Salthill Church, a brief history

A meeting of the residents of the Salthill area was held in the Pavilion Ballroom in June 1934 for the purposes of considering the necessity of erecting a church in Salthill. They unanimously expressed the urgency of building one to cater for the religious needs of about 300 families representing approximately 400 residents and a large number of summer visitors. At that time there were about 200 families from the Bishop’s Gate to Rockbarton and there was provision made for the building of close on 100 houses.

At the meeting Mr Jas Cremin said that Salthill required a moral influence and a church would provide that. Canon Nestor said a church would attract many people to Salthill, especially old people and invalids who would be sent by doctors. Canon Davis suggested the placing of collection boxes in hotels and lodging houses in the district.

The site (known as Monksfield ) was donated free of charge by the Christian Brothers and it was blessed on December 17 1934. The first sod was turned by Monsignor Considine, and the foundation stone was laid by Bishop Doherty on June 16 1935. The first Mass was celebrated there on August 23 1936 and the church was dedicated to Christ the King.

WH Byrne was the architect and Owen Larkin from Ballinasloe was the builder. The style is described as Lombardic Romanesque with a square tower which was 95 feet high and covered with scalloped tiles. The front was ornamented with a circular headed doorway carried out in carved limestone and containing a mosaic of Christ the King in the tympanum above the door. Above that again is a rose window. The church was cruciform in shape and consisted of a nave, transepts, and sanctuary surmounted in the centre with an octagonal dome, lighted with eight circular headed windows and carried on pedentives. The nave and transepts were covered with barrel vaults, the piers supporting these being ornamented with rope mouldings and foliated capitals.

The church was 142 feet long and 82 feet wide. The marble work was done by Irish Marble Industries of Merlin Park, James Stewart & Sons from Lower Salthill made the seats and the confessionals, and the electric lighting was carried out under the supervision of Mr Ryan of UCG. The three altars were by Michael Scott, and there is a beautiful crucifix by Clare Sheridan and a fine sculpture of the Blessed Virgin by Oisín Kelly.

Canon Davis called the church “A gem set in incomparable surroundings”. In the late 1960s major additions were built on to the building, giving it the square format it has today, and while this was being done, Mass was celebrated in the restaurant on the ground floor of Seapoint.

Canon Peter Davis was the parish priest until November 1952 when Salthill parish was formed. He was followed by Canon John Joe Hyland (1952 – 1965 ), Monsignor Michael Spelman (1965 – 1991 ), Canon Jack O’Connor (1991 – 2000 ), and Fr Gerry Jennings who has been there since 2000.

The house we see on the left was Mrs Mangan’s and was known as Monksfield House. In the distance on the right you can see Counihan’s and Kelly’s at the top of Dalysfort Road.

Finally, for any of you history buffs who have not yet seen the website centuryirelandrte.ie currently being advertised on RTE, we can highly recommend it. It covers the period 1913 – 1923 in an imaginative and informative way, great images and interesting texts.

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