Manresa’s buildings were a response by architect Andy Devane (Robinson Keefe Devane) to the needs of the Irish Jesuits for a modern retreat house. Best known for his work on the Irish Life Centre, Stephen Court and the Drumcondra DCU (St Patrick’s) campus, Andy Devane’s buildings at Manresa represent a clear expression of the genius of the Limerick-born architect. A one-time student of Frank Lloyd Wright, Devane pioneered new methods and styles in Ireland, now evident in Manresa’s restored chapel which remains a fine example of his ethic and sensitivity. These Dollymount buildings fit in the context of Devane’s oeuvre and in the those of Irish and international twentieth-century architecture.

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Photo: Emma Gilleece

The new retreat house and chapel by Devane was to replace Baymount Castle bought by the Jesuits as a northside retreat in 1948. The intention was to demolish the older building. However, Baymount subsequently was placed on the Protected Structures list after completion of the new retreat house and chapel hence its awkward position to them. Construction of the chapel began in 1966 and was completed speedily to meet its September 1967 deadline when the first retreat guests were due.

Photo: Jesuit Archives of Ireland

Photo: Jesuit Archives of Ireland

The chapel is one of Andy Devane’s many works of liturgical or religious interest in which sensitivity to and awareness of the work of liturgy is evident. His correspondence about the chapel and notes on its construction convey confident understanding of personal and corporate spirituality and professional architectural discipline.

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Photo: Emma Gilleece

The church’s circular plan hugs the curved pews in this beautiful, never-ending form. This flat-roof structure is sliced by a full length clear-glass window where the ends of the spiral meet. White spackled rendered walls which juxtaposes the darkly stained timber ceiling bounce the light off the cork floor which recently had layers of dark varnish removed to reveal its natural warm tone.

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Photo: Emma Gilleece

The placement of the tabernacle was of critical importance to Devane, though opposed by the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. Devane argued against a central placing, insisting that the spiral design of the building called for a more creative response. Devane armed with his knowledge of liturgical principles won in the end and so had the tabernacle was placed to one side of the alter. The tabernacle and crucifix were by Richard Enda King.

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Photo: Emma Gilleece

Whether you are spiritual or not there is something about not being able to see the source of light but watching it fill this room that instils a feeling of wonder as it embraces me.

Emma Gilleece
Architectural Historian

Share