St Patrick’s Church in Donaghmore is a historic landmark in the County Tyrone countryside that can claim a direct connection to the introduction of Christianity in Ireland around 450AD. Steeped in history the present church was built in the 1840s, during the Great Irish Famine, on the site of an old monastic centre. It was one of the first Catholic Churches built following the end of the Penal Laws in 1829.
Starting in January 2014 the church underwent a 20 month refurbishment project under the guidance of client Fr. Gerard McAleer. The results are breath-taking. It was reopened by Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, on 27th September 2015.
The beautifully intricate tiling work at St Patrick’s Church was created and fitted by the tile and marble specialists at Armatile to the exacting needs of the project brief. The company was chosen because of its surface design expertise, level of understanding in this field and its dedication to the restoration of historic and heritage buildings. Displaying Armatile’s renowned attention to detail its project team worked in partnership with the client, architect, designer and contractor to deliver a bespoke tailored and ornate tile solution that truly enriches the stunning transformation of the 170 year old church.
The Component Parts of the Tiling Project
In collaboration with designer Eamon Carberry and Architect Con McKeown Armatile chose carefully selected materials for each section of tiling. Such is Armatile’s attention to detail that its representatives visited quarries and factories to hand-select tiles and marbles for each specific area. Armatile then created each tile component before expertly installing them with a careful eye and appreciation for fine details on the Nave, Steps and Sanctuary floor areas of this exceptional restoration project.
The Tiling of the Nave Area
A completely new tile floor was laid in the nave area by Armatile’s expert contract team. To maintain a link with its cultural heritage stunning Victorian style lattice designs and borders were manufactured by Armatile utilising red and green tiles on an off-white background. These were specifically selected to reflect the tones of stencilling work on the original ceiling panels. Every piece was pre-assembled by hand on 30x30cm mesh panels in Armatile’s factory in Armagh, before being dispatched to site. This element of the project significantly reduced fitting and labour costs on site, ensuring Armatile met all contract deadlines with confidence.
Within the Victorian style pattern are a further six large tile features. Each individual and intricate feature was expertly created by Armatile by combining different porcelain, marble and brass materials. Its design team engaged its creative skills to use waterjet machinery operating at 55,000psi to both cut and etch each piece to craft these truly beautiful centrepieces that remember and capsulate the heritage of the building . One of the features has been specifically designed to replicate the breastplate of St Patrick while another commemorates the martyrdom of Fr Patrick O’Loughran on the site in 1612.
The Steps and Sanctuary Floor Area
The steps and altar floor are created from polished Crema Marfil marble hand-selected from quarries in the Alicante region of Spain, an area world renowned for its quality natural stone. The whole area was custom made and each step and riser were individually crafted for this contract. An additional strip of black marble has been inserted into the steps to enhance the visual impact.
Armatile design team created a further nine special decorative floor features which were installed on the first step of the altar. These were also manufactured in Armatile’s custom-built factory in Armagh to meet an exacting specification for the contract.
Rich Italian White Carrara marble slabs were chosen for the central piece of each design. These were then surrounded by a bespoke, striking border, depicting vines and leaves, incorporating beautiful warm tones of Sienna, Rojo Alicante and Alpi Verdi marbles.
Overcoming Barriers that Impacted on Fitting of New Materials
When the old floor coverings were removed damaged floor screeds were exposed. To ensure the long-term structural integrity of the new surfaces Armatile worked in partnership with Mapei to specify products for the contract that would repair the screed and prepare it for the installation of the new tiles. This included installing 225m2 of Mapei’s Mapetex anti-fracture membrane that has been especially developed for problematic substrates.
The dedication and skill of Armatile’s contract team on-site, supported by the unrivalled expertise of its design and manufacturing team were integral to the transformation and restoration at this historically important church. This is a great example of how Armatile works in partnership with all the project stakeholders and utilises its specialist cutting expertise to provide a tailored ornate tile solutions that give a new lease of life to old buildings.