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Cathedral’s stained-glass windows shed light on our past

The town of Loughrea has no shortage of attractions – from its Blue Flag beach to its vibrant social hub, but locals are also familiar with the growing numbers coming to town to view one of the great hidden treasures of the West of Ireland – the stained-glass windows of St Brendan’s Cathedral.

Local Cllr Moegie Maher is hugely aware of the number of day trippers – many from abroad – who come to Loughrea from Dublin, often by bus just to see the stained-glass windows of the Cathedral.

“We were always told the artistic heritage of the Cathedral was special, but the growing international attention makes us raise that appreciation,” he said.

“It is remarkable the number of people in East Galway who are unaware that this fabulous art is so close to us,” he added.

The Cathedral has long been recognised for its Celtic Revival art, considered one of the finest and most complete collections in Ireland, but over time, the astounding quality of its stained-glass collection is being recognised internationally as truly exceptional.

Built between 1898 and 1902, the founders of the Cathedral wished the building to be one of a new Celtic and Irish art exposition, a separation from the Victorian and Italianate styles of church building which had become prevalent across Ireland in the late 1890s.

The Cathedral was to be a statement of rebellion, displaying world class art sourced from mostly the hands of Irish craftsmen and women. In that, the funders immeasurably succeeded.

The extensive collection of stained-glass windows is unusual in that while most of the artistic merits of the Cathedral date from the first decade of the 20th Century, the stained-glass windows were commissioned for a further 50 years as funds became available and the targeted artists were able to commit their time.

The core contributor to the stained-glass collection was the Dublin-based Tur Gloine studio. Among the key artists of the studio was the extraordinarily gifted Michael Healy, a child of tenement inner city Dublin.

In a new book entitled “Michael Healy, 1873-1941: An Túr Gloine’s stained glass pioneer” author David Caron, currently the Head of Visual Communication at National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin, writes about how Loughrea and East Galway became a catalyst from the revival of stained-glass window art in Ireland.

Caption: The Holy Family with six angels (1907) by Michael Healy in St Brendan’s Cathedral, Loughrea. Photo: Jozef Vrtiel

See more of these beautiful windows and read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now, or you can download the digital edition from You can also download our Connacht Tribune App from Apple’s App Store or get the Android Version from Google Play.

This Saturday at 2.30pm, Dr David Caron will give a free public talk on the life of Michael Healy and the stained-glass wonders of St Brendan’s Cathedral at the Cathedral. All are welcome.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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