The 'Evie Hone Prayer Room'
The Prayer Room in Manresa was built in 1992 to house five stained glass windows by Evie Hone (1894–1955) which were previously in the Jesuit house at Tullabeg, Rahan, near Tullamore.
Architect Michael Scott, having worked on a public hospital in Tullamore in the 1930s, was appointed by Dónal O’Sullivan SJ to redesign the interior of the chapel of St Stanislaus College, near Tullamore in Rahan. Evie Hone was commissioned to design five windows. Designed and executed in 1945/1946, this was her first independent commission, as the stained glass cooperative – An Túr Gloine - of which she was part had finished in 1944.
The order of execution and installation of the Windows was Nativity and Sacred Heart and Jesuit Saints in 1945 and, in 1946, Pentecost, Last Supper and Beatitudes.
As was envisaged even at their execution, the prospect of moving the Windows arose in 1962 when St Stanislaus College was closed, continued until 1991 as a retreat house. Roderick McCafferty undertook to design a prayer room to accommodate the windows, doing so by using a fan-shaped design with a stepped floor. Recalling how St Ignatius of Loyola composed the Spiritual Exercises while in a cave in Manresa, Catalonia, the architect wrote,
We are not suggesting that the new prayer room is a cave, but is intended to be a special place – a place apart. We consciously separated the building and fitted in a pool so that one could be aware of "crossing over" to a special place. We provided a glass bridge over rippling water so that one is fully aware of the transition. The plan of the building is fan-shaped. The east and west walls are similar in outline to to open hands in supplication with the tips of the fingers linked together with the arcing rainbow of colour that is the window wall. The four windows depicting the life of Christ are sequentially positioned and the fifth – the so-called Jesuit/Sacred Heart window – is separated from the four by a solid panel which contains a small tabernacle.Additions at Manresa house. Irish Architect, November/December 1993
The prayer room was opened on 5 June 1992, blessed by Very Revd Peter Hans Kolvenbach SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus.
Writing of the new setting for the windows, Dr James White, former Director of the National Gallery of Ireland, wrote,
One of the problems about viewing stained glass tends to be the light from sources other than that coming through the windows. The perfect answer to this has been achieved by the Jesuit Fathers in Manresa House who have constructed a Chapel of Prayer in a circular shape in which the five glorious windows from Tullabeg have been erected. In my experience these are the finest examples of religious art of the 20th century.Link-up, April 1994