DUNDEE, SCOTLAND: St Francis Friary 1934 - 1989
OFFICIAL OPENING OF CITY CHURCH IN THE FRIARY DUNDEE
JOINT PRESS RELEASE ON 26th JANUARY 2012
The Order of Friars Minor and the City Church Dundee
THE FORMER FRIARY IN DUNDEE IS SOLD TO CITY CHURCH
The passing of the former Franciscan church, friary and hall and the land on which they were established in Dundee into the ownership of City Church, Dundee, is a historical moment in the life of the city. For the Franciscans first came to Dundee in 1260 and played a central role in the city in medieval times. When the medieval friary was suppressed at the Reformation the friars had to leave, but they were back in 1932 on the present site at the corner of Tullideph Road and City Road, where at the invitation of the Bishop of Dunkeld they took charge of the newly established parish of St Francis and built the present friary and hall, to which in 1959 they added the present church. The parish grew and flourished until it became the second largest in the diocese. In 1989 the friars had to leave once more, as in other places, owing to reducing numbers of friars. They handed over the whole complex to the Diocese of Dunkeld who continued to assign priests to run the parish until on 15th August 2010 the Bishop decided to close the parish and hand the property back to the Trustees of the Franciscan Order. They could find no other Catholic body to take over the buildings and, anxious to preserve them as a vibrant centre of Christian life and worship, they agreed to facilitate the sale of the site to City Church who were looking for a new home. They do this in the confidence that these buildings will now in a new phase of their existence serve the development of Christian life in the city of Dundee.
As the new owners of the Friary site, City Church Dundee are very much aware of the heritage of the Friary, which has played a big part in Dundee community life during much of the last century. A certain amount of modernisation will be required, but it is anticipated that as the site and buildings are restored they will serve as a home for a thriving church and community hub for many more years to come. After a break of 18 months, it is good news to see church services resume and the buildings again serving the purpose for which they were intended.
City Church, which was started in 2006, is part of the rapidly growing Newfrontiers group of churches and has a strong ethos of family, a lively style and a commitment to serving the community. Church members know they have their work cut out in getting the Friary buildings back into shape, but are full of faith that the hard work will bear fruit in this new phase in the life of the church and that they will be able to make a big contribution to serving the folks around the Friary and more widely in the city of Dundee. Craig Stocks, team leader of the church said "The church are really thrilled by the prospect of having our own home after meeting in various temporary venues for the last six years and are delighted to have acquired such an iconic Dundee building."
Sunday worship meetings are starting in St Francis immediately, with an official opening weekend planned for 17th/18th March, after initial re-decoration has been completed
Further information about the past history of the Friary may be obtained from the Franciscansí website at http://www.friar.org/former-locations/dundee.html and from Fr Boniface Kruger, O.F.M., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Franciscan friars first came to Dundee in 1260 to a house built for them at one end of the present Barrack Street by Lady Devorgilla, mother of John Baliol, the rival of Robert the Bruce for the crown of Scotland. The friary church was popular with all classes in and around Dundee but no trace of it remains today. The citizens flocked there in great numbers , attracted by the preaching of the friars, always forthright and usually well seasoned with good humour. All the families of consequence had their burial place in the church. Among the highly placed, the most generous benefactors were the Earls of Crawford, the Lindsays, whose title was "Protectors and Defenders, under His Highness the King, of the Friars Minor of Dundee". Like practically every noble house in Scotland, the Lindsays were bereaved at the Battle of Flodden when Earl John gave his life making one of the ring of nobility grouped around the King. His remains were brought for interment in the family vault in the Dundee friary church. The friars had a friend in need in the person of Beatrice, Countess of Errol, who came to their aid in 1481. It was a year of famine in Scotland and the Dundee Franciscans suffered so severely that in order to obtain the bare necessitities of life, they had to pledge books and church ornaments. These were redeemed by the Countess herself.
No account of the Franciscans in Dundee would be complete without a reference to an event of national importance that took place in the Friary church. There in 1309 was held a national Church council at which the representative body of churchmen solemnly proclaimed their support for Robert the Bruce in his claim for the Scottish crown and undertook to use the full force of their influence for his cause with the people.
The storm of the Reformation engulfed the Dundee Friary completely in 1560, but thirty years before that Dundee had gone Protestant and soon there was no protection for Catholic life and property and the Franciscans vanished from Dundee's life.
But in 1932 they were back. Their return was due to the earnest desire of the Right Rev. John Toner, predecessor of the present Bishop of Dunkeld. Early in April 1932 he received the unanimous consent of his Chapter to the proposal that the Franciscans should be invited to undertake parochial work in the diocese. The Provincial, Fr Louis Coffey, accompanied by Fr Herbert Doyle, visited the Bishop soon afterwards and saw various sites, determining on the present one on Tullideph Road. On April 22nd the official grant of a parish was made by the Bishop with the consent of his Chapter and on July 15th the Provincial Definitory apointed Fr Herbert Doyle to be the first Guardian and Parish Priest. On arrival in Dundee, Fr Herbert was kindly accommodated at St Joseph's. The foundation stone of the new friary complex was laid on 6th May 1933 and the ceremony attracted a great deal of attention in the city, over 12,000 people being present. In February 1934 the building was complete and the friars entered into residence in the new Friary. For many years the upper floor of the Hall served as a church, until in 1959 the new church was built and opened. The parish flourished and grew into the second most numerous in the diocese.
- Extracted from an article by Fr Matthew Walsh, O.F.M. in Franciscana 1953.
In 1989 the Franciscan Province in Britain found itself compelled to close more of its houses because the number of friars was shrinking, a process which still continues today. Among the 1989 closures was the Dundee Friary. However, the Order gave over the whole property free of charge to the Diocese of Dunkeld so that the parish of St Francis could continue to flourish under the care of a diocesan priest and later of Polish Palottine priests, until on 15th August 2010 the Bishop declared the parish closed and the parishioners were dispersed among four neighbouring parishes.
The following pictures were taken just after the closure.
The Hew Lorimer Sculpture on the Facade of the Church
All the buildings on the Dundee site, church, friary and hall, are now Grade B Listed. One reason for this is the sculpture on the facade of the church, a tympanum designed and carved by Hew Lorimer, OBE, ARSA, RSA, working in situ as the church was built. It depicts St Francis returning to Assisi at the end of his life. The superscript reads "DEUS MEUS ET OMNIA" ("My God and My All"), the motto of the Franciscan Order. The subscript reads "THOU DIDST SIGN THY SERVANT FRANCIS, O LORD, WITH THE MARKS OF OUR REDEMPTION", a reference to the Stigmata, or Wounds of the Saviour, imprinted on the body of Saint Francis, the only historical case authenticated by the Church.
Hew Martin Lorimer was born in 1907 in Edinburgh, the second son of architect Sir Robert Lorimer. He was educated at Loretto School, Musselburgh near Edinburgh, and at Magdalen College, Oxford, intending to follow in his father's foosteps as an architect. However he broke off his studies at Oxford and toured France and Italy, visiting and drawing various sites, and reflecting on his future. He decided to abandon Oxford and enrolled in the Edinburgh School of Art and studied design and sculpture. After graduating in 1934, he was for three months an apprentice in the workshop run by the famous Catholic sculptor and stonemason Eric Gill. Brought up an Episcopalian, in 1937, the year of his marriage to the artist Mary McLaod Wylie, both he and his wife became Catholics. His profound religious faith permeated all his work. This led to a great many commissions on religious themes, including one of his most famous works, the granite statue of Our Lady of the Isles, standing 30 feet high at 170 feet above sea level on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. He modelled Mary's face on that of his wife Mary. In the early 1950s over a period of three years he also carved the allegorical figures of the seven liberal arts, History, Law, Medicine, Music, Poetry, Science and Theology, on the facade of the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. So it was as a recognised national sculptor that he was commissioned to undertake the work at St Francis, Dundee, which contributed to his being acknowledged a sculptor of the first rank. In 1983 the University of Dundee made him an honorary Doctor of Laws. He was awarded an OBE in 1986 for services to architecture and conservation. The Catholic Church honoured him with a papal knighthood towards the end of his life. He died in 1993, preceded by his wife in 1970. In 1996 Bishop Vincent Logan, Bishop of Dunkeld, founded the Hew Lorimer Trust to honour Hew's life and promote his works.
"The power of such works as the 20-foot-long tympanum ... carved at Dundee ... undoubtedly depends to a great extent on the success with which Lorimer kept himself out of consideration, and 'merely' collaborated in the continuing act of Creation"
- J. R. H. McEwen in The Tablet, 26th May 2007, the centenary of Hew Lorimer's birth, in an article entitled "The Word Made Stone" about the artist. To read the whole article click on the following link: www.thetablet.co.uk/pdf/1179
Another example of Hew Lorimer's work (1962) is on the facade of our parish church of St Teresa of Lisieux, Craigmillar, Edinburgh, where his statue of the saint can be seen (click here)..
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