The Oratory in Dún Laoghaire is the epitome of a hidden gem. Most people haven’t a clue where it is, tucked behind the Bloomfield shopping centre and accessed by Library Road.
The Oratory is open to the public for free guided tours as part of the wonderful Spring into Heritage series. Built in 1919, the Oratory is the only surviving part of the Dominican Sisters Convent at the former site of Echo House, which was demolished to make way for the shopping centre and cinema.
Sister Concepta Lynch decorated the Oratory between 1920 and 1936 with some of the most stunning and vibrant Celtic revival art to be found anywhere in the country. It has been likened to Ireland’s hidden Sistine Chapel, and the Book of Kells is an obvious reference point, but Sister Lynch was a true blue original and a radical.
Despite its tiny size, the walls are alive with Celtic designs and zoomorphic animals and birds. My personal favourite is these two smiling creatures (above), revealing a playful sense of humour. Sister Concepta pushed the boat out and recognised no boundaries. If that wasn’t enough, the stained glass windows by the Harry Clarke studio are also stunning.
The Oratory is open for free tours on Saturdays and Wednesdays until the end of May at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm. It will be closed for a few weeks, but will re-open for the Summer of Heritage programme. Do check out one of Ireland’s greatest hidden treasures.