St Fin Barre's Cathedral

Cathedral in Cork City

Image by Design Pics / The Irish Image Collection Getty Images

Spiky spires, gurning gargoyles and elaborate sculpture adorn the exterior of Cork's Protestant cathedral, an attention-grabbing mixture of French Gothic and medieval whimsy. The grandeur continues inside, with marble floor mosaics, a colourful chancel ceiling and a huge pulpit and bishop's throne. Quirky items include a cannonball blasted into an earlier medieval spire during the Siege of Cork (1690). The cathedral sits about 500m southwest of the centre, on the spot where Cork's 7th-century patron saint, Fin Barre, founded a monastery.

Most of the cathedral's ostentation is the result of an architectural competition held in 1863 and won by William Burges. Once victory was assured Burges promptly redrew his plans – with an extra choir bay and taller towers – and his £15,000 budget went out the window. Luckily, the bishop appreciated such perfectionism and spent the rest of his life fundraising for the project. Local legend says that the golden angel on the eastern side will blow its horn when the Apocalypse is due to start…


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