By Maurice O’Brien
In August of this year the Diocese of Cloyne commemorated the 100th anniversary of the solemn dedication of St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh. For anyone familiar with Cobh, the prominence of this neo Gothic cathedral in the harbour town is easily understood.
Cobh without its cathedral would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower, such is the extent to which it defines the towns skyline and streetscape.
Built over a period spanning 47 years, on a plateau of solid rock, its spire reaching to 300 feet, the church exceeds all expectations of style and stature. The cathedral was designed by Pugin and Ashlin, foremost ecclesiastical architects of the period.
When Pugin died in 1875 Thomas Coleman took his place. Scale alone would equip St. Colman’s to be a suitable mother church for a multitudinous archdiocese. It has been compared to cathedrals like Chartres and Rheims and certainly borrows elements of French architecture.
These great churches also preside over places disproportionate to their size but like St. Colman’s their purpose goes further. They were to be monumental buildings pointing to eternal truths.
As Bishop William Crean said in his homily for the centenary Mass on 25th August: “The location was providential in elevation and landscape … it never fails in its mission to raise our eyes to the heavens”.
In St. Colman’s all elements combine to call one to awe and worship; the lofty interior, the many shrines and statues, the large side chapels and above all the sanctuary with high altar and gilded tabernacle as the centre piece.
The carillon of 49 bells, the largest in Ireland or Britain is a magnificent feature of the cathedral. The bells of St. Colman’s ring out daily and the parish organizes full scale recitals on occasions.