St Columb's Cathedral

sights / Religious

Lonely Planet review

Built between 1628 and 1633 from the same grey-green schist as the city walls, this was the first post- Reformation church to be erected in Britain and Ireland, and is Derry's oldest surviving building. In the porch (under the spire, by the St Columb's Court entrance) you can see the original foundation stone of 1633 that records the cathedral's completion, inscribed:

If stones could speake

Then London's prayse

Should sounde who

Built this church and

Cittie from the grounde.

The smaller stone inset, inscribed 'In Templo Verus Deus Est Vereo Colendus' (The True God is in His Temple and is to be truly worshipped), comes from the original church built here in 1164 and dedicated to the city's patron saint, Colmcille.

Also in the porch is a hollow mortar shell fired into the churchyard during the Great Siege of 1688–89; inside the shell were the terms of surrender. The neighbouring chapter house contains more historical artefacts, including paintings, old photos and the four huge padlocks used to secure the city gates in the 17th century.

The nave , built in a squat, solid style known as Planter's Gothic, shares the austerity of many Church of Ireland cathedrals, with thick walls, small windows and an open-timbered roof (from 1823) resting on corbels depicting the heads of past bishops and deans. The bishop's throne, at the far end of the nave, is an 18th-century mahogany chair in ornate, Chinese Chippendale style.

The chancel and the stained-glass east window depicting the Ascension date from 1887. The flags on either side of the window were captured from the French during the Great Siege; although the yellow silk has been renewed several times since, the poles and gold wirework are original.