It’s often said that a town’s Cathedral should always be the first thing that can be seen when entering the town. If that is the case then we certainly did it right in Killarney. Killarney Cathedral soars majestically above our town like the Empire State over New York. In fact the only thing that puts it in the shade are our mountains.
Now you all know about the Cathedral and what it looks like and the basic dynamics of it; it’s a location in which the eucharist, weddings, funerals and all that jazz are celebrated. But the Cathedral actually has a rather poignant history that you might not be aware of.
The building of the Cathedral kicked off in 1842 under the stewardship of a man named Richard Pierce. But it wasn’t until 1855 that the Cathedral was completed. “Why so long?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s because between 1845 and 1849, this country was beset by a bit of a potato famine and between 1848-1853, no work was undertaken.
The grounds upon which the Cathedral now lies hold a special place in the history of Killarney as it was a burial ground for dozens of children killed by starvation. It’s not known exactly how many were buried there but it was enough to merit a monument being erected there in their memory. If you’re visiting the Cathedral, be sure to check it out.
Anyway the Cathedral was finished in 1855 but it wasn’t until 1907 that its famous spire was erected. Until then it looked a bit like a big community centre (I imagine).
The cathedral was renovated in the 1970s and has remained relatively unchanged ever since. Now I’m no man of faith but even I can respect the majesty of the cathedral. The neighbourhood in which the Cathedral is located is really quite interesting as it contains some of the oldest buildings in Killarney. The Bishop’s Palace, official residence of the Bishop Kerry, is quite literally under its shadow and the much lauded St.Brendan’s College, founded in 1860, is just right next to the palace. Killarney’s two brightest stars, Colm Cooper and Michael Fassbender are both alumni of St.Brendans, referred to locally as The Sem.
So do venture into the cathedral, even if you’re not there for the worship, and have a gander around the grounds. It’s really quite lovely.