from Fish Lane under the leadership of Fr Joseph Harrigan. Edward Henry, the Earl of Limerick donated the land to the Dominicans. The original church here was a plain church and it gave the impression of Gothic architecture. The church was designed by the Pain (sometimes spelt as Payne) brothers to replace the penal chapel in Fish Lane.
The foundation stone of the church was laid on 27 March 1815 in the presence of Dr Tuohy, Bishop of Limerick and the Father Provincial of the Dominicans, Patrick Gibbons. The architect John Wallace renovated the present church in 1861/4. A clerestory was added raising the height of the church by 20 feet. The church is dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour Transfigured. The priory next door to the church in Glentworth St was rebuilt in 1943.

Inside the church on the left aisle, there is a chapel to the Sacred Heart (also called the Carbery chapel), beside which is a statue of St Anne. There is also a statue of the Child of Prague in the left aisle. The chapel to the Sacred Heart was erected in 1898 to the memory of Fr Carbery. At the top of the left aisle of the church there is a side altar to St Joseph.
There is a small cross on the side of the eighth seat from the front in the left aisle. This cross marks the site of the tomb of Fr Simon Joseph Harrigan OP, who was the main instigator of the building of this church in 1816. Fr Harrigan died on January 23rd 1838.
Opposite the Sacred Heart chapel, there is a chapel to St Martin de Porres. The Stations of the Cross are frescoes. An oak frame surrounds each fresco.
The stained glass windows are all of a similar nature in the left aisle. However the stained glass windows in the right aisle show different religious figures. They are (from the back) two Dominicans saints, St Thomas Aquinas on the left and St Albert on the right. This window is dedicated to the memory of Michael and Margaret Ryan. The next stained glass window depicts St Mary Magdalene in the left panel and St Luke the evangelist in the right panel. The next stained glass window is again divided into two panels, which depict St Catherine of Sienna on the left and St Dominic on the right. The next window shows St William and St Margaret. The stained glass window at the top of the right aisle depicts the Virgin Mary and St Joseph.
Paintings on both sides of the centre aisle show various Dominicans saints. They are (from the back left) St Vincent, St Catherine of Ricci, St Pius V, St Albert the Great and St Catherine of Siena and (from the back right) St Rose of Lima, St Peter the Martyr, St Margaret of Hungary, St Thomas Aquinas and St Dominic. They were all painted by Fr Aengus Buckley, a member of the Dominican order
Fr Buckley also painted the fresco “The Triumph of the Cross” over the chancel arch in 1951. This fresco shows Heavenly Father receiving the sacrifice of his Son into the glory of the Trinity. Some members of the church are looking on in contemplation. A detailed description of the fresco is given at the main door of the church. The stained glass window in the apse shows the Transfiguration. Over the marble altar, there is a life-size statue of St Martin in bronze. There are also statues of SS. Peter and Paul. There is a stained glass window by Messrs Murphy and Devitt.
To the right of the high altar, there is an altar to Our Lady of Limerick. The statue of Our Lady is from the 17th century and is called Our Lady of Limerick. Patrick Sarsfield brought the statue from Flanders in 1640. (This is not the Patrick Sarsfield who was a general in the Jacobite army during the Siege of Limerick in 1691.) Sarsfield donated the statue due to the outrages done by his father to Sir John Bourke. The statue is made from oak. For a number of years, the statue was buried in a box in the graveyard in the grounds of St Mary’s Cathedral to avoid capture from the English authorities. The base of the altar shows the Arms of Limerick are incorporated into the crest of the Dominicans.
The Bishop of Emly, Terence Albert O’Brien, a Dominican, was hanged in the abbey ruins in 1651 for leading the resistance to General Ireton’s siege. In 1982, an oratory to Bishop O’Brien containing a portrait of the bishop painted by Thomas Ryan was added to the church. This oratory is to the far right of the High Altar.
There is also a stained glass window in the oratory that depicts a number of different scenes. These scenes begin with the execution of Bishop O’Brien and continue to depict a number of the major events that happened in the Limerick region since O’Brien’s execution in 1651. The stained glass window includes the following images, the coat of arms of Limerick in the Dominicans’ crest, the persecution of Roman Catholics by the ruling English, the boat of emigration, agriculture, Ardnacrusha power station, Ireland’s entry into the EEC and the Papal Visit of 1979.
As you enter the oratory, there is a statue on the right of St John Macias OP, who is the patron saint for exiles. The Baptismal font is also in the oratory and it is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary of Limerick & the Help of Christians.