A sorrowful sight: one of the few Penal era Roman Catholic churches left to moulder. This Holy Trinity in Kildoagh, County Cavan, a rare surviving example of such barn-style places of worship more often associated with the Presbyterian faith. A stone plaque on the front notes in Latin that it was constructed in 1796 by the Reverend Father Patrick Maguire. At that time, the building would have had a thatched roof, but this was replaced by slate in 1860 when an additional bay was added and the facade refenestrated. There are separate entrances for men and women, who were also seated in separate galleries on either side of the altar. The church was closed for services in the late 1970s and seemingly suffered from vandalism, hence its present boarded-up condition.
What a simple old chapel (‘church’ was reserved for the Established variety). It is a disgrace that the local diocese and community are allowing this to continue. Thankfully the roof and render appear– for the present – in reasonable condition.
The Penal Laws were enforced very selectively, when at all. The continuing strength of Irish Catholicism led to a Lords’ Committee that in1731 produced a “Report on the State of Popery” in Ireland. Excluding the large Kerry Diocese of Ardfert & Aghadoe (no return made for it) Ireland had a registered total of 892 Mass-houses, more than 100 huts/sheds/moveable altars, and 549 ‘Popish schools’. The priest to parishioner ratio in that era was one priest for every 1,700 parishioners, whereas today the figure is one for every 2,500. The latter figure is probably too low, as more than half the priests today are over 60 and many too old to have an active role.
Just curious. How would the separation of the sexes be carried out in the interior for Mass? Seating on the side of the entry only? Any partitions beyond that and did they come up for communion also by sex? I have read about the conservative turn in Catholicism that in some ways out did the Protestants, but not this separate entry. That could be one reason it is not used. But as you pointed out, active participation (or lack thereof) is more likely the explanation.
These old Penal churches, or chapels are a treasure. They evoke a time when folks attended Mass at very significant risk. It is such a shame to see so many falling down and uncared for.
[…] the sad present state of a Penal-era Roman Catholic chapel in County Cavan was featured here (see A Sorrowful Sight « The Irish Aesthete). Here is another such building, thankfully this one in much better condition. St James’s in […]