Further Reading

 

 

As Larmour notes, Gregory was "a traditionalist by inclination with an aversion to modernism". His revivalism, however, can be seen as strategic - a continuation of the rebirth of Gaelic culture of the late 1800's that was closely related to the home rule movement.

The first Catholic churches to be built after the period of the Penal Laws had often been undistinguished affairs and by the second half of the 19th Century, as the Church grew more affluent, there was a felt need to overhaul many of these buildings and create an architectural infrastructure more in keeping with its re-found wealth and influence. Initially, the Church favored the architectural style of the Gothic as a conscious identification with a pre-Reformation architectural landscape (Pugin, instigator of the Gothic Revival in England had converted to Catholicism). As the 'Celtic Renaissance' of the late 19th and early 20th century gathered pace, the Neo-Romanesque or Hiberno-Norman style began to assert itself architecturally as well, through figures such as J.J. McCarthy.

Gregory comes along at the end of this period of revivalism, the extent to which his work was understood as a part of it can be glimpsed in the excoriating sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. Ryan at the opening of his renovations at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Cloughmills in 1933. Perhaps the continuing sectarian context of the North enabled this situated stylistic revivalism to continue after it had ceased to carry such importance in the Republic. Already, a figure such as Michael Scott was beginning to emerge in Dublin at this point - and considering their work, it is hard to believe that his and Gregory's careers overlapped for a good twenty years.

Scott's church at Knockanure (1964), though much later, showed that the modernist principles of openness and transparency were not incompatible with church design in Ireland and indeed, such principles were to be taken on board officially at Vatican II and become the license for a wholesale reorientation of ecclesiastical architecture, exemplified by figures such as Liam McCormick.

Unfortunately, this all came too late for Padraic Gregory. His views on modernism are recorded in a fascinating, if somewhat depressing, article published in 1934. In a strange echo of the the term sometimes used for the Reformation, the 'The Protestant Error', Gregory refers to two new continental churches, the Church of St Therese de l'Enfant Jesus at Elizabethville and the Heiligkreuskirche at Frankfurt, as "errors in concrete". He goes on to develop this theme by linking Modernism to atheism:

"The 'Modernist' architect is, therefore, in his own way, working hand in glove with those who are today attacking the principles of religion, morals, and constituted authority..."

Gregory concludes, presciently enough, that:

"...even as 'the Ages of Faith' erected those wonderful poems in stone, the crowning glory of the Middle Ages - the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, so this age of ours [...] will go down in the history of architecture as 'the Age of Steel and Concrete'."

Though Gregory's stylistic revivalism left his work looking hopelessly out of date by the 1960's - and vulnerable, therefore, to the renovation and redesign that have affected many of his designs, his contribution has nevertheless been recognized, by the recent statutory listing by the Environment service of his churches at Somerton Road, Cregagh Road, and Dominican College, Belfast, Aghallon, Coleraine, Tullyallen, Drumaness, Ederney, Portstewart, and Garron Tower.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

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