The Rower Church – High on a Hill
(10.8 km from Inistioge via R700)
The Rower Church is one of three churches in the parish of Inistioge. Dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary it stands proudly on the top of ‘Stripes’. The term ‘The Rower’ is of disputed origin. Some suggest that the name originates from the red coloured clay that was in the river basin nearby, but it is much more likely to refer to the place where floodwaters or tidal waters meet fresh water. The Irish for “The Rower” is “An Robhar”. and the Irish term “robhar” means flood or torrent.
The Rower Church was built in the early nineteenth century replacing an earlier structure that, according to Canon Carrigan’s History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory was burned in 1798. Ten years earlier on the 15th June 1788 Fr. William Carroll, who was then administrator of the parish(and later PP Inistioge), gave a list of the “Ornaments belonging to the Roar chapel” to the Bishop of Ossory, John Dunne, who was then conducting a survey of the diocese. Fr. Carroll returned the following:
“1st. One silver chalice, two vestments, one white one spotted with silk flowers given by the aunt of Mrs. Bolger, the other green, one Alb and Amice, two altar cloths, a stone, two corporals, two towels and an old missile, to all which I promise to super-add every similar article I may be possessed of at the hour of my death provided I die in the parish”
This description would indicate a well-stocked sacristy and active church, a church that was probably in existence at least from the 1750’s. No trace of the older church remains and there is no record as to its location. Popular belief is that it was on the site of the present graveyard – grave diggers speak of what appear to be foundations while opening a grave some years ago.
The new church was built and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1817. The dedication stone on the church indicates 1817. The church indicates 1816. The church itself is of traditional shape: a centre nave with two side isles – the side isles still traditionally referred to as the ‘men’s side’ and the ‘the women’s side’.
Extensive work was carried out to the church in 1916 at the cost of £2732. A detailed contract with Hearne Builders in Waterford is in the archive of the parish.
There is no mention of work to the sanctuary. The bell tower was added at this time – no tower, which would have been a sign of the emerging church of the early 19th Century, would have been built in the sensitive years before Catholic Emancipation in 1829.
Further renovations took place in 2007. The sanctuary was re-ordered using the old material of the earlier church. The altar is a beautiful marble altar and has been in the church for many decades. Originally in the traditional location of the high altar the altar table and front façade was brought forward in the renovations of the 1980s to facilitate the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council. The reredos was recorded in the work of 2007 and is in keeping with earlier photographs of the pre-Vatican II arrangements. According to the inscription, the altar was the gift of Mr and Mrs William Howlett, Creywell Cottage, New Ross. The two windows in the sanctuary were also donated by Mr and Mrs Howlett.
During 2007 renovations a series of stained-glass windows were received from the parish of Rathdowney. Nine new windows came from the church in Grogan and had been placed in storage when the church in Erril was built in the early 1970s. They depict the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), St Kieran, St Brigid, St Peter and St. Paul.
The ninth window is a beautiful depiction of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady and is in the tower watching with care over the surrounding countryside. The stained-glass windows come from the Watson Studios in Youghal – as do the stained-glass windows in Inistioge Church. The windows were commissioned in 1917 at a variety of costs: St. Paul at a cost of £31.5s, St. Canice at a cost of £15.10s and Murillo’s Immaculate Conception at a cost of £50.
At this time also the baptismal font was re-sited near the sanctuary area. It was restored in that year in memory of the late Matthew Crotty who was foreman on the work of 1916. The renovation work in 2007 was enabled by a significant donation from Andrew Crotty, son of Matthew and Mamie.
In 2016 marble was sourced from Carrera, Italy, and installed in the sanctuary.