Visiting the Cathedral of St Macartan, Monaghan Town, Ireland: vertically defying the former rules of the Ascendancy
Gothic features in abundance rising to 76.2 metres
Before Victorian times, when the rules of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland were somewhat relaxed, it used to be that Roman Catholic church buildings could not be as tall as Protestant ones. Thus it happened that, when this rule was rescinded, great efforts were made to 'reach for the skies' with tall, spired buildings which were supposed to outclass Protestant church buildings in their height and grandiosity.
The Cathedral Church of St. Macartan, Monaghan (Irish: Muineachán)(1), Republic of Ireland, was built between 1861 and 1892. Not only does its tower rise to an impressive height — 76.2 metres — from its base, the building also stands upon a hill overlooking Monaghan Town.
Interestingly, its height is broadly comparable with that of Trinity Church, 79 Broadway, New York City, which at 86 metres was the tallest building in New York City between 1846 and 1890.
It is executed in Gothic style.
We thus see in this striking structure repeated pointed arching and a profusion of pinnacles. The whole constitutes a quite spectacular display of this Medieval style revived optimistically in the 19th century.
The building's architect was J J McCarthy (1817-1882)(2). I have included a 19th century drawing of the building's design, as planned by the architect. St Macartan's Cahtedral is thus undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings in Ulster (Irish: Ulaidh)(3).
September 11, 2013
(1) Both county town and the county itself are called Monaghan; hence differentiation is sometimes made between Monaghan Town and County Monaghan.
(2) Architect McCarthy was known for his ecclesiastical building designs; he specialized in Gothic style, especially popular during the Victorian era. His designs are often conpared with those of Augustus Pugin, who pioneered the Gothic Revivial in the 19th century.
(3) The term 'Ulster' is sometimes used to refer to Northern Ireland, but Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal — all situated in the Republic of Ireland — classify as three of the historic counties of Ulster.
Also worth seeing
In Monaghan Town itself, the Rossmore Memorial was built to remember a local landowner who tragically died young; other noted structures include Monaghan County Museum, located in Hill Street; St Patrick's Church and Monaghan Courthouse.
Clones (distance: 21 kilometres) is known for an impressive, old market cross, a ruined abbey and its Celtic round tower.
How to get there: Aer Lingus flies from New York and Boston to Dublin Airport , from where car rental is available. Distance from Dublin by road to Monaghan Town is 125 kilometres; Bus Éireann maintains a service on this route. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. 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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