[From Manx Note Book, vol iii, 1887]

St Bridget's chapel in the Nunnery near Douglas

ST. BRIDGET OF KILDARE, FIRST OF IRISH FEMALE Saints, is said to have received the Veil from St. Patrick when only 14 years old. She was born at Fochard, County Louth, about A.D. 453, but lived usually at Kildare, where in 484 she founded a Nunnery. Tradition has it that she founded the Manx Nunnery early in the following century, that she was buried there, and that her remains were afterwards transferred to Downpatrick, to rest with St. Patrick and St. Columba. It is at least certain that she was a favourite Saint, as there are Churches dedicated to her, not only in Ireland and Scotland, but in England, France and Germany; and in this Island a Parish Church and four of the so-called Treen Chapels are named after her. The prioress of her Nunnery at Douglas was a baroness of the Isle, and held her own Courts temporal and spiritual. The last prioress, Margaret Goodman, married Robert Caldicott, or Calcott, who was comptroller of the Island in 1538. Time and the ravages of man have swept away all the Nunnery buildings except the recently-restored Chapel, which probably owes the preservation of its walls to the fact that it was useful as a store-room and coach-house. The entrance is by a Gothic door-way on the south, and looking east we notice on the right-hand side two windows, one not exactly over the other. This peculiarity shows that the building is an old one, as no recently-built edifice would have windows so placed. The lower window has been left as found, the upper one having been disfigured by alteration has now been restored as nearly as possible to its original Gothic form. The next window on the same side lights the Chancel, and is exceedingly interesting; its worn condition and the style of moulding of the red sandstone attesting to its antiquity. The east window has simply had the centre arm, which was of wood, replaced by one of stone, preserving it exactly in its ancient shape. In the wall, under the chancel window, there are two niches which, together with the recess opposite, were not discovered till the old plaster had been scraped off. The recess nearest to the east is to be utilized as a credence table, it probably having served that purpose before; the other niche has a curious hole in the red sandstone forming the base, which has led to the supposition that it was a piscina; such may have been the case, though no outlet appears, and as a rule care was taken to convey the fluid to the earth. In this hole was found an old glass bottle, and, built into the masonry, a piece of polished bone, possibly a relic. The masonry which filled them both up was of good workmanship, but evidently of a much later date. This also was the case with the recess in the north side; something similar to which may be seen at the Cathedral in Peel Castle. A recumbent figure probably lay in this recess, as, when opened, a bit of broken stone, the shape of part of an arm, was found, no doubt the remains of a statue. In some churches, Easter sepulchures are found in the same position, where the consecrated element lay from Maundy Thursday till Easter morning, and such may have been the purpose of this niche. Next to it and nearer to the east is the piscina; it was evidently originally the holy water stoup, and has been much used, as can be seen by its worn edges. In front of the step leading to the sanctuary and in the centre of the choir is a slab, which can be raised by means of rings, and under a glass, hermetically sealed, lie the bones which were disturbed when the excavations in the present floor were made. One skull and some teeth are very perfect, the teeth especially being marvellously preserved in color. Many skulls were found, but either fell away on exposure to the air or were destroyed by the pickaxes of the workmen. The number of bones found, not only in the chapel but outside and under the stones in the stable yard, proves that there must have been a burial ground surrounding it. It is not easy to decide now what length the chapel formerly was, from the fact that the west gable being joined to the dwelling house it may or may not have been the original termination. The stone pillars which support the wood-work carrying the rood belonged to the cloisters of the ancient Nunnery; though it can be seen from their formation that they originally stood against a wall, and not alone as at present, the backs being plain. The other windows in the building are clerestory and were square; they have been made into Gothic externally with two lights, the original form being retained within the building. The whole of this edifice had formerly a loft over it, underneath being the coach-house, and, from these windows being square, it has been suggested that the upper portion in early times, though of course the loft lately removed was a comparatively modern erection, had been used as a room. The shape of the windows, however, proves nothing, for such clerestory windows are no unusual thing in churches, while the fact that the east window and the large upper window on the south side both run to the roof seems to show that originally the height of the building was that to which it is now restored. The walls of the chapel are undoubtedly the original ones, for the stone work in all cases shows by shape and appearance that it belonged to a sacred edifice, and is of early date. The roof of the building has been left open to the top eaves, the original timber being cased with pitch pine, and arches sprung from corbels add to the effect When the state of the walls allow of ornamentation, color will be added to give a warmer tone than is obtainable at present.



[NOTE—It is expected the chapel will shortly be ready for service, and we understand Major Goldie-Taubman intends to allow the public to attend.—ED.]


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