St Eugene's Cathedral

Saint Eugene's Cathedral
Saint Eugene's Cathedral, Derry

Rear Chancel of the Cathedral.
Saint Eugene's Cathedral
Shown within Northern Ireland
55°00′00″N 7°19′42″W / 54.999958°N 7.32846°W / 54.999958; -7.32846Coordinates: 55°00′00″N 7°19′42″W / 54.999958°N 7.32846°W / 54.999958; -7.32846
Location Derry, County Londonderry
Country Northern Ireland
Denomination Roman Catholic
Architect(s) J. J. McCarthy
Style Gothic Revival
Years built 1849-1873
Diocese Derry (since 1873)
Province Armagh
Bishop(s) Dónal McKeown
Canon(s) Patrick Lagan
St Eugene's Cathedral, August 2011

St Eugene's Cathedral is the Roman Catholic cathedral located in Derry, Northern Ireland. It is the "Mother Church" for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry, as well as the parish Church of the parish of Templemore.[1]


It wasn't until the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, that the possibility of building a Roman Catholic cathedral in Derry could be contemplated. Fundraising for the building of the cathedral took place from 1840. Work began on the construction of the cathedral in 1849. The cathedral's location is next to Francis Street and Creggan Street in Derry. The total cost of building the cathedral amounted to just over £40,000. Money was raised not just in Derry and Ireland, but also in America where around £4,000 was raised. The architect commissioned to design the cathedral was J.J. McCarthy who had already built numerous cathedrals across Ireland. The plan of the cathedral is a simple neo-gothic expression.[2][3]

The cathedral was officially opened on 4 May 1873 by the then Bishop of Derry, Francis Kelly. The project to build the cathedral's bell tower and spire was postponed until a further date as no funds were available for the project. At first the cathedral's windows were made of just plain glass due to lack of funds. It was not until the late 1890s when stained glass windows were installed. Work on the bell tower and spire began on 13 August 1900, with the contract to build the tower and spire being awarded to Courtney and Co from Belfast. Work was completed on 19 June 1903.[2][3]

Post Vatican II changes

The changes to the Roman Catholic liturgy in 1962/1964 meant that the sanctuary of the cathedral had to be reorganised. In May 1964 a temporary wooden altar was placed in the sanctuary to accommodate the mass being said in English and facing the congregation. Further temporary work was carried out in late 1975 with the addition of a larger wooden altar on a newly extended wooden sanctuary floor, the removal of the altar rails and the removal of the smaller pulpit on the cathedral's left hand side of the sanctuary whilst retaining the main pulpit located at the right hand side of the cathedral sanctuary. The wooden statues which adorned the main large pulpit's large canopy where removed and placed at other locations in the cathedral sanctuary just in time before Christmas Midnight Mass was transmitted live via Eurovision from the cathedral.[2]

In 1984 fundraising began for the renovation work to the cathedral, which its main structure was over a hundred years old and in desperate need of repair. From 1984 until 1988, exterior renovation work took place on the cathedral with the extension of the sacristy and building of a brand new conference room. In June 1989 the cathedral was closed for six months for a permanent reorganisation of the sanctuary. The old temporary fittings were removed and a new sanctuary floor made from Sardinian granite was completed. A new square altar made from Carrara marble was made and installed in the sanctuary under the chancel arch. The old pulpit was taken out and a brand new lectern made of marble was installed. The celebrant's chair and tabernacle stand were all made from Carrara and Macedonian marble. A new tabernacle was made in silver-plated bronze, and was constructed by a Kilkenny silversmith, Peter Donovan. A new secondary porch was created in the main entrance in the 1989 renovations along with a new small porch in the North aisle. The main high altar table was taken out, however the original reredos which was installed in 1904, was kept. A new lighting scheme was installed, to give the cathedral more brightness and warmth which it had lacked for many years. A new sound system was also installed which gave the cathedral excellent amplification. The whole interior of the cathedral was redecorated. The cathedral's brand new interior was opened and consecrated by the then Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly on 17 December 1989.[2]

On Monday 25 May 2015 extensive refurbishment and renovation work commenced in the cathedral. Details of the refurbishment and renovation work which would be undertaken in the cathedral in the coming months ahead was outlined in their parish bulletin. "As custodians of this sacred, listed building of St Eugene’s Cathedral, it has become necessary to carry out essential repairs and refurbishment primarily associated with damage caused by the entrance of moisture to the fabric of the building. This is affecting internal finishes, stained glass windows and external masonry (ie St Columba’s and St Patrick’s windows). The damp entering the aisle wall at the choir is causing large sections of internal plaster to boast. The spiral staircase to the bell tower is cracked and unsafe. The existing wrought iron ladder and platform to the spire from the bell tower is unsafe and as a result the spire parapet gutter has not been maintained for several years. The works will cost £353,480. The works will begin on Monday, 25th May and will continue for 20 weeks. The main contractor is Stewart & McConnell, Derry (lowest tender)".[4][5][6][7]

On the week of 16th November 2015, restoration work on the cathedral concluded.

On Sunday 13th December 2015, the Bishop of Derry - Donal McKeown opened a "Holy Door" in the cathedral to commence the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Roman Catholic Church, which will run until Sunday 20th November 2016. The "Holy Door" is the main entrance door to the cathedral. The entrance porch has been completely refurbished. On entering the porch you are now greeted by eight newly positioned oak statues of Saints Columba, Patrick, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Mary and Joseph. These statues used to be part of the canopy of the old pulpit in the cathedral from 1906-1989. A stone statue of Saint Eugene adorns the outside of the entrance porch embedded in the main bell tower of the cathedral, a place where the statue has been since the cathedral was built in 1873. Also in the newly refurbished porch the words from the prophet Isaiah "Do not be afraid I have redeemed you and called you by your name. You are mine" are engraved in the wall.[8][9][10] On Sunday 13th November 2016, Bishop Donal McKeown officially closed the "Holy Door" to mark the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy which concluded on Sunday 20th November 2016 in the Roman Catholic Church.[11]

On Monday 8 August 2016 former Bishop of Derry Edward Daly died at the age of 82. His remains were brought to the cathedral that evening, and over a period of two and a half days an estimate 25,000 people came to pay their last respects to Bishop Daly's remains which laid at rest inside the cathedral on public display. His funeral mass took place in the cathedral on Thursday 11 August 2016, where over a thousand people packed into the cathedral. Irish President Michael D Higgins, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and representatives of Her Majesty The Queen, the British and Irish governments and City of Derry dignitaries, including Deputy Mayor Jim McKeever, were also present.

The current Bishop of Derry, Most Reverend Donal McKeown was the chief celebrant, who was joined by the Primate of All Ireland, Derry born Archbishop Eamon Martin, retired Archbishop of Armagh Sean Brady, alongside other bishops and clergy from the Roman Catholic church across the Derry Diocese and around Ireland, along with representatives of the protestant churches in Derry City, including former Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe - James Mehaffey who was very close friends with Bishop Daly.

Immediately after the Requiem Mass, Bishop Daly was buried in a plot located within the grounds of the cathedral along side his predecessor Bishop Neil Farren, Bishop of Derry from 1939-1973, who was buried there in 1980.[12][13][14]


The organ has always been located in a west end gallery. The original organ was built by Telford of Dublin and installed in 1873. In the mid 1950s this instrument was replaced with an 11 rank extension organ by the John Compton Organ company of London. Only for the Cathedral's extremely lively acoustic, the instrument is of questionable musical quality. No pipes are visible, which detracts greatly from the overall appearance of the West end. The fine stone carved gallery and rose window above, are marred by what looks more like a loudspeaker cabinet than an organ. By the late 1990s this organ had fallen into only sporadic use, with the main Sunday services being accompanied by a Johannus electronic instrument located in the south aisle.

The Cathedral today

The cathedral forms part of the Parish of Templemore in the city of Derry, which also includes Saint Columba's Church, Long Tower. The Bishop of Derry - Most Reverend Donal McKeown is the Parish Priest of the Templemore Parish. Bishop McKeown was installed as Bishop of Derry in the cathedral on Sunday 6 April 2014.

As of September 2016, the cathedral is served by three full-time priests, Father Paul Farren (Administrator), Father Patrick Lagan (curate) and Father Christopher McDermott (curate). Reverend Malachy Gallagher (Deacon) also serves the cathedral parish and the neighbouring Long Tower Parish, whilst residing in the cathedral parochial house. Deacon Gallagher will be ordained a priest in 2017, and is on pastoral placement based in the cathedral.[15] [16][17][18] Other retired priests and visiting priests help serve the cathedral too, with some retired clergy residing in the cathedral parochial house.[19]

The bells of the cathedral can be heard ringing out over the Derry area each day at 8:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm & 9:00pm ringing out seasonal tunes and calling parishioners to masses.

As of December 2015, the cathedral parish covers a Catholic population of 10,400.[20][21][22]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to St Eugene's Cathedral, Derry.

See also


  1. "Parish History". St Eugene's Cathedral Derry Diocese. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "The Story of St Eugene's Cathedral". St Eugene's Cathedral Derry Diocese. Retrieved 30 November 2011.
  3. 1 2 O'Neill, B (ed) (2002). Irish Cathedrals, Churches and Abbeys. London: Caxton Editions. p. 65.

External links

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