Church and Cathedrals
Ireland is awash with Churches and Cathedrals. The Irish took Christianity to its bosom sometime before the 5th Century. The land of Ireland is covered in the footprints of old and new pilgrims. If you would like a tour encompassing a time of reflection and quietness then this is for you. Here are some noted sites and we do of course visit more ancient sites.
Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Co. Down
Down Cathedral is a Church of Ireland Cathedral. It stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery, built in 1183. Saint Patrick's remains are buried in the graveyard. Magnificent stain glass windows, box pews and beautiful organ case enhances this interesting building.
St. Mary’s Cathedral is situated on the highest point in Kilkenny City and dominates the landscape with it’s beautiful 186 foot tower. The Cathedral was designed by William Deane Butler and it’s style is described as as ‘Early English Gothic’ and is believed to be based on Gloucester Cathedral in England. Work began in 1843 and did not finish until after the famine in 1857 and so provided much needed work. The Cathedral has 3 names – St Mary’s, The Church of St Kieran, and, The Cathedral of the Assumption and holds a statue of Our Lady by the sculptor Benzoni who also sculpted the O’Connell Monument in the Irish College in Rome.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and is also reputed to be Ireland’s earliest Christian site, where St. Patrick baptized converts. Unusually, Dublin has two cathedrals belonging to the Church of Ireland, which act effectively as co-cathedrals. The Archbishop of Dublin has his official seat in the other one, Christ Church Cathedral Dublin. A wooden St. Patrick’s Church stood on the site from the 5th century to about 1191, when the church was raised to the status of cathedral. The present building, was built between 1191 and 1270.
St Patrick’s Cathedral (Roman Catholic),Armagh.
St Patrick was reputed to have built the first ‘great stone church’ here in 445 a.d inside a ringfort on a hill called ‘Druimsailech’. He called it ‘My Sweet Hill’ and ordained that this church should have pre-eminence over all other churches in Ireland. Armagh therefore became the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland. The present building was begun in 1838 but was not finished until 1873 due to a pause in construction due to the Great Famine. It’s enormous twin spires stand at 210 feet and are Armagh’s most recognizable landmark. The building is a curious mix of architectural styles as it changes half way up the walls. The bottom half was designed in 1838, in the English Perpendicular Gothic style and the top half was designed in 1853, in the French Decorated Gothic style. To complicate things further, the interior has a Byzantine style with every piece of wall and ceiling covered in brilliantly coloured mosaics. A unique feature of the Cathedral are the Cardinal’s Hats which hang in the sanctuary. On the death of a Cardinal his hat would be left to decay here – symbolising the end of all earthly glory. This practice is no longer followed!
St Patrick’s Cathedral ( Church of Ireland ) Armagh
Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral stands on the hill from which the City of Armagh derives its name – Ard Macha; the hill of Macha. Less than half a mile away, on the adjoining hill, is our sister St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. In recent years many visitors have returned again to Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland and I hope this website will encourage you to do so too. Both Cathedrals are part of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s St Patrick’s Signature Trail, and all of us involved in their oversight are keen to ensure that visitors to Armagh’s Christian heritage sites feel welcome and inspired.
Cistercian architecture is amongst the most beautiful in Europe. Mellifont Abbey in County Louth, the first Cistercian monastery to be built in Ireland, is somewhere you’ll get a sense of that… and so much more. The model for all the order’s abbeys in the country, it’s a hugely evocative ruin. Step into the octagonal lavabo… can you imagine monks washing their hands before meals?
Jerpoint Abbey, a 12th-century abbey set outside the charming village of Thomastown, County Kilkenny, is another Cistercian jewel. Its ruins offer plenty to explore, including a tower, a church with Romanesque details, and a sculpted cloister arcade with unique carvings.
Don’t miss Bangor Abbey in County Down, either. Founded in 558 AD by St Comgall and once home to almost 3,000 monks, the graveyard is full of interesting old headstones – including that of the assistant surgeon aboard the Titanic, local man John Edward Simpson.
There are just so many Churches of note to list and the above are just some suggestions for you to ponder. Select your own and let me know.