Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral

With its richly decorated façade and opulent interior designs, this mid-19th century cathedral is one of Cork’s most instantly recognizable monuments.

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a landmark blessed with inspiring artistic features and a centuries-old history. It stands on the site of a 7th-century monastery established by Saint Fin Barre, the patron saint of Cork. Today’s Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is the church’s third edition and dates back to 1863. See this impressive work of the celebrated English architect William Burges, who won the right to build it in a competition with over 60 architects.

Stand at the cathedral’s entrance and admire the blend of French-Gothic and medieval architectural styles. Note the arched doorways and gaze up at the towers, crowned by soaring spires. Spot a series of gargoyles, griffins and saints, all intricately carved from stone. They make up a selection of over 1,200 sculptures beautifying the cathedral.

Look for a golden angel perched atop a dome on the east side of the cathedral. Legend states that the angel will blow its trumpet to warn Cork’s residents about the end of the world; the residents will then be the first in line to enter heaven. Go to the southern edge of the cathedral grounds to see an archway that formed part of an earlier medieval church.

Inside, magnificent stained-glass windows portray Biblical scenes and decorate the cathedral walls. One of the more curious artifacts is a 24-pound (11-kilogram) cannonball. It is a remnant of the 1690 Siege of Cork and destroyed one of the medieval spires. Don’t miss the display of 12th-century stone heads, discovered during the removal of a tower in 1865.  

Stroll through the cemetery to see the gravestones of notable Irish figures. Among these are composer Arnold Bax and sculptor Seamus Murphy.

The cathedral is open daily from April to November. Between December and March it’s open from Monday to Saturday. Pay the admission fee, which includes a souvenir postcard. Attend a worship service any day.

Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a short walk southwest of Cork’s city center. A hop-on, hop-off tourist bus stops close to the main entrance. Visit nearby attractions such as the English Market and Glucksman Gallery.

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