A detailed description of St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe
St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe, stands at the eastern end of the town, on the bank of the river Suck, a tributary of the Shannon. It is built from designs by Mr. J. J. McCarthy. The plans had the additional advantage of being revised by the late Mr. A. W. M. Pugin, and the mention of two such names affords a sufficient guarantee of the ecclesiastical character of the building.
The design is one which is not uncommon at present. It includes a nave, chancel, two aisles, an apse at the eastern end, and lateral chapels, one of which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and the other to St. John the Baptist. The style of architecture is early English, of the decorative period. The extreme length of the nave, including the chancel, is 150 feet, and its width, including the aisles, is 60 feet. The building is lofty, probably 60 feet from the floor to the reach.
The aisles are separated from the nave by stone pillars, from which spring arches, also of cut stone. The chancel, the chapels, and sacristy are tiled in appropriate patterns, and the high altar of rich marble was that day consecrated with the Church. The roof is an open one; and the openings formed by the structural timbers of the line and purloins have been filled up with panel work of various patterns. There is one feature particularly deserving of notice, and that is the large chancel arch separating the nave from the chancel, which runs to the height of about 45 feet. The tower and spire is about 195 feet high from the ground. The work generally is of the most solid description. The area of the Church has been almost entirely enclosed by an iron paling of suitable design.
In the apse there is a stained glass window, the architectural character of which may be said to be borrowed from the neighbouring ruin of a Franciscan convent at Kilconnell. The fundamental lines are exactly the same. The window is indebted for much of its effect to the artistic and elegant designs of Mr. F. S. Barff, carried out to the entire satisfaction of those who entrusted him with the commission. The Church is dedicated to St. Michael, the Archangel, and the Scriptural incidents connected with him, such as the expulsion of Satan from heaven, after the design of Michelangelo, and the blowing of the last trumpet, are naturally prominent in the design. In the same line of lights are figures of St. Gabriel announcing the Incarnation to Our Lady, and of the angel Raphael, upon his journey with Tobias. In the lower line of lights are the Saints for whom there is the greatest veneration in the diocese of Clonfert—St. Patrick, the Apostle of the Country; St. Brendan, patron of the diocese; St. Brigid, patroness of the Country, and St. Dympna, a royal virgin, martyred at Gale, near Antwerp. The head of the window contains, in its most prominent light, a picture of Our Lady in Glory, and in the two adjacent compartments, are figures of venerating angels—one bearing a crown, and the other a sceptre. Such is the graceful structure, and tasteful ornamentation of the beautiful Church, to the erection of which, the faithful people of the district have contributed from their humble means, and that for several years, and which now stands a noble monument of their generosity and their faith.
Source: Cardinal Wiseman’s visit to Ballinasloe, possibly published to commemmorate the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of St Michael's Church, with some minor additions.