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Visiting Cavan Town, Republic of Ireland: a skyline marked by a 68-metre Cathedral tower

Updated on July 19, 2016
Flag of Ireland
Flag of Ireland | Source
Cavan Cathedral
Cavan Cathedral | Source
Map location of County Cavan
Map location of County Cavan | Source

For your visit

Cavan: Essays on the History of an Irish County - Revised Edition with Preface
Cavan: Essays on the History of an Irish County - Revised Edition with Preface

I found this collection of essays to contain fascinating insights into the history of one of Ireland's arguably lesser-known counties. There is special emphasis on the county's ecclesiastical history.


Reaching for the skies octagonally

Cavan Town (Irish: An Cabhán), with its spired churches — especially one building — makes for a photogenic skyline.

It is a fairly quiet county town, dwarfed in population and in its level of industry and business by several other county towns in the Republic of Ireland.

Cavan Town's skyline, however, gives evidence of a post-Ascendancy desire among Roman Catholic people to have a strongly visible presence in the built environment. In Ireland generally, towards the end of a period of British rule when the size of spires on non-Protestant buildings had been formerly curtailed, it seems that the lifting of these restrictions led to a surge in the building of very tall church structures.

However, at Cavan Town, Its Roman Catholic Cathedral dates from well after the easing of restrictions on building non-Protestant church structures; indeed, Cavan's Cathedral was built well into the Irish Independence period, between 1938 and 1942. Its architects were the W. H. Byrne partnership. The Diocese of Kilmore itself, however, to which the Cathedral of St. Patrick and St Felim belongs, dates from 1152.

A previous building was already known as a Cathedral in the 15th century.

Building materials used included Portland stone and Pavinazetto marble. Its style is firmly neo-Classical. Among the building's prominent features is a portico with Corinthian columns and a 68-metre, octagonal tower (which in the earlier years of the Ascendancy would never have been permitted!)(1)

Cavan Town and its eponymous County are in the interesting situation of being situated in the Republic of Ireland but forming part of the historic province of Ulster. Since 6 of the 9 Ulster counties are in Northern Ireland, it is not unusual for the 6 counties within the United Kingdom to be referred to as 'Ulster'. However, it should not be forgotten that Cavan Town is one of Ulster's county towns: and its Cathedral is a major expression of its architectural heritage.

The fact that Cavan's Cathedral is built on a hill only adds to the imposing sight that it forms.

July 19, 2016

Sources include: and Wikipedia


(1) While in some ways Ireland's society has moved on, both North and South of the Border, the existence of highly conspicuous spires — and the memory of their former regulation and restriction hundreds of years ago — form an ever present history lesson in many parts of Ireland.

Also worth seeing

In Cavan Town, the spire of the Church of Ireland parish church is also conspicuous. The former Town Hall, opened in 1909, reflects and Arts and Crafts stye; it now houses an arts centre.

The lakes around Belturbet (Irish: Bel Atha Charbaid; distance: 15 kilometres) are very picturesque.

Ireland's Bed and Breakfast industry is excellent, and County Cavan is no exception.

How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport, from where car rental is available. To Cavan Town by car from Dublin, take the N3. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit

Michelin Ireland Map 712 (Maps/Country (Michelin))
Michelin Ireland Map 712 (Maps/Country (Michelin))

Michelin's maps in general - and this map of Ireland in particular - are worth their weight in gold, proverbially speaking.



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