In November 1972 the first replacement church of St. MacNissi, in the parish of Drummaul, was dedicated. The latest replacement church of St. MacNissis is dedicated twenty seven years from its predecessor. The new building is quite different from its predecessor. The external appearance of the building is dominated by the slate roof and basalt stone walls with reconstituted stone trims. This is a building that speaks of eternal and archetypal values. The cross on the entrance gable is a copy of those on the old church building nearby. The cross on the opposite gable is modern and complements it symbolising progression from old to new.
The entrance hall is designed to be large and welcoming. It also reminds us of the commitment we make to Christ every time we enter a church. The entrance gable is deliberately separated from the main building to emphasise that we cross a threshold of hope. This is reinforced by the pattern in the floor where a strip of blue floor tiles suggests water. The rest of the floor contains mosaic patterns, focused on the baptismal font. They represent tongues of fire and streaks of water, symbols of rebirth in Baptism. If you look high up at the ceiling you will see an image of the Holy Spirit in a circular stained glass window. This is the same Holy Spirit who descended as a dove on Christ at His own baptism.
The Altar Furniture
The altar, ambo and chair are carved from single blocks of Portuguese limestone (which is composed of fossilised sea shells). The stone was chosen for its colour, a sympathetic cream, which lends an effulgent quality to the sanctuary area.
These three elements are conceived as single integral forms that relate to the space in which they are placed and to each other by careful juxtaposition. The challenge was to do this while addressing the liturgical requirements of the sanctuary and to create pleasing sculptural forms. The only decorative device is on the altar, around the square sides of which is deeply inscribed:
QVAE GESTA RANT - (they told) what happened
IN VIA ET QVO MODO - on the road and how
COGNOVERVNT EVM - they had recognised him
IN FRACTIONE PANIS - in the breaking of bread
Directly above the altar hangs the crucifix and on either side of the sanctuary are the evangelarium, the place for scripture, and the mortuary space. The evangelarium reminds us of the value of the Word of God and how precious it was considered to be by the early Church. The mortuary space provides a dignified area for the temporary location of the remains of loved ones. The gates depict water, fire and the baptismal font recollecting our dying and rising with Christ in Christian Baptism. Behind the sanctuary the tabernacle can be seen. It is located in its own Blessed Sacrament chapel the scale of which is intimate in order to facilitate and foster personal devotion.
As you enter the main body of the church you are confronted by the glorious Kilkenny limestone baptismal. Its scale and form are conceived such that the importance of this first sacrament cannot be underestimated. The font sits in a baptistery space, delineated by the glazed entrance screen, floor pattern and canopy above. This canopy contains a mosaic of a star which banishes the darkness and recalls the advent of Christ.
As you enter the church you find to either side of the baptismal font the candal stands with the bronze statues of Jesus and Mary the Mother of God.
Stained Glass Windows
The theme for the principal windows in the church is based on the Resurrection and the several experiences of the presence of Christ in the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The windows reflect the change of mood in the disciples after the desolation of Good Friday, and the new purpose and confidence with which they went out to begin the work of the Church. The 14 main windows are, therefore, in a sense, the "Stations of the Resurrection".
The Risen Christ
Christ is shown transmogrifying from death into life, in a form and time alien to us, but real nevertheless. The cross on which he was crucified has metamorphised into 'The Tree of Life', richly bearing many fruits. The broken tomb on the left, signifying his victory over death, is protected by an angel, and the translation of the inscription reads "He who sees me, sees the Father". Sleeping sentries on the right-hand side fail to witness this event. The mandorla which surrounds Christ emphasises his resurrection.
The Empty Tomb
The bleakly empty tomb, save for the shroud, defines the feeling of loss by the disciples by the death of their friend and mentor. Silhouetted by the early morning sun, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome hurry to anoint the Body. The light that enters the tomb projects a hope greater than they had ever known.
The Empty Tomb Confusion
Confused by the empty tomb, the presence of an angel offers them a sense of hope and reassurance - the increased light behind them emphasises this belief.
Message that 'He is Risen'
Simon Peter, receiving the message that 'He is Risen' from Mary Magdalene, rushes to the tomb with a companion. Suspending his disbelief, he expects to see his Master. In the gloom of the tomb, he handles the shroud with obvious despondency; his doubts, previously indicated in Gethsemane, are virtually confirmed. Yet the beam of light which shines in over his companion into the tomb, indicates hope.
Magdalene, lonely and helpless at the loss of the One who forgave her for her previous lifestyle, felt utter despair. Suddenly Christ revealed himself, and she cried 'Teacher'. Rushing to embrace him, he said gently 'Do not touch me' (Noli me tangere).
Small Stained Glass Windows
Simon Peter - the Keys of the Kingdom, boat, anchor and cock, symbolise the elements of Peter and the faith Jesus invested in him.
The disciples, still full of anxiety, unconvinced that the hope that Jesus had risen could overcome the fear of their human enemies, met in secret. Yet their Lord came to them with the word of peace; no doors or locks could keep him out.
Thomas, always a pessimist - not so much a doubter or sceptic but one who could not believe that the future held much good. Insisting on personally seeing and touching the Risen Christ, his faith was great.
Joining two disciples on the road to Emmaus and they having failed to recognise him, invited him, as the hour was late, to eat with them. Only when he blessed the bread did they understand who he was and their dawning enlightenment is shown in their faces.
He stood on the shore at Galilee, observing the disciples fishing, but they failed to recognise him. Returning to shore, they found a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread, and then they realised that he had been there.
The human family of Jesus did not at first understand who he was - perhaps a political fomenter, or perhaps even mad! James, called the brother of the Lord, was changed by his experience of the Risen Christ and became a devout believer and leader of the Church in Jerusalem.
1 Corinthians 15:7
The 500 witnesses - unnamed in the New Testament, they gathered for worship whenever he appeared, or broke into the working day. Depicted here in a contemporary context to show the continuing relevance of Christ in our lives, there is a discreet reference to local history contained in this window.
1 Corinthians 15:6
Ascension - 'As he was blessing them, he disappeared and ascended up to heaven'. Angels greet his entry, as the congregated disciples watch, full of hope and joy, in that they knew he was alive, and that they would see him again. Two angels stand to one side, reminding the disciples that there is work to be done on earth with confidence and joy.
Saul, the ruthless persecutor of the Christians, was struck down from his horse while travelling to Damascus, by the appearance of the Risen Christ. Rendered as helpless as a new-born child, he was transformed in his attitude and the light in the background moves from the agitated to the calm, indicating the spread of the word of salvation.
1 Corinthians 15: 8-10.