"Skilfully sited and perfectly blended with the landscape, the church stands on the edge of the village, set back from the road and into a sloping hillside. Plain and simple materials accentuate the dramatically bold and angular form, while internally, natural light from unexpected directions is the key to its success. The gargoyles by the sculptor Imogen Stuart, depicting animals native to the area, underline the building's harmony with its local surroundings."
The church is stunning to look at from the exterior rising as it does to a high peak and with its huge sloping roof. Along the front there is a moat with gargoyles above running the entire length of the roof, spouting water into the moat when it rains.
Entering the church, the interior is equally if not even more stunning. You enter through ordinary height doors and are instantly overwhelmed by the sheer height of the interior that greets you. The doors open into the entrance hall with the wall in front of you (the back wall of the church) rising to such a height as to make you feel tiny.
Liam McCormick said of his design of St. Conal's:
"Out of the blue I received a letter asking me to design a church because the people of Glenties liked Burt church. On seeing the site, once the demesne of a large house, my aim was to set the church deep into the hill preserving as much of the planting as possible so as to retain the quality of the Ardara Road without competing with the court-house and other buildings opposite. The steeply sloping site indicated that building could only take place along the contour line. To reduce cutting too deeply into the hillside and to introduce a spatial element into what might have been a barn like structure, both roof and floor have been stepped."
In the entrance hall you turn right and the main church opens out in it's full glory to you. To the left of the entrance hall is a small chapel, the Sacred Heart Chapel, which is much smaller than the main church and not quite so overwhelming.
Both churches are filled with so many beautiful designs and works that it is a joy to spend a while wandering round just enjoying their beauty. Many pieces are made from stone, the Alters in both churches, the Baptismal font in the main church, the Stations of the Cross on the walls of the main church to name a few.
The large cross on the main Alter is by Imogen Stuart. The cross stands 16' high and is cut from steel. From North by Northwest: "The cross combines the overall shape of an Irish cross-slab (such as found at Carndonagh in Co. Donegal), with the graphic impact of an Irish penal cross, and the height of an Irish high-cross". The cross is impressive and made even more so by the lighting as you can see from photographs below.
Imogen Stuart also designed the tabernacle and outside the gargoyles along the lower ridge of the huge sloping roof (a bull, a ram/goat, and a sheep, animals native to the area). The metal push-plates on the entrance doors are her designs too. The left door has two push-plates: a fish and a dove (the dove possibly a homage to St. Colmcille "the dove of the church"). The larger right-hand door has a tortoise, a cockerel, a hedgehog, an owl and a snail.
Click on any of the photographs below to enlarge.
ST. CONAL'S, GLENTIES ~ EXTERIOR AND MAIN CHURCH PHOTOGRAPHS
ST. CONAL'S, GLENTIES ~ THE SACRED HEART CHAPEL
ST. CONAL'S, GLENTIES ~ DESIGNS OF IMOGEN STUART
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