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Armagh City can truly be said to the centre of religion in Ireland. Armagh city is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland and is home to the heads of both the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches.
The city owes its Christian heritage to St Patrick who is said to have built a stone church in 445AD on the hill where the Church of Ireland Cathedral now stands. This is the second and less famous St. Patricks Cathedral in Armagh City is the Protestant Cathedral, although it was initiated by the great saint himself which is also home to the Seat of the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland and was actually previously the Roman Catholic Cathedral.
Saint Patrick’s Church of Ireland, the seat of the Church of Ireland Primate of all Ireland, was built on the City’s main hill, where Saint Patrick declared his primacy and first bishopric. In 445AD, after converting the local chieftain Daire, he built his Cathedral on the hill. Armagh strongly challenges Downpatrick’s claim to the grave of Saint Patrick and he is supposed to be buried somewhere in the hill, where his book, bell and staff were supposedly found. Queen Macha, wife of Nevry, is also purported to be buried in the side of the hill and the bones of Irish King, Brian Boru, who defeated the Vikings in 1014, are also said to be buried under the church according to a plaque in the north transept.
The cathedral now on the site was built in the 13th century but then restored in the 19th century. Medieval gargoyles cling to the Cathedral roof, and it has a worn 11th century Celtic High Cross, but the walls of the old church have been covered with dull sandstone.
There is also a collection of ancient objects and stone statues including a sheila-n-gig with ass’s ears, which could represent Queen Macha and the Stone-Age Tandragee Idol in the Chapter House. The origins of the cathedral are related to the construction in 445 of stone church on the Druim Saileach (Sallow Ridge) hill by St.Patrick, around which a monastic community developed. The Church was and is the center of the Church of Ireland.
The Church itself has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times. It was substantially restored between 1834 and 1840 by Archbishop Lord John George Beresford and the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham.
The cathedral is open daily and there are services at the weekends.