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Visiting Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland, and its spired church of St Peter: skyward reaction to the former Ascendancy

Updated on June 25, 2012
Flag of the Republic of Ireland
Flag of the Republic of Ireland | Source
River Boyne, west of Drogheda The spire of St. Peter's is just visible in the distance.
River Boyne, west of Drogheda The spire of St. Peter's is just visible in the distance. | Source
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Drogheda, Ireland.
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Drogheda, Ireland. | Source
Map location of County Louth, Ireland
Map location of County Louth, Ireland | Source

Skyward, uninhibited!

In Droghda (Irish: Droichead Átha ), County Louth (Irish: Contae Lú ), Ireland, among the most conspicuous sights is the spire of St Peter's church.

Some history and features

Attaining a height of 67.7 metres, it can be seen several kilometers away, and is thus a major feature of the town's skyline.

Interestingly, many of the tall spires on church buildings in Ireland date from the 19th century, but not earlier. This is because during the Protestant Ascendancy there was a rule whereby only Protestant churches (i.e., Anglican) could have the tallest tower in any town. This was by way of a visible reminder of the privileges which a minority group, linked to the British state, exercised over the majority population.

In the course of the 19th century, the Anglican church was disestablished in Ireland, and the rule about church towers relaxed. The result? well, the architects of many new Roman Catholic church buildings made sure they built towers which truly reached for the sky!

I have included, above, a photo of the town seen from the Boyne River (Irish: Abhainn na Bóinne ), and the tower of St Peter's can be seen in the distance.

The current church building, dating from the mid 19th century is situated in West Street. Executed in limestone, its style is Gothic, very popular in Victorian times. Elements an earlier building by Francis Johnston (1), dating from 1791, are incorporated into the existing structure.

In 1921, the head of Oliver Plunkett, executed in 1681 and later canonized by the papacy, was

In 1994, this historic town commemorated its 800 anniversary. But undoubtedly the building of St Peter's church in the 19th century was the event that has had the greatest visual impact on the town in its long history.

June 22, 2012


(1) Other buildings for which Architect Johnston was known include Dublin's General Post Office, famous for its later, Republican associations.

Also worth seeing

In Drogheda itself, visitor attractions include St Lawrence Gate, dating from the 13th century. St Mary Magdalene Friary preserves interesting arching in its structure. The Highlanes Gallery is of historical interest.


How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport, from where car rental is available. Bus Éireann operates bus services to Drogheda from Dublin's Busárus (bus station). Irish Rail operates rail services to Drogheda from Dublin Connolly Station. By road, take M1 north from Dublin. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

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

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