Cobh Cathedral (St. Colman’s) is the most iconic buildings in Cobh.
The cathedral is incredibly beautiful and ornate, boasting intricate carvings and stained glass windows.
No visit to Cobh would be complete without seeing St. Colman’s Cathedral, and you’ll discover everything you need to know below!
Some quick need-to-knows about Cobh Cathedral
Although a visit to St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.
Cobh Cathedral is located up a hill not far from the harbour. It’s set in a scenic location with views of Cork Harbour and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a 30-minute drive from Cork City, a 20-minute drive from Midleton and a 1-hour drive from Kinsale.
2. It boasts ample history
St Coleman’s Cathedral has a rich history. The first cornerstone was laid in September 1868 but it wasn’t until 1919 that it was completed. This is partially due to its elaborate neo-gothic design and because construction started and stopped several times.
3. The backdrop to the Deck of Cards
The Deck of Cards is another one of Cobh’s picturesque attractions. The row of colourful houses is a popular photo spot and there are several viewing angles. West View Park is the best place to view the houses front-on with the beautiful St. Colman’s Cathedral in the background!
A brief history of St. Colman’s Cathedral
St. Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh has a rich history, but before it was built, there was a small church known as the “Pro-Cathedral” on the same site.
In 1856, following the death of Bishop Timothy Murphy and the split of the dioceses Cloyne and Ross, Bishop William Keane made the decision that Cloyne should have its own cathedral.
In 1867, it was decided by a diocesan building committee that Cobh (known as Queenstown) would be the location for the new cathedral.
The committee was given designs from three building firms, but the firm Pugin and Ashlin was awarded the contract with a cost limit of IR£25,000 which was later increased to IR£33,000.
In February 1868 A temporary church was constructed and the old “Pro-Cathedral” was demolished.
The first cornerstone of the cathedral was laid in September 1868, however, the main building contract did not start until April the following year.
Construction was well underway, with the walls reaching 3.5 metres tall when Bishop Keane decided he would prefer a more elaborate building.
Because of this, Pugin and Ashlin amended their plans to the point where none of the original plans were followed (aside from the ground plan).
Costs and opening
The mounting costs caused the project’s builder to withdraw and building was halted for a short period but quickly resumed.
By 1879, the cathedral could safely house the congregation, and work continued until 1883 when the builders ran out of funds.
Construction stopped for 6 years and was restarted by Bishop McCarthy in 1889. By 1890, the cathedral had cost IR£100,000.
It took four years to complete the huge spire which was finished in 1915. The entire cathedral was finished and consecrated in 1919.
By this time, a total of IR£235,000 had been spent (well over the original budget), making it the most expensive building at that time to be constructed in Ireland!
Things to do at Cobh Cathedral
1. Admire it from the outside, first
Cobh Cathedral is an amazing example of neo-Gothic architecture, specifically the French Gothic style.
The outside is magnificent and the west front and transepts feature ornate rose windows under high arches, while the tower is constructed out of Newry granite.
The west front also has beautiful red Aberdeen granite pillars. The octagonal spire is an impressive 90 metres high with a 3.3 metre bronze cross on top, making St. Coleman’s the tallest cathedral in Ireland.
2. Then quietly have a look around inside
The inside of the cathedral is just as stunning as the outside. But, before you head inside, take time to admire the doorway which is adorned with statues welcoming pilgrims to the church.
Inside, the cathedral has seven bays and the main room is flanked by stone pillars and large stone arches. There are two shrines which are both made using red Middleton marble, as well as the first confessionals.
Things to do near Cobh Cathedral
One of the beauties of St Coleman’s is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best things to do in Cobh.
Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the cathedral (there’s some great restaurants in Cobh if you’re in need of a feed!).
1. The Deck of Cards (5-minute walk)
The Deck of Cards is one of Cobh’s top attractions. It is a picturesque row of colourful houses on West View, and a popular place to snap a scenic photo! The locals joke that their nickname, the Deck of Cards, is because if the bottom house fell down, the rest would come tumbling like a house of cards.
2. Titanic Experience (5-minute walk)
The Titanic Experience is an immersive experience of the Titanic. “Passengers” will learn about and experience what life was really like aboard the ship. There’s a 30-minute tour that includes a one-of-a-kind cinematographic experience of the ship sinking. After the tour, you can explore the interactive exhibitions at your own pace.
3. Spike Island Ferry (5-minute walk)
Spike Island is a 104-acre island full of history and nature. It takes 12 minutes to reach the island, where there are over a dozen museums and beautiful nature trails. Spike Island has been used as a prison four times, with the first prison dating back to the 1600s, and the final prison closing as recently as 2004.
FAQs about St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘When was it built?’ to ‘What is there to see?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How long did it take to build Cobh cathedral?
It took a whopping 47 years to build the mangnificent St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh and, when you gaze up at it, you’ll realise why!
How old is Cobh Cathedral?
Cobh Cathedral dates back to 1879, making it over 143 years old. Despite its age, it’s beautifully maintained and is a joy to observe from the outside.
Alexandra is a marine biologist turned travel writer. She loves exploring new places and faraway lands but also has an appreciation for destinations closer to home. You’ll either find her walking along a beach or in a cafe kicking back with a coffee.