Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)


National College of Art and Design

First Advisor

Dr. Nicola Gordon Bowe


In this thesis I set out to examine the important role played by William Burges in the revival of stained glass in the mid-nineteenth century. I have examined how his unique vision and obsession with the thirteenth century developed through his extensive travelling abroad, studying European architecture. My central discussion is on Burges’ first major commission at the age of thirty-five; St. Finbarre’s Cathedral, Cork. Through the use of local newspapers, correspondence and documentation, such as Vestry Minute Books, designs and cartoons stored in the Chapter House of St. Finbarre’s, I have tried to put the building of St. Finbarre’s in 1865 into context within a social, economic and political framework. I also trace the importance of the role played by the freemasons in the city of Cork and the strength of the Church of Ireland community in Cork when faced with Disestablishment in 1870.

In the Cathedral itself, I examine the theories realised by Burges through his architectural use of sculpture, interior fittings and decoration with particular focus on his stained glass. I show Burges’ unique and innovative use of all aspects of the medium, from iconographic content to technical application. I then discuss Burges’ other ecclesiastical work in County Cork beginning with Holy Trinity in Templebreedy, Crosshaven, then St. Peter’s, Carrigrohane, Cork. While researching this architectural work, I felt it necessary to travel to Yorkshire to study Burges’ two other churches, St. Mary’s, Studley Royal and Christ the Consoler, Skelton, both built in 1871, in order to put his work in Cork into context. The discovery in 1992 of stained glass windows by Burges in two small churches in Cork, documented by Dr. David Lawrence in his unpublished survey of stained glass in Cork of 1992, led me to examine and document Burges’ other ecclesiastical work in Cork. Therefore my thesis describes new work by William Burges put into context with his other stained glass in Britain. In the light of this and his unique achievement in St. Finbarre’s, I consider that Burges’ work ought to be re-evaluated and placed at the forefront of the Gothic Revival movement.


Submitted in candidacy for the award of the Master of Arts to the National Council for Education Awards, May 1999

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