Ballinora Heritage Trail – 1 – Church

1 – CHURCH

A good place to start our journey is at the front door of our recently refurbished church. Imagine our parish priest Fr. Declan Mansfield standing there with you. It is Sunday just after midday, he is still dressed in his full Mass attire, chatting with members of his congregation, who are making their way home for Sunday dinner, just like all our ancestors who equally made their way home for Sunday dinner in those years following 1821 when the church was built. (This Church replaced one built on a ledge half way down the steep hill known as “Boithrin an tSeipeil – church road). It has magnificent glass paintings on the windows behind the altar, all done around 1860 for the Glory of God. On the left is the last supper in great detail. On the right is the Immaculate conception, and directly behind the altar, up high, is a wonderful painting of the garden called Gethsemane, where his disciples fell asleep, and where Judas the traitor betrayed Jesus. That same message faces us today, as it faced the congregations away back, 155 years ago, as it will face the people who will attend 155 years to come. A rather unique feature is the Stations of the Cross. They are oil paintings, projecting a dark mood, showing us the horrendous sufferings of Jesus Christ, but a little light is there in every one, to keep our hope alive, until we get to the 15th station, where he is recognised at the breaking of bread, even though HE had been explaining everything as he walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Another amazing feature is the grave of Fr. Michael Prior who died suddenly in the churchyard in 1847, with the famine raging. He had been attending an old lady who lived in a hut opposite the church. Railings are around his grave to this day. Equally amazing and wonderful to have is the tablet of marble in memory of Rev. Canon Mc Carthy who was parish priest from 1889 to September 1901. It states clearly, he had a noble character, distinguished ability, an untiring zeal, and his love of the poor won the admiration of his parishioners. The people of Ballinora and Ballincollig placed this tablet of marble in his honour, above the side door on the left as you walk up the church. That speaks volumes for the people of Ballinora and Ballincollig. In 1986 Ballinora was decreed a parish in its own right and the is now known as the Church of St James. In 2010 it was refurbished and re- dedicated by Bishop John Buckley.