The Church of St. Peter & Paul’s Balbriggan is known for its beautiful collection of stained glass windows by Harry Clarke Studios. The Church also houses two exceptional original stained-glass windows designed and created by Clarke’s own hand, The Visitation and The Widow’s Son.
Born on St Patrick’s Day 1889, Harry Clarke is now recognised internationally as a genius of his age, his work being analogous with that of his friends, W.B. Yeats and George Russell (AE). Clarke worked intensely at his art, as if conscious that death would overtake him at an early age. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and suffered from poor health for most of his life. During his short life, Harry Clarke created over 160 stained glass windows for religious and commercial commissions. His work can be found throughout Ireland and England as well as the USA and Australia.
Both Balbriggan windows, The Visitation and The Widow’s Son were commissioned in 1923 by Canon Byrne at the cost of £116, the equivalent of £6000 today.
The Visitation, situated on the south wall, to the right of the altar, this two-light window ranks among Clarke’s best works. It depicts Mary’s visit to her cousin Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. At first glance, the window seems a delicate collage of finely cut jewels, lace and silk, set on a white-gold background, the slender, elongated figures dressed predominantly in blue and gold. Clarke won a silver medal for the cartoons of The Visitation at the art exhibition held as part of the Aonach Tailteann Games, the Irish Free State answer to the Olympics, held in August 1924.
The Widow’s Son is a two-light window placed to the left of the altar depicts the Biblical story of the widow from Nain and her only son. The widow stands over her son who has just been raised from the dead by Jesus, seen on the right in front of a crowd of disciples, wearing dark ruby robes. Two delicate predella panels (in the lower section of the window) also depict a resurrection theme.