In 1888 Rev. Hugh Behan became parish priest of Trim. He enlarged the parochial house with a porch and wing and made preparations for the erection of a new church in Trim. The old church was dedicated to St. Mary. Trim was the county capital at the time. Trim was affected by the Parnellite split and Rev. Behan was promoted to Tullamore in 1893. Rev. Behan’s successor, Rev. Philip Callery, resumed the work of erecting the new church but was to be promoted to Tullamore in 1899 when the new church was nearing completion. By June 1898, £9,000 had been paid to Mr Nolan of Monaghan, the contractor, and £450 to Mr Hague. Another £4,000 was required to make it ready for worship. The estimate cost of the church was £16,000 but the final cost was £22,000, an increase caused by changes in the plan and in the materials used. Fundraising included grand variety performances and bazaars. A large number of parishioners subscribed to the church as did the priests and people of the diocese and beyond. Rev. Michael Woods then became parish priest of Trim and the church was completed and dedicated. Fr. Woods died in 1920 and was buried in the church grounds.
The foundation stone for St. Patrick’s Church was laid by Dr. Nulty, the Bishop of Meath in 1891 with Dr. O’Donnell of Raphoe being the preacher. The original contract was for £14,000. In the recess underneath the stone were placed some scapulars, medals, current coins and a scroll giving the history of the foundation and an account of the ceremony. Fr Behan announced after the ceremony that he had already £547.7.6 (that’s seven shillings and six pence) towards the building, and a further £303 was subscribed that day
The building was designed by William Hague in French Gothic style with the original contract price of £14,000. William Hague (1836–1899) was a well-known Irish ecclesiastical architect active throughout mid- to late-nineteenth-century Ireland. He is known as a protégé of Pugin. Born in Cavan, Hague was a prominent church architect with his offices in Westland Row. Amongst his most prominent works are the churches in Ballybay, Kingscourt, and the Archbishop’s Palace in Drumcondra, Dublin. Other works included the spire and tower of College Chapel, St Patrick’s, Maynooth as well as the interior. The firm of WH Byrne was chosen to continue the work in Trim when Mr Hague died.
The Church has been described as “a large ambitious cruciform church, not without grandeur.” The large tower and spire are located on the axis of the nave across the entrance gable. The outer masonry is of square-cut limestone obtained from Ardbraccan, Ross and Scurlogstown quarries. The interior is large and impressive with a busy cross-braced hammerbeam roof. The chancel arch stands on pink granite collonnettes and is elaborately decorated with Celtic-cum-Art-Nouvou mosaic.
The High altar and reredos was by Pearse & Sons (head of the firm being Padraig Pearse’s father. Padraig Pearse attended an aeriocht in the gournds of Trim castle in 1902). The frontal consists of three panels in white marble – the Sacrifice of Abel, the Sacrifice of Abraham and the Sacrifice of Melchizedek. The reredos consists of a marble statue of St Patrick under a marble canopy followed by high reliefs, The Nativity and The Transfiguration, a large brass crucifix, highly chased and moulded; then high reliefs of The Resurrection and The Ascension (with a marble statue of St Brigid under the marble canopy).
The sanctuary mosaics are the work of Messrs. Oppenheimer of Manchester, the pattern was taken from photographs of the Book of Kells. The Celtic designs and motifs are beautifully worked. A small entry in the account book gives us their source: ‘To Mr Lawrence, photographer, six shillings for photographs from the Book of Kells, as patterns for the Sanctuary’. At the centre of these designs is a small mosaic picture of a boat. Pope Celestine is at the helm, the sails are wind-filled and St Patrick and his companions look towards the Western Isle. The mosaics at back and sides of the sanctuary depict instruments of the Passion of Our Saviour – the scourge, crown of thorns, the seamless garment and pair of dice, sponge, reed and spear. At the front of one of the steps is a quotation from the Book of Armagh, attributed to St Patrick: ‘Ut Christiani ita ut Romani sitis’ (‘As you are Christians be ye also Romans’).
The mosaic work in the sanctuary shows two intentional ‘mistakes’. On the sanctuary floor there are mosaics of the 12 apostles, six on either side. St Peter on the left side has five fingers and a thumb on his raised hand. On the rear wall the golden tree on the right side has a leaf out of place, as if falling, and out of symmetry with the golden tree on the left. It was the craftsman’s way of saying this mosaic is by a mere human, not the Divine Artist.
The Sacred Heart Altar, with statue and reliefs, was created by G. Smyth, Brunswick Street, Dublin. The panel on the left is Jesus with the children. The panel on the right is Jesus with the sick and poor. Our Lady’s Altar is, also, by Smyth of Dublin. The left panel depicts the Annunciation; the right panel, the Coronation of Our Lady.
The Sanctuary window and gallery window are by Hardman of Birmingham, England. Most of the seats were made by a Mr Beakey, some made by Mr McAdory (Dundalk). All the stone carvings outside were by Mr P. Troy. The Stations of the Cross were imported from France by Gills of Dublin. The Organ was by G. Benson.
The St Patrick window and the window of Our Lady of Trim (both of amazing detail and colour) are by Mayer of Munich. In the side lights of the window are representations of the sick and handicapped who came on pilgrimage to the statue. In the lower portion of the window Cromwell’s soldiers are shown blowing up the Yellow Steeple with their cannon. The window was presented as a memorial to the late Thomas Kennedy, of Kennedy’s Mills, Trim. Kennedy was also a large landowner, holding 417 acres. Franz Mayer & Co. (Mayer & Co. of Munich) is a German stained glass design and manufacturing company, based in Munich, Germany, that has been active throughout most of the world for over 150 years. The firm was very popular during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and was the principal provider of stained glass to the large Roman Catholic churches that were constructed throughout the world during that period. Franz Mayer and Co. were stained glass artists to the Holy See and consequently were popular with Roman Catholic clients. The Mayer Co. is responsible for stained glass in at least ten of Ireland’s Cathedral churches.
All the woodwork and doors were by Andy Gogarty & Sons. His masterpiece must be the organ gallery and its supports. The sanctuary lamp of silver was the gift of Rev. John Martin P.P., Ballivor.
The church was dedicated to St. Patrick on the 12th October 1902 by Bishop Gaffney. Pontifical High Mass was celebrated by Dr. Hoare, Bishop of Ardagh and Cardinal Logue presided. The sermon was preached by Very Rev. Antonius Keane D.D., O.P. Special trains were put on to bring the congregation to Trim. Contributions on the day reached the grand total of £1200. At nightfall there was a fireworks display at the Wellington Monument. The church still had to be completed and it was from Christmas that year that Mass was said in the new church. In December 1903 Fr. Woods addressed the parishioners and thanked them for their wonderful generosity and great piety. The outstanding £8000 owed on the church had been paid off within the four years he had been in the parish – a rate of £2000 a year.
Further details from Fr. Andrew Farrell’s book ‘St Patrick’s Church, Trim, Co. Meath, 1902-1996 – Its History and Features’.