Artist's stained glass windows graced churches in Ireland and beyond


Patrick Pollen:PATRICK POLLEN, the stained glass artist, has died at the age of 82.

His work can be seen in many Irish churches including Galway cathedral, where besides some of the windows, he did the mosaic of St Joseph the Worker; six windows in Ballinteer Roman Catholic Church; and in Christ Church Cathedral, the memorial window to Catherine O’Brien.

One of his most important works are the windows for the new church at Murlog, Lifford, Co Donegal, that had been designed by Liam McCormick. There are two facing walls cleverly arranged so that the stained glass of St Patrick’s Breastplate looks like an unfolding screen. The Stations of the Cross were made by his wife, the sculptor Nell Murphy.

Pollen was born in London. His father was a sculptor and his great grandfather was John Hungerford Pollen, who was ordained as an Anglican priest but became a Catholic convert. He was a decorative artist and amateur architect and on the request of Cardinal Newman became professor of fine arts at the Catholic University of Ireland.

There, he designed and decorated University Church on St Stephen’s Green in the Byzantine revival style embellished with different Irish marbles.

Pollen’s mother was the daughter of the third Lord Revelstoke, who had bought Lambay Island in 1904 and employed Edwin Lutyens as the architect to remodel the castle into one of the most remarkable houses in Ireland.

Patrick Pollen went to Ampleforth, the Roman Catholic public school, and, after military service, spent two years at the Slade and then for a period worked at the Académie Julian in Paris where he was greatly excited by the glass in Notre Dame cathedral.

In 1952, he saw Evie Hone’s great nine-light Crucifixion and Last Supper window soon after it had been installed in Eton College chapel, and such was the effect on him that he was determined to come to Dublin to learn more of the art of stained glass from her.

On her advice, he rented a small area off the larger studio from the stained glass artist Catherine O’Brien, who now owned An Túr Gloine or The Tower of Glass in Upper Pembroke Street.

An Túr had been, until 1944, a co-operative workshop for stained glass, mosaics and other related crafts founded by Sarah Purser and Edward Martyn in 1903.

Pollen worked under the supervision of Evie Hone, by whom he was profoundly influenced, adopting many of her techniques and mannerisms in his early work. When she died in 1955, she left him her brushes.

He received various commissions such as a window in a private chapel in the Brompton Oratory (that had been decorated by his great-grandfather), three windows for a chapel at Whitchurch near Chester and the crypt window for Roslyn chapel in Scotland.

In 1957, he was given a large commission, which took two years to complete, for the windows of the new Cathedral of Christ the King in Johannesburg. There were 32 windows, with eight panels in the sanctuary and 24 on the clerestory. It was executed in Dublin and then shipped in 39 boxes to South Africa to be assembled.

Bishop Boyle wrote: “Mr Patrick Pollen has given us not only beautiful windows but also matter for beautiful thoughts on the principle mysteries of our religion.”

Pollen was good at Christian iconography and his faith was always important to him. He was much distressed when the Tridentine Mass was no longer said – after the ban was lifted he would attend the Mass as often as possible.

The Tower of Glass was destroyed by fire in the 1950s and after Catherine O’Brien had died he gave all the papers and drawings that survived from the co-operative to the National Gallery. Later he was to have an art studio in Dundrum, where he was very generous with its use to other artists.

However, after Vatican II, the architecture of churches changed and much less stained glass was used as an enhancement to the buildings.

He received fewer commissions and in the 1980s he left Ireland with his wife and five children to settle in Winston-Salem in North Carolina. But it was not a financial success as he got little work and returned to Ireland.

He spent time on Lambay Island, which he had always loved and where he had done the beautiful east window in the chapel, before moving for his last years to Wexford.

He is survived by his wife Nell,daughter Brid and sons Peter, Ciaran, Laurence and Christopher.

Patrick Laprimaudaye Pollen: born January, 12th 1928; died November 30th, 2010