Cathal O'Neill & Associates, Architects, Dublin - Projects

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St Maryís Pro-cathedral


The reordering of the sanctuary of St Mary's Pro-cathedral, was commissioned by Archbishop Dermot Ryan in 1978. The design included the removal of the high altar and altar rails. The floor level of the sanctuary was raised to three steps to improve the sight lines and covered with a new stone paving with a diamond pattern modelled on Michelangelo's design at the Capitoline Hill, Rome.

The new stone altar has a marble top, incorporating elements from the original high altar including the figures and pilasters created by Peter Turnerelli (1774 - 1839). The original Tabernacle was placed in a newly designed base and the original cathedra, of wood and fabric was originally placed in line with the altar and Tabernacle and changed to other locations since that time.As part of the design process full size models were made of the altar and Tabernacle, together with full-size drawing of the floor pattern laid out on the sanctuary. Though there were lengthy discussions between Bishop Ryan and Fr Dowling and the architect on the liturgical implications of the reordering, the final decisions were often made in situ on the basis of the composition of the mock-ups. Cathal O'Neill was responsible for the design of the layout and Garrett OíNeill prepared the drawings and details including full-size drawings of the floor patterns.Cathedral for Dublin (Masterís Degree Thesis Illinois Institute of Technology (1958).This was Cathal O'Neill's thesis subject leading to a master of architecture degree at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. The director of the course was the renowned architect Professor Mies van der Rohe, who supervised this project.Mies had a deep understanding of Gothic church architecture, and it was a prime source of inspiration for his work. He was also impressed with Rudolf Schwarz and his book The Church Incarnate The Sacred Function Of Christian Architecture (1958), to which he contributed the foreword,. This was essential to Cathalís subject as, in addition to the architectural design the thesis had a significant liturgical contact content, which traced the history of religious ritual within and without Christianity up to 1958, including the trends which were developing in Germany at that time. Consequently, Cathal consulted frequently with the Archdiocese of Chicago's liturgical centre, which developed his understanding of the subject and prepared him for future changes.The architectural concept of the thesis was dominant and the subject of a cathedral served as a medium through which the problems of form and function, space and structure, light and shade, could be explored and resolved.