The Sanctuary


The present sanctuary was refurbished in 2012/2013. The original was designed by Robinson, Keefe and Devane architects Dublin and erected in 1972.The altar, ambo, tabernacle pillar and baptismal font are of Dublin granite and carved by Michael Ryan, Stonecutter.




The Belfry and Spire

The beautiful belfry and imposing spire were added in 1872 as is clear from the stone carving over the main entrance door.

The following report appeared in “The Freeman’s Journal” on the 7th May 1872:
“A meeting of the Parishioners of Gallen and Reynagh was held in Banagher on the 28th April to consider means for raising funds for the completion of the bell tower in course of erection. The sweet toned bell placed in the tower is the gift of Mrs. Armstrong and family of Buenos Aires. The tower is after the design of Mr. William Hague, Architect, Dublin. When the spire is completed the entire cost is estimated at £1,000. Rev. Kieran Egan P.P. presided and Joseph Dolan proposed and Timothy Killen seconded that a subscription list be opened to raise funds for completion of tower.
The list having been opened and generously started Michael Claffey proposed and James Nevin seconded that owing to this respectable start that the good work be continued until a spire is erected on the tower. Proposed by Rev. P. Maguire C.C. seconded by Martin McIntyre: Thanks to Mrs. Armstrong, Sir Patrick O’Beirne M.P., Mr. Sergeant Sherlock M.P. and other subscribers.”
The constant interaction between the Catholic community and clergy in Banagher and the Armstrong family right through the 1 9th century is further demonstrated in a note written by Bishop Woodlock of Ardagh and Clonmacnois on the 5th of October 1890 prior to leaving Highgate Street in London on his way to Paris where he hoped to meet and discuss with Mr. St. George Armstrong the possibility of reviving the Royal School at Cuba which had recently closed, having the church re roofed and an apse (a semi circular recess behind the altar) and sacristy built.
The irony in the decline of the Royal School was that sanction for the appointment of its first Catholic Principal, Patrick King Joyce, B.A. had been given in January 1874 and there was an immediate increase to forty boys attending. But Mr. Joyce resumed his attendance at the Queen’s College, Galway, with a view to obtaining a degree in Medicine and also prepared Catholic students for entrance to that College. He quickly incurred the displeasure of the local clergy and Bishop Conroy let Joyce know in a letter dated January 10th 1877 that he considered “the Queen’s Colleges are not fit places for the education of Catholic youth” and that he had “frequently warned his people against these godless institutions”. Mr. joyce remained on as principal until the school closed early in 1890.
After an inspection by steeple-jacks in 1981, the top of the spire and cross on St. Rynagh’s were deemed to be dangerous and were replaced. At the same time the entire belfry and steeple were sand blasted to remove the ingrained grime of more than a century and reveal again the stonework in all its original beauty. St. Rynagh’s gradually assumed its present appearance, however, between 1959 and 1974 after a number of major structural and decorative alterations which involved the removal of the three galleries, the three marble altars and all the statues, the lengthening of the main aisle, the building of a new sacristy and porches and the provision of a new roof and windows. Today the Church contains the work of some of Ireland’s best known artists.


The Madonna and Child & Adoring Angels

The Madonna and Child carved (1974) in wood and polychromed and artistically called a Mandorla (Italian for almond shaped) is by Imogen Stuart, Berlin born daughter in law of novelist Francis Stuart. The artist said that she wanted this Madonna to be simple, joyful and tender with an atmosphere of intimacy, devotion and quietness something where people can turn to perhaps after coming out of confession …….
Her work in Ireland includes the nine bronze panels on the great west door way of Galway Cathedral, the bronze figure of St. Michael and the dragon over the main door of St. Michael’s Church, Dun Laoghaire, the Stations of the Cross at the magnificently restored Ballintubber Abbey, Co. Mayo, the altar and most of the sanctuary in nearby Lorrha Church and “The Three Children” on the Green, Tyrrelspass, Co. Westmeath.
Beneath the Madonna, on the ground, there is a forged wrought iron flower and candle stand which is the work of an Offaly craftsman, Danny Edwards from Clonfanlough, Clonmacnois. This whole project was funded by the late Miss Nan Egan and her family, Garbally, Banagher.


The Stations of the Cross

The Stations of the Cross (1959) are by Sligo man Bernard McDonagh. He had been painting and studying art in Italy and was greatly influenced at that time by the recently revived fresco technique. One of his best known works is the large mural of Irish Saints in the old restaurant in University College, Cork.


Other Art Work

There is an interesting statue of St. Rynagh over the front door of the Church. Also worth noting is the hand carved wooden figure of Christ on the large crucifix which hangs under the Choir gallery and the commemorative windows on which the following sixteen Irish saints are named and represented symbolically: St. Brigid, St. Columcille, St. Finnian, St. Ethna, St. Aidan, St. Lelia, St. Malachy, St. Laurence, St. Attracta, St. Enda, St. Dympna, St. Kevin, St. Ita, St. Brendan, St. Patrick, St. Mel.
Two windows on either side of the altar have figures which appear to be St. Rynagh, The Sacred Heart, The Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Patrick.


Burial Vaults

The remains of Fr. Kenny who died in 1844 are interred in the sanctuary area between what was originally described as “the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nuns’ Stalls”. The slab over Fr. Kenny’s grave was discovered by Fr. Thomas Fallon C.C. at the time of the erection of a new sanctuary and sanctuary rails in 1935.
The remains of a number of La Sainte Union sisters lie buried in a vault in the churchyard. Their names and dates of their deaths are recorded in stone at the site outside the south west wall of the church.