Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Kilcoe

In June 1943 the Studios received an order to ‘make, supply and fix’ a Rose Stained Glass window for the Church of the Most Holy Rosary, Kilcoe, County Cork. The church is in Aughadown parish and is situated on the road between Ballydehob and Skibbereen close to Roaringwater Bay. The window, which cost £120, was commissioned by Very Rev. Florence McCarthy PP.

Following his ordination in Maynooth in 1897, Father McCarthy was appointed to ministry in Glasgow where he spent eight years before returning to his native Cork. He then managed Baltimore Fishery School for nine years before returning to parish life, first as curate and then Administrator in Skibbereen parish. In 1926 he was appointed as Parish Priest of Aughadown parish, a position he held until his death in 1963.*

The subject chosen for the window was the Virgin and Child surrounded by scenes from the Life of Mary. It was designed by Terence Clarke, son of Walter Clarke and nephew of Harry.

26 Full window


The central panel depicts Mary as Queen of Heaven holding Jesus on her arm. They are surrounded by roses and other floral ornamentation. The rose, known as the queen of flowers, has a strong significance in the Christian tradition. It is used to represent both Mary’s importance as Queen of Heaven and also her purity. In their hands the figures are holding the Rosary which is associated with devotion to Mary through offering prayers while meditating on the life of Jesus and Mary.

24 Central Panel


Surrounding the central panel are eight smaller panels depicting episodes from the life of Mary – the Immaculate Conception, the Deposition, Lamentation, Mary at the Cross, Christ meets His Mother, Finding in the Temple, Flight to Egypt and the Presentation of Our Lord.

The Immaculate Conception is placed in the top section. It is a typical rendition with Mary surrounded by stars, standing on a crescent moon and crushing a serpent. Her gaze is directed towards  the panel containing the Deposition, where Christ’s body is held by His grieving mother prior to being laid into the tomb.

0027 Immaculate Conception and Deposition

Immaculate Conception and Deposition


On the left side the centre panel depicts the scene where Jesus is found by Mary in discussion with the Doctors of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus had been left behind when his parents returned home after a pilgrimage to the Holy City and was found three days later when they returned to look for him.

32 Finding in the Temple

Finding in the Temple

The Flight to Egypt contains a number of interesting features – a long winding road, a pyramid, a placid donkey led by the resolute-looking Joseph and a beautiful starlit sky.

33 Flight to Egypt

Flight to Egypt


So the next time you are near Skibbereen or Ballydehob call in to this wonderfully elegant church to appreciate its interior and perhaps to take some time for reflection or prayer.

*From the Diocese of Cork and Ross website,


The Dominican Convent, Wicklow

The first group of Studios windows I looked at in detail are in the chapel of the Dominican Convent in Wicklow town. It was a bright April morning and not ideal for photographing stained glass. Direct sunlight can cause overexposure of the lighter parts of a stained glass window, so a bit of experimentation was needed to get reasonable shots.

The Dominican Sisters in Ireland have a long association with the Studios, going back as far as 1908, but more about that another time.

The chapel has fifteen Studios windows, each one representing an event in the life of Jesus, Mary and the early church. In the Catholic faith these events are grouped into sets of five known as Mysteries of the Rosary. The windows represent the three sets observed by the church at that time – the Joyful Mysteries, the Sorrowful Mysteries and the Glorious Mysteries.[1]

The windows were commissioned by Rev. Mother Magdalen Silke in 1938 when Richard King was manager of the Studios. They were installed between August 1938 and May 1939 following discussions between King and the Reverend Mother on the price and details of design for each window. The Sisters were very concerned about the reduction of light the stained glass would cause in the chapel, and King provided constant reassurance that this would not be a problem.


Assumption and Coronation 0835


The resulting set of windows is one of the most finely executed schemes ever produced by the Studios. Here is an example of the work. This two-light window depicts the Coronation of Mary (left) and the Assumption of Mary (right), two of the Glorious Mysteries.









Here is a more detailed view of the Coronation of Mary.

Coronation Detail 0976


This is a detail from the Descent of the Holy Spirit window, showing some of Christ’s apostles as they receive the Holy Spirit.

Descent Detail 0965


The next example is from the Finding in the Temple window, where Jesus had been missing but was found by Mary and Joseph in discussion with elders in the Temple.

Finding Detail 0894


The final example is a detail from the Crowning with Thorns.

Crowning Detail 0876


The artists who worked on these windows all trained under Harry Clarke and his influence can be clearly seen throughout the scheme.

My thanks to the Dominican Sisters for allowing me to view their chapel, and for the cup of tea afterwards!

[1] In 2002 Pope John Paul II announced the addition of a fourth set of mysteries to the rosary – the Mysteries of Light

A Brief History of the Studios

6/7 North Frederick Street Dublin

Joshua Clarke (1858 – 1921) came to Dublin from Leeds in 1877 and worked a sales representative for an ecclesiastical supplier. In 1886 he set up his own church decorating business at 33 North Frederick Street. Clarke was an entrepreneur, always looking for new opportunities to improve his business and in 1892 he added stained glass window provision as a service, acting as an agent for Mayer of Munich and bringing in a draughtsman and stained glass artist, James E. Pope, from England. Pope worked for the company for twelve years until he was replaced by William Nagle (1853 – 1923) a Dublin man, who had been a student of the Hibernian Academy Schools. Thus the firm of Joshua Clarke and Sons became established as a stained glass and church furnishings provider, initially in Ireland and from 1896 also doing work in England.

Joshua and his wife Brigid (née MacGonigal) had two daughters, Kathleen and Florence, and two sons, Walter and Harry. When Joshua died in 1921 his sons took over the running of the business, moving to larger premises at 6/7 North Frederick Street in 1924. Harry had established a significant reputation for both his stained glass and illustration work but with an increasing number of commissions, coupled with his own health problems, he progressively delegated full or partial execution of windows to Studios staff while he retained more of a design and supervisory role. In 1928 he employed two new artists Richard King (1907 – 1974) and William J. Dowling (1907 – 1980) to cope with the number of stained glass commissions being received. These artists learned to work in the Clarke style under his direct supervision.

Harry Clarke spent most of 1929 and the early part of 1930 in Davos, Switzerland receiving treatment for tuberculosis. Up to that point, according to Nicola Gordon Bowe, he had worked non-stop on stained glass and illustration commissions while his health was deteriorating to the extent that tuberculosis was affecting both his lungs.[1] The time spent in Switzerland was having a severe impact on the business. Clarke was unable to meet clients and was restricted in the work he could do as he was confined to bed for long periods. In March 1930 the business of Joshua Clarke & Sons was divided to form two new companies. Walter Clarke formally took over the church decoration business, keeping the original name, and Harry the stained glass business which became Harry Clarke Stained Glass Limited, sometimes known as Harry Clarke Studios but more generally referred to as the Studios. Charles B. Simmonds A.R.C.A., a stained glass artist from London, was engaged as the manager.

Harry Clarke died in Coire, Switzerland on 6th January 1931 aged 41. He had left his company in a healthy condition with a significant number of orders on the books, a good manager in charge, an excellent reputation for the work produced by the Studios in his idiosyncratic style and, very importantly, his name on the business.

Following Clarke’s death the Studios continued to work on delivering his designs for several commissions such as the Last Judgement for St. Patricks Church, Newport, Co. Mayo, and nine windows depicting angels for the Basilica of St. Vincent DePaul, Bayonne, New Jersey, USA. Simmonds continued as Principle Artist and manager until 1935 when he returned to England.

Richard King was then appointed manager, a role he held until 1940 when he left to pursue his own interests. William J. Dowling succeeded King as manager of the Studios, a position he held until the Studios closed 1973.

While some work was done for commercial premises and private homes, the bulk of the Studios output was for religious buildings. The work of the Studios can be found in every county in Ireland as well as churches in Great Britain, the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean and many countries in Africa – a testament to the unique achievement of Harry Clarke and the artists and craftspeople who worked in Harry Clarke Studios.


[1] Nicola Gordon Bowe, Harry Clarke: The Life and Work (Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2012), p. 286.