Monday, July 31, 2017

St Canice cathedral at Kilkenny

St Canice cathedral at Kilkenny 

Niall C.E.J. O'Brien

The cathedral church of St. Canice in the medieval city of Kilkenny was founded as a local church by St. Canice (Cainnech) sometime before his death in 599 or 600. The principal church of St. Canice was at Aghaboe in County Laois. By the twelfth century the coarbs of Aghaboe had decided to relocate to Kilkenny which had by then become an important church with a round tower nearby.

At the synod of Rathbreasail in 1111 the church of St. Canice at Kilkenny was chosen as the cathedral church for the new Diocese of Ossory. In 1172 the then Bishop of Ossory, Felix O Dubhlain, did fealty to King Henry II of England. Felix died in 1202 and soon was venerated as a saint with miracles attached to his tomb at Jerpoint Abbey.

In 1202 Hugh de Rous became the first Anglo-Norman bishop of Ossory. The cathedral had a dean in the days of Bishop Felix and a chapter was in place by 1218. Later the chapter consisted of the dean, four dignitaries and seven prebendaries.

In the thirteenth century (between 1251 and 1287) the old cathedral was gradually replaced by a new building - the present structure. In 1332 the central tower collapsed during the time of Bishop Richard Ledred, the famous bishop of the Kilkenny witch trials. In 1460-78 Bishop David Hacket built the star vaulting under the restored central tower.

In 1260-87 Bishop Geoffrey St. Leger founded a College of Vicars Choral and erected a common hall and other buildings for the Vicars near the cathedral.

By 1565 the cathedral had passed from Roman Catholic control to the Protestant Church of Ireland with Christopher Gaffney as first Protestant bishop. The cathedral is today (2017) still part of the Protestant Church of Ireland community.

Source = A. Gwynn & R.N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses Ireland (Irish Academic Press, Dublin, 1988), pp. 84, 85

The following are images of the cathedral which is visited by many thousands of tourists every year.



Today St. Canice cathedral is the home of many medieval tombs and monuments. But not all of these tombs are original to the cathedral. Many were brought there over the decades from other abandoned churches around the Diocese of Ossory.

The cathedral has also many 'modern' memorials to the Butler family, Earls of Ormond and other people.


Art and architecture is part of any great cathedral and St. Canice's overflows with both.






Windows - inside and outside


exterior views

North side of the cathedral


A great cathedral has many doors - large and small and of many colours such as the green door


End of post


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