Festival of Faith and Flowers to celebrate Abbey’s 700 years

Colm Ward

Reporter:

Colm Ward

Meriel Clarke, Janet Bray and Canon Liz Beasley at St Nicholas Church of Ireland, Adare preparing for the Festival of Faith and Flowers. Picture: Sean Curtin
THE story of the 700-year-old St Nicholas Church of Ireland in Adare will be told through flowers as part of a unique festival set to take place in the village later this month.

THE story of the 700-year-old St Nicholas Church of Ireland in Adare will be told through flowers as part of a unique festival set to take place in the village later this month.

The Festival of Faith and Flowers will celebrate a building which has been part of the life of Adare for seven centuries, as well as the people who worshipped there.

Taking place from May 22 to 24, the festival will include music recitals, guided tours of the historic cloisters, a plant stall and flower arranging demonstrations. A series of 21 floral displays, created by a team of volunteer arrangers, will be placed throughout the church to illustrate key events in its history.

And the room in which the Augustinian friars gathered to eat hundreds of years ago will be transformed into a vintage tea room where visitors will be treated to tea, coffee and some of Adare’s finest home baking.

Rector of St Nicholas Church of Ireland, Canon Liz Beasley said that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate the life of a building that has been an integral part of the village for the past 700 years.

“There are few surviving medieval parish churches of such incredible quality in Ireland and we are blessed that the Abbey survived the endless wars of the 16th and 17th centuries that made ruins of so many similar buildings throughout the country,” she said.

“Having been in near ruin for almost two centuries, the foresight of some of the residents of Adare 200 years ago ensured that the Abbey would once again have a purpose and, importantly, a future which is being lived out by their descendants today.

“The Festival of Faith and Flowers is an opportunity not just to mark the history of a building, but also to celebrate the many generations of people who placed their faith in God in a way that enabled the Abbey to survive a turbulent past and exist as a place in which people continue to gather for worship and a be catalyst for Christian service within our community.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming friends and other visitors from near and far and hope that they will not only find our story inspiring, but also enjoy the beauty and creativity of each floral display,” she said.

Built in 1315 – little more than 100 years after Limerick’s King John’s Castle and some 200 years before the Reformation – the Augustinian Friary that is now St Nicholas Church of Ireland used to be known as the Black Abbey as the friars who lived and worked there wore a black habit. It was founded by the first Earl of Kildare John Fitzthomas Fitzgerald who invited the friars to Adare, where they lived and worshipped in peace. By the end of the 16th century, the Augustinians had fled to Limerick City and the building lay derelict.

In 1808, just a century after the arrival of Palatine settlers to the region, the local vestry meeting decided to abandon the old parish church of St Nicholas (the ruins of which are located on what is now the Adare Manor Golf Course) in favour of the ruined old Black Abbey which they duly restored.

The church has several monuments to the Dunraven family, who carried out a lot of the restoration work in the 19th century and it was Caroline, the dowager Countess of Dunraven, who was responsible for most of the stained glass windows.