St Mary’s Cathedral is Limerick’s main religious building. Built in honour of the Virgin Mary, it was built in 1168 on the wishes of the last King of Munster, King Donal Mor O’Brien. It is now considered to be the oldest building in the whole city and welcomes hundreds of worshippers every week to celebrate religious events.
From the first year of its foundation, St Mary’s Cathedral officially served as a diocese for the Limerick area, and became one of the highest cultural and religious centres of the Viking period. The Cathedral tower was not added until the 14th century, with a belfry with a carillon of 8 bells, giving the city the joy of hearing the bells ringing for miles around.
It is in 1651, after the siege of Oliver Cromwell, that the cathedral is invested by the British parliamentary army to the displeasure of the inhabitants of the city. This lasted only for a short time, until the British troops finally withdrew from Limerick.
In 1691, the cathedral was badly damaged by the siege of William of Limerick. When the battle ended, William would grant £1,000 to renovate it.
Since 1991, a major campaign to restore the cathedral has been underway. The floors have been renewed and a central underfloor heating system has also been installed. Today, the restoration continues to a lesser degree.
Located on King’s Island, near King John’s Castle, St. Mary’s Cathedral is open to visitors and worshippers alike, who come to attend mass or other religious ceremonies. A visit to the cathedral will plunge you into a world that is more than 800 years old, where you can admire the beauty of its nave, as well as its 12th century altar, considered to be one of the most imposing in Ireland (it was carved in a single block, and has a most impressive wingspan!).
Don’t miss the beauty of its stained glass windows, whose light subtly pierces the ambient darkness. You will also be able to distinguish 5 chandeliers suspended on either side of the nave: these are only lit on special occasions. Last thing: the custom in Ireland is to take a few pictures, provided you make a small donation to the cathedral… It’s up to you to see if you want to…