"It wasn't meant to look like this." Armagh Things to Do Tip by planxty
Armagh Things to Do: 21 reviews and 59 photos
As I have mentioned in other tips, Armagh is a very important ecclesiastical centre, and the Archbishops of Armagh in the Anglican (Church of Ireland) and Roman Catholic Churches are the Primates of all Ireland for their respective denominations. This religious importance derives, in large part, from the fact that Saint Patrick, the patron Saint of Ireland, established a Church here in the year 445. In recognition of this there are not one but two St. Patrick's Cathedrals in the City, and it is the Roman Catholic one this tip refers to (see seperate tip for the Anglican one).
Whilst this Cathedral is not on the site of the original Church of St. Patrick (that is where the Anglican Cathedral stands now), there is a legend associated with Patrick and the Sandy Hill (Tealach na Licci in the Gaelic) where this building now is. One day whilst out walking, a deer and fawn jumped out of a bush close to the Saint, whose companions were of a mind to catch and kill the young animal, presumably for the pot. The Saint forbade it and carried the fawn on his shoulders to the spot where the Roman Catholic Cathedral would eventually be built many centuries later.
The man generally credited with being the founder of this Cathedral is Archbishop William Crolly (1835-1849) who acquired the land from the Earl of Dartrey. Work commenced in 1840 to the design of Thomas J. Duff. Unfortunately, Archbishop Crolly was not to see his plan completed as he died in a cholera epidemic in 1849. His dying wish, duly granted, was that he be buried under the unfinished building.
The task of overseeing the work passed eventually to Primate Joseph Dixon (1852-1866) but when work resumed after a break during the Famine years, the original architect had died and was replaced by one J.J. McCarthy. He had much different ideas and drew up plans for a completely different structure to the one begun by Duff. It is this building we see today and gives rise to the title of this tip. If you want to see what the original design was like, go to the County Museum (see seperate tip) where there is a drawing of it.
Primate Dixon desperately needed funds for the construction and so he instituted a Grand Bazaar in 1865. Prizes were provided for this by, amongst others, Pope Pius IX, the Emperor of Austria and King Napoleon II of France. It must indeed have been some Bazaar.
Archbishop Daniel McGettigan (1870-87) then took up the reins and was the incumbent when the Cathedral was finally dedicated in 1873 before an estimated 20,000 people. Further additions (notably the Archbishops House) were made right up into the 20th century until we see the building as it is today.
I am no expert on architecture or religious buildings but the interior of this Cathedral struck me as being in marked contrast to the Anglican building. Apart from the stations of the Cross ther is nothing adorning the walls, whereas the Church of Ireland has memorials and all sorts of things within. I am not sure if this has religious significance or if the two places are just a product of their respective times, the Anglican Cathedral being considerably older. Despite being much less adorned internally, the Cathedral is still a very impressive structure as I hope the photgraphs show.
The large crucifix is the work of Imogen Stuart.
The telephone numbers given below are general enquiry numbers. Groups wishing to book a tour should contact Maura Smyth, the tour guide, on +00 44 (0)7907 246674.
Address: Cathedral Road, Armgh, BT61 7QY
Directions: You really cannot miss it, it dominates the skyline of the town. Just look for the twin spires.
othercontact: +00 44 (0)28 3752 6182 (fax)
Phone: +00 44 (0)28 3752 2045
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