Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral
|Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork|
Front of Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork
|Denomination||Church of Ireland|
|Dedication||Saint Fin Barre|
|Diocese||Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross|
|Province||Province of Dublin|
|Bishop(s)||The Right Reverend Paul Colton|
|Dean||The Very Revd Nigel Dunne|
|Precentor||The Dean of Cloyne|
|Chancellor||The Dean of Ross|
|Archdeacon||The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson|
|Director of music||Peter Stobart|
Saint Fin Barre's Cathedral, (Irish: Ardeaglais Naomh Fionnbarra) is a Gothic revival three spire cathedral in the city of Cork, Ireland. It is dedicated to the Church of Ireland and was completed in 1879. Saint Fin Barre's is located on the south side of the River Lee, on a site that has been a place of worship since the seventh century, and is named after Saint Finbarr, patron saint of the city. It was once of the Diocese of Cork; it is now the primary of three cathedrals in the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, in the ecclesiastical province of Dublin.
The original seventh century monastery underwent successive waves of church building until the late medieval period. Around 1536, during the Protestant Reformation, the cathedral became part of the Established Church, later known as the Church of Ireland. The 18th century building was widely regarded as plain and featureless. A new building was commissioned during the 19th century, initiated by an Anglican church intent on strengthening its hand after the reforms of penal law. Construction began in 1863, the first major work of the renowned Victorian architect William Burges, who designed the outer and interior architecture, the entrance sculptures, the stained glass, mosaics and interior furniture.
The cathedral is built largely from local limestone. Its exterior is dominated by three spires: two are located on the west front and the third above the point where the transept crosses the nave. Many of the external sculptures were modeled by Thomas Nicholls in London and include series of gargoyles. The entrances contains statues of saints, while the doorway of the north transept features an ornate sculpted tympanum that shows a resurrection scene. Saint Fin Barre's foundation stone was laid in 1865, and the cathedral was consecrated in 1870. The spires were completed on 23 October 1879.
Finbarr of Cork
The church grounds are located south of the River Lee on Holy Island, on one of the many inlets that form the Great Marsh of Munster (Corcach Mor na Mumhan). St. Fin Barre's is on the site of at least two previous holy buildings, each dedicated to Finbarr of Cork, patron saint of Cork city, and the founder of the monastic hermitage at Gougane Barra.
According to legend Finbarr was born in Munster and given Gougane Barra as a place of contemplation. He later sailed into Cork city, where he put down stone foundations for the "one true Christian faith". Other sites around the county named after him include churches, graveyards, bridges and townlands. The first site probably dates from the 7th century and comprised both a church and a round tower which survived until the 12th century, when it either lost influence or was physically destroyed due to internal strife or Norse invasion.
Medieval and 18th century churches
One of the earliest references to the site dates to 1644 and notes that "in one of the suburbs of Korq (Cork) there is an old tower ten or twelve in circumference, and more than one hundred feet high...believ[ed] to have been built by St. Baril (Finbarr)". It was badly damaged during the Siege of Cork in 1690, when only the steeple remained intact after fire and the impact of a 24-pound shot from Elizabeth Fort in nearby Barrack Street. The cannonball was re-discovered during the 1865 demolition and is now on display in the cathedral.
The church was demolished in 1725 and replaced in 1735 by a smaller building, constructed during a wave of construction and renovation carried out by Church of Ireland in the early 18th century. Other places of worship rebuilt during this period include Christchurch in Dublin and the Church of St Anne, Shandon, in Cork.
Only the earlier spire was retained for the new building. The older part of this church was described in 1862 as Doric in style, attached to a featureless modern tower with a "ill-formed" spire. The building was always considered aesthetically and structurally weak, with the Dublin Builder describing it as "a shabby apology for a cathedral which has long disgraced Cork," while The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland judged it "a plain, massive, dull, tasteless, oblong pile, totally destitute of what is usually regarded as cathedral character, and possessing hardly a claim to any sort of architectural consideration". It was finally demolished in 1865.
19th century build
In April 1862, the Church of Ireland, in pursuit of a larger, more appealing cathedral, initiated a competition for a replacement building. The potential designers were acutely aware that they were competing for the first new cathedral to be built in the British Isles since St Paul's. The following February, the designs of the architect William Burges, then aged 35, were declared the winner of the competition to build the new cathedral. His diary records his reaction - "Got Cork!" - while the cathedral accounts record the payment of the winning prize sum of £100. The proposed budget was low, at £15,000, but Burges had ignored this constraint, producing a design that he admitted would cost twice as much. Despite the protestations of fellow competitors, it won.
For the exterior, Burges re-used some of his earlier unrealised plans, including for the Crimea Memorial Church, St John's Cathedral, Brisbane, and elevations for the Lille Cathedral. The main obstacle was the building's size. Despite the efforts of its fundraisers, Cork was unable to afford a large cathedral. Burges overcame this by using the grandeur of his three-spired exterior to offset the lesser scale of the remainder of the building. The initial price for construction was £15,000, a figure that Burges ignored, and eventually vastly exceeded. Burges's request for additional funding was supported by the Bishop of Cork, John Gregg, who consistently fought for Burges designs. Gregg was instrumental in sourcing additional money from a variety of sources, including local merchants including William Crawford of the Crawford brewing family and Francis Wise, a local distiller.
The final total was significantly over £100,000. Burges was "unconcerned", and wrote to Gregg in January 1877 that "(In the future) the whole affair will be on its trial and, the elements of time and cost being forgotten, the result only will be looked at. The great questions will then be, first, is this work beautiful and, secondly, have those to whom it was entrusted, done it with all their heart and all their ability." Gregg did not live to see the completion of the cathedral he had fought so hard for. He died on 26 May 1876, and passed the task onto his son Robert, who ceremoniously placed the final stone on the eastern spire in 1879. By then the build was seen as nearing its completion, with only a number of pre-designed stained glass fittings left to be installed.
Today the cathedral holds the estimate book for the decoration of the West front. Nicholls was paid £1,769 for the modelling, McLeod £5,153 for the carving, while Burges took 10% for the design, above his usual 5%; apparently due to his high level of personal involvement. Its construction took seven years before the first service was held in 1870. During the first building phase, three separate firms of building contractors were employed; these were owned by, chronologically, Robert Walker, Gilbert Cockburn and John Delany, who completed the construction and erection of the spires in 1879. Building, carving and decoration continued into the 20th century, long after Burges' death in 1881, including the marble paneling of the aisles, the instillation of the reredos and side choir walls, and the 1915 construction of the chapter house.
Saint Fin Barre's is described by Lawrence and Wilson as "undoubtedly [Burges'] greatest work in ecclesiastical architecture", with an interior that is "overwhelming and intoxicating." Through his ability, by the careful leadership of his team, by total artistic control, and by vastly exceeding the intended budget, Burges produced a building that in size is little more than a large parish church but in impression is described in Lawrence and Wilson's study as "a cathedral becoming such a city and one which posterity may regard as a monument to the Almighty's praise."
The building's style is Early French Gothic, Burges' preferred period and one he favoured throughout his life, choosing it for his own home, The Tower House, in Kensington. He re-used elements of the unsuccessful designs he had earlier produced for competitions for cathedrals at Lille and Brisbane. The stone of the outer shell is mostly limestone stone sources from Cork, with the interior walls formed from stone brought from Bath. The exterior red marble was sourced from Little Island to the south, and purple-brown stone from Fermoy.
The three spires had a troubled completion, both technically and in funding. The cost rose to £40,000 early in the build, with a further £60,000 spent by the time they were fully upright. During their early build, a number of sub-contractors were hired and fired; the work was eventually completed by the Cork Builder John Delaney, who undertook the project in May 1876. By the end of 1877 the main and two ancillary spires were complete.
Each spire supports a Celtic cross, a reference to the 5th century Saint Patrick, who was seen as a foundational ancestor by both contemporary Irish Catholics and Protestants. Thus their inclusion is pointed and was against Burges' wishes; his initial design was for weather cocks, a choice over-written by the building committee, who wanted the church to be perceived as in continuity with the one true faith of the ancient past.
An 1881 estimate by the local stonemason McLeod suggests that Burges was had worked on some 844 features for the building, of which around 412 were for it's interior. The total number is some 1,260, including 32 gargoyles, each with the head of a different animal. He oversaw nearly all aspects of the design, commanding from his office in Buckingham Street and many site visits. Most modern scholars agree that his hold over the design of the architecture, statuary, stained glass and internal decorations, lead to the cathedral's unity of style. He considered sculpture as an "indispensable attribute of architectural effect" and, at St Fin Barre's, believed he was engaged upon "a work which has not been attempted since the West front of Wells Cathedral" in the 13th century. In the designs for the pieces decorating the cathedral, Burges worked closely with Thomas Nicholls, who constructed each figure in plaster, and with R. McLeod and a team of local stone masons, who carved almost all of the sculptures in situ.
Burges designs for the western facade were based on medieval French iconography. He considered this wing to be the most important exterior feature as it would be lit by the setting sun and thus the most potentially dramatic. The overarching theme is The Last Judgement, with sections depicting life size representations of the twelve Apostles bearing instruments from their martyrdom, the Wise and the Foolish Virgins, the Resurrection of the Dead and the Beasts of The Evangelists.
The copper gilded "resurrection angel" facing eastwards on the main spire is perhaps the cathedral's most iconic feature. Designed by Burges, it was erected in 1870 free of charge as his gift to the city, with the humorous intention being that Corkonians, forewarned by the angel blowing his two trumpets, would be the first realise the end of days and make an early entrance into heaven. Burges was moved by the city's willingness to fund his original design, and positioned the sculpture in place of an intended a wrought-iron cross.
The imagery of the tympanum is taken from the Book of Revelation, with the divine on the upper register, and mortals below. It shows an angel, accompanied by St. John the Evangelist, measuring the temple in Jerusalem, while beneath them the dead rise from their graves.
Of these sculptures, the Victorian critic Charles Eastlake, writing in A History of the Gothic Revival, considered that "no finer examples of decorative sculpture have been produced during the Revival".
Saints: Philip (holding a cross), Bartholomew (holding a knife), Simon (holding a saw), John the Baptist
Burges found it difficult to enact some of his original designs; a number of which, including the figures of Adam and Eve and the dead rising from their graves and the welcoming angels, were to be fully nude. This was deemed unacceptable to a number of committee members, and Burges was ask to come up with new clothed designs. The proposed nudity risked offending funders, and compromises included loin cloths, and strategically placed foliage, or in some cases, books.
Plan and elevation
The plan of the cathedral is conventional, if truncated; the three entrance doors in the West front, with tympanum above, lead into the nave, with internal vaulting, arcade, triforium and clerestory, rising to the timber roof. Beyond the nave, the pulpit, choir, Bishop's throne and altar end in an ambulatory. The small floor-plan drew criticism both at the time and in later years. The building is only 180 feet in length, but contains all of the traditional elements of a cathedral of much greater size. A contemporary critic, Robert Rolt Brash, complained; "the effect of this is to make the building look exceedingly short, and disproportionately high". Although modest in size, the compact design makes the most of the small footprint. The three spires gives height to the narrow interior, while space has been preserved by placing the large pipe organ in a pit below ground level.
Burges designed a majority of the interior features, including the mosaic pavement, the altar, the pulpit and the bishop's throne. The marble nave, formed red stone from Little Island and Fermoy puce, is very narrow and unusually high, supported by massive columns supporting the central tower and spire. The exterior gives the impression of an overall large structure, which is at odds with the reduced size of the interior, where the choir, sanctuary and ambulatory take up almost half of the floor-space. The interior is filled with colour, most especially from the stained glass windows. This aspect of the interior is in marked contrast to the austere grey and coldness of the exterior.
The cylindrical pulpit is located near the entrance and was completed in 1874, but not painted until 1935. Like the baptismal font, it is placed on four sculpted legs. five stone relief figures, assumed to be the four evangelists, and Saint Paul sitting on an upturned "pagan" altar, and a winged dragon below the reading stand. The baptismal font is located near the entrance. It's ledge is decorated with a carving of the head of John the Baptist positioned. The font's bowl is of Cork red marble, is 6 inches wide, and supported by a stem, also red marble, and supported by green marble shafts, resting on a white marble shaft of sculpted capitals and an octagonal base. Brass lettering reads "We are buried with Him by baptism into death".
The lectern is made of solid brass, and is from a design Burges had originally intended for Lille Cathedral. It is decorated with the heads of Moses and King David. There is a "Heroes Column" War Memorial by the Choir, by the Dean's chapel. It contains the names of 400 men from the dioceses killed in battle during World War I. A processional cross, completed in 1974 by Patrick Pye, is located in front of the Dean's chapel. The 46 foot 'Great Oak Throne' of the Cork Dioceses Bishop was installed in 1878, alongside a statue of St. Finbarr and a kneeling angel.
Burges conceived the iconographical scheme for the stained glass windows, designed the individual panels for the each of the 74 windows, and oversaw every stages of their production. This fact, according to Maurice Carey means that, "in consequence, the windows have a consistent cohesive style and follow a logical sequence in subject matter". The panels were cartooned by H. W. Lonsdale, and manufactured in London between 1868-69 by William Gualbert Saunders, who had worked in Burges' office before forming his own firm of stained glass makers. However, doctrinal objections to some of the figures, particularly of Christ, lead to a delay of four years, with their eventual installation occurring between 1873-81. Four windows remain incomplete. Lonsdale's cartoons are still extant, and kept at the cathedral.
Many of the figures in the stained glass are taken from Christian iconography, and echo figures in the tympanum, including, in the ambulatory a window showing God as the King of Heaven overlooking representations of the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the panel, Matthew takes human form, Mark is depicted as a lion, Luke as an ox, while John takes the form of an eagle. As elsewhere in the cathedral, the illustrations can be divided between the divine, wise and foolish.
The scheme begins and ends with two rose windows, at the west front and south transept respectively. The west rose window shows God as the creator resting on a rainbow and in the act of blessing. He is surrounded by eight compartments, each inspired by the scenes from Book of Genesis, beginning with the creation of light, and ending with the birth of Eve, and Adam naming the animals.  The south transept rose window, known as the "Heavenly Hierarchies", places Christ the King in the center, with the compartments containing a series of angels, archangels and Cherubim. Separate glass sheets containing building tools are placed between each angelic compartment.
The nave windows contain signs of the Zodiac. Each lancet by the arcade contains a grisaille panel. These scenes are mostly for the Old Testament, while those from the transepts onward are of prophets who foretold Christ's coming, or from the New Testament. The clerestory panels above the high altar depict Christ reigning from his cross alongside His Mother, John, the Three Marys and various disciples. The windows around the ambulatory include scenes from the Life of Christ, culminating in a representation of heaven at worship from the Book of Revelation.
The organ was built in 1870 by William Hill & Sons, consisting of three manuals (or keyboards), over 4,500 pipes and 40 stops. The action on the Great was a form of pneumatic action (possibly Barker lever) on the Great, and tracker for the other two manuals. It was in place for the cathedral's grand opening, on Saint Andrews's day, 30 November, 1870. Originally positioned in the west gallery, but for reasons of acoustics, space, and so that it would not interfere with the view of the windows, the organ was moved to the north transept in 1889. A 14 foot pit was dug in the floor beside the nave, as a new home for the organ.
Since then the upkeep of the organ has been the most expensive part of the cathedral's upkeep. It was overhauled in 1889 by the Cork organ-building firm, T.W. Magahy, who added three new stops. As part of these works, the organ was moved from the west gallery (balcony) down to a pit in the north transept, where it sits today. Most of the choir organ is housed in an enclosure attached to the console, the lid of which can be raised or lowered electrically by the organist. The next major overhaul was in 1906 by Hele & Company of Plymouth, who added a fourth manual (the Solo). By this stage, the action of the organ was entirely pneumatic.
By 2010 the Organ's electrics were failing and it was considered unreliable. The organ builder Trevor Crowe employed to reconstruct and expand the organ, and provide tonal enhancements. This included a full length 32' extension to the pedal trombone. The work also involved a revised layout to enable the previously buried organ to sing unimpeded into the body of the cathedral. Crowe's layout improvements intended to overcome the obstacles of its subterranean location, and the west end nave division improves accompaniment to congregational hymns.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to St Finbarre's Cathedral.|
- Official website, Diocese of Cork, Cloyne & Ross