Belfast St Dominic’s Convent
About St Dominic’s Convent
St Dominic’s Convent was designed by the architect Byrne, the same one of St Mary’s College next door. The Dominican Sisters moved in here in March 1870. Major restoration work is going on to part of the building as well as to the school.
Just inside the main entrance here is this first painting. There are several others throughout the building all depicting Dominican Saints. In the main corridor is this beautiful stain glass window made by Evie Hone of Dublin. This was made in 1948 and shows St Dominic with several other saints paying homage to Mary. The Bishop’s mitre on the ground is significant of St Dominic refusing the position of Bishop.
This next stain glass window was presented in 2001 to the Nuns on behalf of the staff of St Dominic’s School. The contemporary designs and rich colours include a figure of St Dominic shown above an illustration of this building and the convent’s motto.
Before building got under way a large supply of Pitch pine wood was bought up. Since it’s an imported product the builders got it a good price. It has been used throughout and is widely seen as one of the wonders of this building.
One of the entrances to the chapel is through the corridor while another one for the school is located at the other end of the building. This was completed in 1931 so quite a modern addition to the rest. Noticeably though, the design has been in keeping with the whole complex. The art work within these walls are among the finest in the country.
The central nave is currently filled with benches from the chapel around the corner but this was not always so. A metal plaque on this first one here is dedicated to all those who provided donations for these seats and it asks to pray for them. The sisters would have sat on the original seats along either side while others took it turn to read from a central podium.
One magnificent feature of the benches are these carvings on the ends. Each one is different and represents all manners of religious symbols and artefacts. Dates and numbers again correspond to religious events or Holy days.
The most fascinating art work is this Rose Window by the internationally renowned artist Harry Clarke, born 1889 in Dublin and died 1931 in Switzerland. His work was influenced by both the passing Art Nouveau and coming Art Deco movements and it’s said that he took great interest in the French Symbolist movement.
Before the altar are two marble statues. They were sent over from Italy. Along the bottom of the pedestal are the words “Pray for the architects of these chapels”.
The fine mosaics on the floor are sadly in a irrevocable and vulnerable state. They may not appear to be damaged but in fact are. They have taken a lot of pressure over the years from the school pupils and choirs with heavy instruments making their mark. A recent report merely suggested that people should avoid walking on it.
In the middle are the three mottos of the Dominican Order: Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare, meaning: To praise, to bless and to preach; Veritas relates to Truth.
In one corner is this fine example of a wooden lectern.
Another great artist to leave his mark here was Gabriel Loire. He was a French stained glass artist of the twentieth century. Apparently, he never finished his apprenticeship and was forced not to produce anything for at least 10 years. During this period he worked on mosaics and when the time passed he commenced once again with stain glass. He choose to work with shades of blue because they represented to him the colour of peace. These windows around the altar combine those colours with the mosaic styled shapes he worked with in the intervening years.
The last work of art adorn the small wall and gate across the top of the side nave. These fabulous marble sculptures number 12 in all. There is no specific reason why there are 12 and each one simply represents a Dominican saint or Blessed. The religious motifs are symbolic of their lives or teachings and have quite diverse stories to tell.