Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne

 North Cathedral
Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne


The Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Anne, or the North Cathedral as it is commonly known, is the principal church of the diocese of North Cathedral 1799 fontCork and Ross. Its ‌construction began with the laying of the foundation stone in 1799. Constructed of red sandstone, it was built at the behest of Francis Moylan, the Bishop of Cork in 1787-1815. It was built on the site of the previous St Mary's Church and was opened on 22 August 1808. It contains a limestone waterfont dating from 1799 (click picture on right to enlarge). The newly constructed Cathedral was one of the firsat examples of Neo-Gothic Revivalist work in Ireland. The craftmanship included carved and gilt woodwork, undertaken in Lisbon by Italian craftsmen at a cost of £600. The first ordination to take place in the church was that of John England on 10 October 1808. Father John Enland later became the first Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1820. The same year the Cathedral was partially destroyed by arson. This occured after a controversial sermon by a Father O'Grady and was suspected to have been a sectarian attack. Architect George Pain was commissioned to reconstruct and remodel the interior of the Cathedral. George Pain also designed Blackrock Castle, Christ Church, and St Patrick's Church. The rebuilt and extended cathedral was reopened in 1828.  Pain's additions to the Cathedral included fan tracery on a vaulted ceiling. Later modifications  to the Cathedral were undertaken betweeen 1862 and 1867 by Canon Daniel Foley. Canon Foley personally undertook  the construction work in order to cut costs, but his work in constructing a tower on the western end of the cathedral  was of poor quality and had to be abandoned. By the 1860s it was necessary to enlarge the Cathedral due to the increase in the Catholic community in the parish. Sir John Benson was commissioned in the 1860s by Bishop William Delany to undertake further extension work. This included the addition of a tower and belfry which brought the height of the cathedral to 152 feet, ten feet higher than the tower of the nearby St Anne's Church. The work was completed in 1869. In 1870, bells were added which were cast by the Murphy foundry in Dublin. More recently, the‌ Cathedral was extended further, beginning in 19North Cathedral Plaque‌64. This included the demolition of and extension of the sanctuary and construction of a sanctuary tower, 80 feet high, as well as rearranging the interior of the cathedral. This work was completed in 1968. By the 1990s it was necessary to carry out more renovations to the cathedral due to roof leaks. A major refurbishment was carried out on the cathedral in 1996 with the upgrade and refurbishment of the interior and tower, along with reslating the roof and repointing the exterior stonework.‌ In 2008 Saint ‌Mary’s and Saint Anne’s celebrated its bicentenary and a plaque (click image enlarge) was unveiled by the Bishop John Buckley.                                   


     North Cathedral Interior                   North Cathedeal 2  
 Interior of St Mary's and St Anne's               St Mary's and St Anne's, c1900 (Pic: National Library of Ireland)


1st St Marys Church

The first Church of St Mary's Shandon, built circa 1624 in Coppinger's Lane. The church was abandoned during the time of Cromwell's campaign. Today, this area is part of a car park for an appartment complex on Pope's Quay. 

Map detail on left is from copy of restored John Carthy's map of Cork city, 1726.

 2nd St Mary's Church The second St Mary's Church was located off Old Chapel Lane, on  the site of the 1964 sanctuary extension to the present St Mary's and Anne's Cathedral. The building consisted of a small thatched cottage, built as a chapel circa 1700 when the Penal Laws were in force. It was apparently converted to a school in 1730 and in 1811 became the first Christian Brothers School in Cork.

The detail on left is from OSi map of the city modified by Housing Research Unit, School of Architecture, University College Dublin, 1980.
 3rd St Marys Church The third St Mary's Church, on the site of today's North Cathedral, was built circa 1730. 

Map detail on left is from Rocque's map of Cork city, 1759.
Final st Marys Church thumb july14

Footprint of St Mary's and Anne's Cathedral (North Cathedral) before the 1964 sanctuary tower was added to the eastern end of the building.

Detail on left is from Guy's 1893 map of Cork city.


The people's North Parish pilgrimage: a souvenir publication. Typing Times Publishing House, Cork, 2000, pp. 2, 7-8.

Angela Bolster, The story of the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne. City Printing Works, Cork, pp. 3-9, 12-21.

Evelyn Bolster, A history of the Diocese of Cork: from the Penal era to the Famine. Tower Books, Cork, 1989, p. 34. 


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