St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh

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Armagh Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St Patrick, Armagh

Armagh, County Armagh

Status: Cathedral
Armagh Cathedral (Church of Ireland).jpg
St Patrick's Cathjedral, Armagh
Church of Ireland
Diocese of Armagh
Grid reference: H87424516
Location: 54°20’52"N, 6°39’23"W

The Cathedral Church of St Patrick, Armagh, commonly known as Armagh Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Armagh, in the Church of Ireland, who presides over the Province of Armagh and the Diocese of Armagh, for which diocese it is the diocesan cathedral.

The Archbishop bears the title 'Primate of All Ireland', as the 'first amongst equals' among the bishops of the Church of Ireland, and hence Armagh Cathedral is the foremosty church of in all Ireland. Its position comes from its claim to have been founded by St Patrick himself.

The cathedral stands in the heart of the little City of Armagh, in County Armagh: it is the most impressive and prominent building in the City and provides its focus.

This cathedral is not the only one in Armagh: the town also has a Roman Catholic cathedral, also named St Patrick's and also presided over by an Archbishop of Armagh.


The origins of the cathedral are related to the construction in 445 of a stone church on the Druim Saileach (Willow Ridge) hill by St Patrick, around which a monastic community developed.[1] The church was historically the centre of the Church in Ireland from the Dark Ages and throughout the Middle Ages to the Reformatiom. When the Church of Ireland was reformed in the days of King Henry VIII, it became to foremost cathedral in the new, Protestant church.

A Roman Catholic cathedral was built on a neighbouring hill in the nineteenth century. Cordial relations exist between both cathedrals.

The church itself has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times. The edifice was renovated and restored under Dean Eoghan McCawell (1505-1549) at the start of the sixteenth century having suffered from a devastating fire in 1511 and being in poor shape. Soon after his death the cathedral was described by Lord Chancellor Cusack as ‘one of the fairest and best churches in Ireland’.[2] Again it was substantially restored between 1834 and 1840 by Archbishop Lord John George Beresford and the architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham. The fabric remains that of the mediæval (and earlier – in particular the crypt) buildings but much restored. While Cottingham was heavy-handed in his restoration, the researches of T. G. F. Patterson and Janet Myles in the late twentieth century have shown the restoration to have been notably antiquarian for its time. The tracery of the nave windows in particular are careful restorations as is the copy of the font. The capital decoration of the two western most pillars of the nave (either side of the West Door internal porch) are mediæval as are the bulk of the external gargoyle carvings (some resited) of the parapet of the Eastern Arm. Cottingham's intention of retaining the richly-cusped West Door with flanking canopied niches was over-ruled. Subsequent restorations have more radically altered the internal proportions of the mediæval building, proportions which Cottingham had retained.

Many other Celtic and mediæval carvings are to be seen within the cathedral which is also rich in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century sculpture. There are works by Francis Leggatt Chantrey, Louis-François Roubiliac, John Michael Rysbrack, Carlo Marochetti and others.

Worship and music

Each Sundays there are three services in the cathedral; 10am said Eucharist, 11am Sung Eucharist (except on the second Sunday of the month when Matins is sung) and 3:15pm Choral Evensong. Matins is said, Mondays to Saturdays, at 9:30am. On holy days and feast days, the Eucharist is celebrated at 9:30am.

The Choral Foundation, dating from the Culdees, and refounded as the Royal College of King Charles of Vicars Choral and Organist in the cathedral of Armagh, continues to the present. There are generally a dozen Gentlemen of the Lay Vicars Choral and sixteen boy choristers.

Outside links


  1. Day, J.G.F. and Patton, H.E.: 'The Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland' (SPCK, 1932) page 21
  2. The Church Among Two Nations. Published in Early Modern History (1500–1700), Features, Issue 1 (Spring 1998), Mediæval History (pre-1500), Volume 6

Cathedrals of the Church of Ireland

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