Kilmore Cathedral

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Name Kilmore Cathedral County Cavan Nearest Town Cavan Town Access Road N55 About The historic Cathedral of Kilmore is the See of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.

It is located just off the main Cavan-Crossdoney road, some six kilometeres from Cavan town.

It has been a place of worship for up to 15 centuries.

The first church at Kilmore was built in the 6th or 7th centuries by St Felim or Feidhlimidh.

He was probably a hermit.

The first known Bishop of Kilmore, he is patron of the diocese, and his feast is celebrated on 9 August, the day of his death.

The See of Kilmore was originally called Triburnia.

About the year 1400 a church was built near the present site.

It was 70 feet in length and 24 feet in breadth and its high-pitched roof was covered with oaken shingles.

In 1454, the Bishop of Kilmore, Andrew MacBrady (1445-55), with the approval of Pope Nicholas V, made this church his cathedral.

Thenceforth, this church imparted its name to the surrounding parish and also to the diocese.

Bishop MacBrady lived at Kilmore.

After the Reformation, Bishop Moigne renovated the Cathedral and builta residence nearby.

This house was demolished in 1835.

In 1752 the See was united to Tuam and later to Elphin and Ardagh, with which it is still associated.

By far the most famous occupant of the See of Kilmore was Bishop William Bedell, who served from 1629 until his death in 1642.

On his arrival in Kilmore, his cathedral was “without steeple, bell or font” and he devoted much of his energies to its repair, and to the refurbishment of other churches in the diocese.

He held a Synod for the clergy of the diocese in 1638, and is chiefly remembered for his work in translating the Old Testament into Irish.

Work on the present cathedral began in 1858.

The foundation stone was laid in the summer of 1858 by Lady Farnham in the presence of the Bishop, Marcus Gervais Beresford, and fifty of his clergy.

The cost of 8,000 was raised by the Bishop Marcus Gervais Beresford, and by monies subscribed by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

It was designed by the English architect William Slater, and it was completed in 1860.

The Cathedral was intended as a memorial to Bishop Bedell, and to Mary Beresford, first wife of the then Bishop, who died in 1845.

The porch was added to the Cathedral in 1869, from William Slater’s design.

Major renovations were undertaken in 1925, including the installation of electric light, and further improvements were made in 1938 and 1949.

The Centenary of the Cathedral was celebrated in 1960 with a special Service of Thanksgiving, attended by some 1,400 people who filled the Cathedral itself and the nearby Parochial Hall.

The Cathedral is built in the Early Decorated or Middle Pointed style.

Its plan is cruciform, consisting of nave, aisles, transepts, chancel and a central tower which is finished by a four-sided pyramidal roof.

The materials used in the general construction are of a dark limestone, of local origin, with a lighter stone from Dungannon for the dressings.

The dimensions of the Cathedral are as follows: Its length is 114 feet, 6 inches; the nave is 51 feet by 23 feet and 49 feet across the aisles; the choir is 34 feet 6 inches by 23 feet; the tower is 28 feet square and 100 feet high; the crossing is 57 feet high.

The Cathedral is chiefly renowned because of the marvelously carved Hiberno-Romanesque doorway which serves as a vestry door.

It is believed that this doorway originally formed part of the Cathedral at Toneymore which was built after the Diocese of Kilmore was first granted official recogintion by the Synod of Kells in 1152.

The Cathedral at Toneymore fell into disrepair after the Church of St Fethlimidh was converted into a Cathedral in 1454.

The Premonstratensian Order then salvaged the doorway and inserted it into the western gable of the Abbey of the Holy Trinity on Trinity Island in Lough Oughter.

The Abbey, which was established in 1237 or 1239, was destroyed in 1570, and the doorway was then taken to the old Cathedral in Kilmore (now the Parochial Hall), where it was used as the main entrance.

Finally, the doorway was moved to its present location when the present Cathedral was built in 1858.

This doorway is one of only two Hiberno-romanesque doorways of its kind surviving in Ulster, (the other is on White Island in Lough Erne) and is widely treasured as a priceless relic of the finest period of native Irish building.

It consists of four orders and a beaded hood-moulding.

The three outer orders have engaged columns with square bases and capitals.

Incidentally, some of the stones have been misplaced in the course of its movements over some seven hundred years.

The cemetery contains the tomb of Bishop William Bedell (1571-1642) who completed the work of translating the Bible into Irish.

Opposite his grave is a fine Anglo-Norman motte-and-bailey.

This was constructed by Walter de Lacy on the occasion of the abortive attempt by the Anglo-Norman forces to penetrate Ulster in 1211.

It was dismantled by Cathal O’Reilly in 1224.

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