St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Drogheda
|Saint Peter's Church|
View from West Street
|Country||Republic of Ireland|
|Denomination||Roman Catholic (Latin Rite)|
|Relics held||Saint Oliver Plunket|
|Functional status||Chapel of ease|
|Architect(s)||J. O'Neill and W.H. Byrne|
|Nave width||65 feet|
|Parish||St Peter's, Drogheda|
|Diocese||Archdiocese of Armagh|
St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church is located on West Street, Drogheda, Ireland. Designed by J. O'Neill and W.H. Byrne and built in the French Gothic style of local limestone ashlar in 1884. The church is famous for it tall west gable, rose window and for containing the national shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett.
During the time of the Penal Laws, Catholic chapels were barred within a town's walls. Therefore, Drogheda's Catholic chapel was outside the Westgate and was inadequate for the needs of the populace. A plot of land on a suitable site in West Street (Drogheda's main street) was persistently refused by the corporation. Eventually, through the influence of a Mr. Chester, who was a wealthy Catholic, a lease was finally secured.
A ceremony was held for all to witness Richard O'Reilly, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all-Ireland laying the foundation stone. Although the occasion was marred by an unseemly interruption, when the Mayor and Drogheda corporation arrived at the ceremony wearing their official regalia, with the Mace and Sword of state being borne before them, to confront the Archbishop. They warned him that a 'Popish Chapel' would not be tolerated within the town walls.
Sir Edward Bellew of Barmeath Castle, a Catholic, stepped forward and convinced the mayor and corporation and their fellow travelers to withdraw. The proceedings continued without further ado and the foundation stone was duly laid.
The façade of St. Peters is an imposing structure in the French Gothic Revival style, built of local limestone. It is one of the most notable buildings on West Street in the town centre of Drogheda. The building from 1793 was partly incorporated into the present building. The tower of the church is very similar to that of St. Patrick's Church in Dungannon, County Tyrone. A detail image of that building is held at the Highlanes Gallery, illustrated on a mid 19th Century (ca. 1861) map of the town created by Isaiah Rowland CE.
The Church is famous for housing the National Shrine to St. Oliver Plunkett, who was martyred at Tyburn in 1681. The shrine is most elaborate and contains the preserved head of the saint. Another showcase displays his shoulder blade and other bones as relics. Also on exhibit is the cell door of Newgate prison in which he spent his last days.
The Church is a prominent tourist attraction but signs urge silence and remind people that they are in a sacred place.