Ferns Cathedral

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Ferns Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Edan, Ferns

Ferns, County Wexford

Status: Cathedral
Ferns Cathedral
Church of Ireland
Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory
Grid reference: T02194978
Location: 52°35’24"N, 6°29’33"W
Built 1230s / early 1900s
Website: Ferns Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Edan, commonly known as Ferns Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Ferns in County Wexford. It is one of six cathedrals of the Diocese of Cashel and Ossory; the plethora of its bishop's seats is the result of a series of mergers between dioceses to produce the current diocese. It was originally the cathedral of the Diocese of Ferns.

Until 1949, the designation of the Cathedral was the Cathedral Church of St. Ædan, a variant spelling of Edan or Aidan.


Surviving ruin of the mediæval chancel

The original mediæval cathedral was built by Bishop St John in the 1230s. The building was burnt down in Elizabethan times by the O'Byrnes of Wicklow, and only a small portion of the ruins remain. Although Queen Elizabeth I ordered it rebuilt, only a section of the quire was restored.

The partially restored building was subsequently further altered in the early 1800s. The cathedral was reordered again in the early 1900s through the efforts of Thomas Brownell Gibson, Dean from 1908 until 1926.[1] An internal chancel arch was raised, and a quire and sanctuary created. Chapter stall were re-used from Kilkenny cathedral (the classical stalls which they replaced are now in the extensive chapter house to the west of Ferns Cathedral). A new episcopal 'cathedra' was provided and the flat plaster ceiling of the church replaced with one of boarded wood in a gothic revival style.

Of the surviving mediæval fabric the blind arcading of the chancel is of particular note as are the north and south lancets and viscae of the East Wall. The central lancets are a conjectural restoration. There is a very fine mediæval episcopal effigy by the font and the remains of some pillars of the quire arcade are to be seen in the walls to the west of the new chancel arch. The eighteenth or early nineteenth century west tower may well be on the site of a crossing of the mediæval cathedral. An earlier belief that the present cathedral was part of the nave of the older building was based on the existence of remains of a separate mediæval church, on the same axis, some way to the east. The chancel arcade and Eastern lancets challenge this conjecture as does the marked difference of floor level which, in the Eastern fragment, is some metres lower.

The cathedral was vandalised in early 2009 by youths, in which attack many panes of glass were broken and the pane of glass protecting the magnificent east window was cracked. Headstones in the adjacent St Peter's Cemetery were knocked over. No sectarian motive is suggested as all three churches in the town have suffered from vandalism.[2]


Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the first creation), Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland (1130 – 20 April 1176), also commonly known as Strongbow, is sometimes said to have been interred at Ferns Cathedral, but there is no evidence for this, and Giraldus Cambrensis, who was a contemporary eyewitness, specifically notes that he was buried within sight of the cross at Christ Church cathedral in Dublin, where his grave remains in pride of place. However King Dermot MacMurrough is buried close by the adjoining grave yard and adjacent to the ruins of St. Mary’s Augustinian Abbey.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Ferns Cathedral)


  1. Day, John Godfrey FitzMaurice and Patton, Henry Edmund: 'The Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland' page 115 (SPCK, 1932)
  2. Local Notes (25 February 2009). "Yobs create havoc at Ferns Cathedral". Gorey Guardian. http://www.goreyguardian.ie/news/yobs-create-havoc-at-ferns-cathedral-1656272.html. Retrieved 23 September 2009. 

Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland

Province of Armagh: ArmaghClogherDerryDownpatrickDromoreElphinEnniskillenKillalaKilmoreLisburnRaphoeSligoTuamBelfast
Province of Dublin: CashelClonfertCloyneCorkDublin, Christ ChurchFernsKildareKilkennyKillaloeLeighlinLimerickLismoreRosscarberyTrimWaterfordDublin, St Patrick's
Former cathedrals:AchonryElphinEmly