Standing tall and majestic atop the streets of Cobh is the magnificent St Colman, the cathedral church of the Diocese of Cloyne. This iconic Gothic Revival building is a must see not just for architecture and engineering buffs and pilgrims but also for a casual tourist. Being a local, I walked around the grounds outside and wandered the interior numerous times and it still amazed me to see a new interesting detail on my visit.
For a first time visitor, it is easy to fall in love with the view. Whether you are looking up from the town centre or standing outside the church ground, there are tons of photo ops from different angle.
Situated on a winding hilltop, the church has an enviable view of the Atlantic Waters. Depending on the time of your visit, this body of water could be a canvas of a clear day or night, a misty morning or a foggy afternoon, and don’t forget the blessed rains of Ireland.
I never get tired watching fixed fixtures in the background like the windmills and fisherman boats participating in this medley of weather in my seatown. Whether you are at the side of the church or at the back, there’s a sidewalk across the street where you can watch and imbibe all this seascape scenery unfold.
The church has been an imposing figure in the Cobh Skyline since its consecration on 1919. It has a jutting 91 metre steeple that points to the heavens and look down humbly to the inhabitants and passerbys of Cobh.
St Colman’s Cathedral will also be forever linked to the 123 passengers who boarded the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic at the port of Queenstown, the old name of Cobh. Some had ascertained that some of these passengers had visited the church before or on the day of the voyage and most possibly the last sighting that they saw before the ship disappeared in the horizon.
Some say it has the highest steeple in the whole of Ireland, but what could not be contested is that this tower is a welcome sight from afar to the cruise passengers and crew who are arriving at the Cork Harbour on Cobh. (As of this writing, cruise operators are still not allowed to travel on this parts.)
This imposing Roman Catholic church began construction on 1868 under Arhitect E. W. Pugin and G. C. Ashlin and has undergone major restoration throughout the years. Perhaps the most notable installation is the carillon. St Colman’s Cathedral has an impressive 49 suspended bells in total, which is the largest in both Ireland and Great Britain.
Keep your ears opened and let your soul rejoiced to the chiming of these bells which strike the hour and 15 minute intervals and also on special occasions. For those interested on carillon recitals, continue to check the update on their schedule. The recital are usually hold every Sunday 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. during the Summer months of May to September.
After soaking the views outside, it is time to get close and personal with the church grandeur itself. The great front archway is worth a minute or two of observation. Pay your veneration to the saints, glance at the sentry monsters, and say a little prayer of protection to Mother Mary and the Child.
The first of many moments of deep “ahs ” begin on your first step on the church interior. Vaulted roof with timber ribs and marble columns support the main weight of the church, and limestone vaulted ceilings on both side aisles. Walk lightly on the geometric tiled floors and marvel at the craftmanship of the carved pews and the ornate pulpit.
Getting this close to the main altar is a form of prayer. Sit on the front pew and let the stain glass window shine on your weary soul. Unlike other big and historical churches in Europe, this catedral door is open daily and is free to enter.
And as you leave the cathedral, stroll down on a street nearby where the famous Deck of Cards houses are located. There’s a nice park square there called West Hill Park where you can take a cool shot of the houses and St Colman’s Cathedral on the backdrop.
That’s it, my homage to the great cathedral of my hometown Cobh. I hope you enjoy this local trip with me. Here are a few tips to make your visit enjoyable and stress free.
- If you are going by car, there’s a free parking at the lot across the side of the church.
- If you are walking from the town centre, bring water because you are in for a workout climbing this hill.
- It could be windy or chilly on the hilltop so bring a jacket.
- If you have some free time, head over to the Bible Garden nearby and sit down for reflection.
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