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Travelers' Choice 2014

St Mary Cathedral, Limerick

stmary.jpg (St Mary's Catheral) 

Distance: 12kms

St Mary's, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was founded in 1168 and is the oldest building in Limerick which is in daily use.[1] It has the only complete set of misericords left in Ireland.

In 1111, the Synod of Rathbrassil decided that "St. Mary's church" would become the cathedral church of the Diocese of Limerick. According to tradition, Donal Mor O'Brien, the last King of Munster founded the present cathedral on the site of his palace on King's Island in 1168.[2] The palace had been built on the site of the Viking meeting place, or "Thingmote" - the Vikings' most westerly European stronghold.[1] This had been the centre of government in the early medieval Viking city. Parts of the palace maybe be incorporated into the present structure of the cathedral, most prominently the great West Door, which tradition claims was the original main entrance to the royal palace.[3] The West Door is now only used on ceremonial occasions.[4] The Bishops of Limerick have for centuries knocked on this door and entered by it as part of their installation ceremony. According to tradition, during the many sieges of Limerick the defenders of the City used the stones around the West Door to sharpen their swords and arrows, and the marks they made in the stonework can be seen there today.[4]

The tower of St. Mary's Cathedral was added in the 14th century, and it rises to 120 feet.

The ancient West Door of the cathedral is only used now on ceremonial occasions. The Bishops of Limerick (including our current Bishop Trevor Russell Williams ) have for centuries knocked on this door and enter by it as part of their installation ceremony.

In keeping with the City Motto translated as " An ancient City well versed in the art of War". Legend has it that in the past the doorway had a more military purpose. During the many sieges of Limerick the defenders of the City used the stones around the door to sharpen their swords. They say, the marks they made in the stonework can be seen there to this day.

In the 1651 after Cromwell's forces captured the City the Cathedral was used as a stable by the parliamentary army. Thankfully this misuse of such a wonderful building was short lived, but was a similar fate to that suffered by some of the other great Cathedrals during the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland.     

Each generation have added to and developed the Cathedral to make it the wonderful place it is today. Over the last number of years a large amount of effort and resources have been spent to restore the building. Our aim is that we might pass it on to our children and future citizen's of this ancient and noble City, to enjoy and treasure as we do.

While the Cathedral is a beautiful and historic building, it is still used today for its original purpose, as a place of worship and prayer. The historic setting only adds to the wonderful atmosphere as the the people of Limerick continue to worship God today in its ancient and hollowed confines.

If the stones of this Cathedral could only talk and tell us what has happened here over the centuries, what a story they would tell. It would include the exploits of Kings and Princes, feasts and famines, military victories and defeats and Civic triumphs and disasters. It would also tell of a love and worship of God from countless generations of Limerick people which this building stands in testament to. With God's help it will continue do so for another millennium and more.