St. Finbarre’s majestic namesake cathedral is set in the centre of Cork City, Ireland and its French-Gothic spires can be seen rising high above the rooftops. An Anglican cathedral dating back to 1863, St. Finbarre’s boasts countless works of art and a record-breaking organ. No visit to Cork would be complete without a visit to the town’s architectural treasure.
In 1863, construction on the cathedral began following a design competition that was won by English architect William Burges. After his triumph, he scrapped his plans for the cathedral in favour of an even more spectacular design incorporating Cork limestone and marble. William Burges, whose talent knows no bounds, also designed the stained glass windows and almost every other facet of the cathedral’s interior.
Workers constructed the cathedral on the site where St. Finbarre – Cork’s patron saint – founded his monastery in the 7th century and the building you can visit today is the third structure to be erected in this location. The cathedral was finally consecrated in 1870 with final completion not occurring until the early 20th century.
From the Outside
Overlooking the bank of the river Lee, St. Finbarre’s elaborate French-Gothic exterior dominates the landscape with its spires, gargoyles, and intricate artistic details. A principal aspect of the cathedral’s exterior is the statue of the Golden Angel formally known as the “Resurrection Angel.” Upon completion of his project, Burges presented the statue as a gift to the new cathedral and it currently stands with its trumpets at the ready on the eastern side of the structure. According to legend, the angel will blow her horns to warn Cork residents at the time of the impending apocalypse.
But before the world ends, take a stroll around the property and get lost in the garden maze – just be sure to keep your ears open for the horns!
On the Inside
St. Finbarre’s Cathedral houses a number of hidden gems that are all awaiting your discovery. The cathedral’s pit organ tops the list of notable characteristics you must see on your visit. The organ, first built in 1870, has undergone a number of rebuilds, revamps, and additions in its lifetime. The organ today is recognised as the largest in all of Ireland.
Another can’t miss feature – both literally and figuratively – is the cathedral’s visually striking stained glass windows. With scenes from both the Old and New Testament, these impressive windows enhance the dramatic impact of this structure and are worth a visit in themselves.
Besides the stained glass windows, another visitor favourite is the 11kg cannonball that has been leftover from the Siege of Cork in 1690. This, the quirkiest of the cathedral’s items, was found lodged into a medieval spire of the previous structure during demolition.
Don’t forget to look both down and around and take in more of the works designed by the busy William Burges in the form of intricate floor mosaics and more than 1,260 sculptures.
Why visit St. Finbarre’s Cathedral?
St. Finbarre’s Cathedral owns the distinction of being the second largest cathedral in Ireland only behind St. Patrick’s in Dublin. A day spent with the cathedral’s passionate volunteers on an insightful tour would be a perfect addition to your itinerary. Step into the medieval allure of St. Finbarre’s Cathedral and let the silence and calming light from the stained glass windows remind you of why you came to Ireland in the first place.