St. Mary’s Church, Killenaule, is one of the finest churches in rural Ireland. It is built in the Gothic Style of architecture and is built from excellent quality limestone taken from the quarries of Burnchurch and St. Johnstown. The church was built by Mr. McCarthy of Dublin and most of the work was done by manual labour.
One of the most attractive features of Killenaule Church is the stain-glass window over the altar. It was installed by Clarkes of Youghal in 1848 and is said to be the largest stain-glass window in the country. It is six inches bigger than that of the Cathedral in Armagh. This, and the other windows in the church are dedicated to St. Patrick, St. Bridgid, The Annunciation and many other saints. The window over the main entrance is dedicated to the Asssumption of B.V.M. and was erected by Canon Kelly. The roof of the church is of pitch pine which had to be imported from America. The pulpit was carved by William Pearse, one of the signatories of the 1916 ‘Proclamation of the Irish Republic’.
The Sanctuary consists of four altars, three of which are made of very fine marbles. On the floor of the sanctuary are mosaic patterns of flowers and religious symbols. Before the altar of the Blessed Virgin is the grave of Rev. Martin Laffan who built the church in which he is buried. On the other side before the Sacred Heart Altar is the grave of John Molumby who built the Parochial House in Killenaule at the cost of £2,500. John Molumby was native of Moycarkey and was in Killenaule from 1875-87. The Baptismal font is Gothic in style and was the baptismal place of Archbishop Thomas Morris, who is a native of the parish of Killenaule. The font was in a side porch in the church before renovations took place and it was then moved up to near the Sanctuary.
The most attractive and artistic features of Killenaule church are its Altars. They are inlaid of the most precious marbles of different shades and colours, cut into small pieces and so exactly fitted together that the casual observer is cheated into belief that they all in one piece. The marbles were purchased in Dublin. The statue of the Sacred Heart was donated by Mary Cormack, Killenaule, as it says ion the plaque in the church.
The High Altar is the most beautiful of all the altars in Killenaule. It was erected in 1890 when Rev. William Jones was in Killenaule. The High Altar was donated by Mary Guilfoyle who is buried in the adjoining cemetery. An inscription was donated by Mary Guilfoyle ‘puella Migra hatalis amans corde respexit, morte fedelis pie legavit aktare pulchrum, R.I.P. Anne MDCCXC’ which in English means ‘Mary Guilfoyle, girl who migrated, loving from birth’.
The High Altar was built to hold the Tabernacle on which it is crowned. It is lined with silk and the door is made of brass. Six large candlesticks are set up beside it. On the front are carvings of the paschal lamb and beside this, letters of the Greek alphabet. In 1970, Canon Hogan did extensive repairs to the church. The two side porches were taken down as well as the gallery and the front porch. A new front porch was installed as well as two confession boxes. New pews were added to the men’s and women’s aisles. The altar rails were taken away, the doors of the church were painted and varnished.
The bell in Killenaule has a fine tone and was cast by Matthew O’Brien, the well known bell-founder for over a century.
The church in Killenaule was built when Fr. Laffan was P.P. and it cost £9500 to construct. The foundation stone was laid in 1859 and the church was dedicated in 1865 by Archbishop Leahy. The church was consecrated by Archbishop Kinnane, who was assisted by Archbishoop Thomas Morris, who was then secretary to Dr. Kinnane.
A Mr. J.J. McCarthy, Dublin, Who was in the building of the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles, was also involved in the building of St. Mary’s Church.
According to Fr. Walter Skehan, Mr. McCarrthy was a great admirer of Pugin, who was a very famous architect. It is said that McCarthy was a pupil of his. The stone used in the building came from the quarries at Burnchurch and |St. Johnstown; the sand used came from Monslatt. The timber is pitch pine and had to be imported from America. The slates used were Blue Bangor. The main window of the church is one of the finest in the country, as we can see. Most of the work was done by direct labour. Among the families who took part in the construction work were the Dunnes of Ballynonty, Philip McOlive, Ballingarry and the Smith Family of Ballyluskey, whose descendants are still living.
-The History & Folklore of Killenaule/Moyglass 1990