St Eugene's Cathedral

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Saint Eugene's Cathedral
Saint Eugene's Cathedral, Derry
Rear Chancel of the Cathedral.
Saint Eugene's Cathedral is located in Northern Ireland
Saint Eugene's Cathedral
Saint Eugene's Cathedral
Shown within Northern Ireland
55°00′00″N 7°19′42″W / 54.999958°N 7.32846°W / 54.999958; -7.32846Coordinates: 55°00′00″N 7°19′42″W / 54.999958°N 7.32846°W / 54.999958; -7.32846
Location Derry, County Londonderry
Country Northern Ireland
Denomination Roman Catholic
Architect(s) J. J. McCarthy
Style Gothic Revival
Years built 1849-1873
Diocese Derry (since 1873)
Province Armagh
Bishop(s) Donal McKeown
St Eugene's Cathedral, August 2011

St Eugene's Cathedral is the Roman Catholic cathedral located in Derry, Northern Ireland. It is the "Mother Church" for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Derry, as well as the parish Church of the parish of Templemore.[1]


It wasn't until the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, that the possibility of building a Roman Catholic cathedral in Derry could be contemplated. Fundraising for the building of the cathedral took place from 1840. Work began on the construction of the cathedral in 1849. The cathedral's location is next to Francis Street and Creggan Street in Derry. The total cost of building the cathedral amounted to just over £40,000. Money was raised not just in Derry and Ireland, but also in America where around £4,000 was raised. The architect commissioned to design the cathedral was J.J. McCarthy who had already built numerous cathedrals across Ireland. The plan of the cathedral is a simple neo-gothic expression.[2][3]

The cathedral was officially opened on 4 May 1873 by the then Bishop of Derry, Francis Kelly. The project to build the cathedral's bell tower and spire was postponed until a further date as no funds were available for the project. At first the cathedral's windows were made of just plain glass due to lack of funds. It was not until the late 1890s when stained glass windows were installed. Work on the bell tower and spire began on 13 August 1900, with the contract to build the tower and spire being awarded to Courtney and Co from Belfast. Work was completed on 19 June 1903.[2][3]

Post Vatican II changes[edit]

The changes to the Roman Catholic liturgy in 1962/1964 meant that the sanctuary of the cathedral had to be reorganised. In May 1964 a temporary wooden altar was placed in the sanctuary to accommodate the mass being said in English and facing the congregation. Further temporary work was carried out in late 1975 with the addition of a larger wooden altar on a newly extended wooden sanctuary floor, the removal of the altar rails and the removal of the pulpit from the left hand side of the sanctuary to the right hand side, just in time before Christmas Midnight Mass was transmitted live via Eurovision from the cathedral.[2]

In 1984 fundraising began for the renovation work to the cathedral, which its main structure was over a hundred years old and in desperate need of repair. From 1984 until 1988, exterior renovation work took place on the cathedral with the extension of the sacristy and building of a brand new conference room. In June 1989 the cathedral was closed for six months for a permanent reorganisation of the sanctuary. The old temporary fittings were removed and a new sanctuary floor made from Sardinian granite was completed. A new square altar made from Carrara marble was made and installed in the sanctuary under the chancel arch. The old pulpit was taken out and a brand new lectern made of marble was installed. The celebrant's chair and tabernacle stand were all made from Carrara and Macedonian marble. A new tabernacle was made in silver plated bronze, and was constructed by a Kilkenny silversmith, Peter Donovan. A new secondary porch was created in the main entrance in the 1989 renovations along with a new small porch in the North aisle. The main high altar table was taken out, however the original reredos which was installed in 1904, was kept. A new lighting scheme was installed, to give the cathedral more brightness and warmth which it had lacked for many years. A new sound system was also installed which gave the cathedral excellent amplification. The whole interior of the cathedral was redecorated. The cathedral's brand new interior was opened and consecrated by the then Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly on 17 December 1989.[2]

On Monday 25 May 2015 extensive refurbishment and renovation work commenced in the cathedral. Details of the refurbishment and renovation work which would be undertaken in the cathedral in the coming months ahead was outlined in their parish bulletin. "As custodians of this sacred, listed building of St Eugene’s Cathedral, it has become necessary to carry out essential repairs and refurbishment primarily associated with damage caused by the entrance of moisture to the fabric of the building. This is affecting internal finishes, stained glass windows and external masonry (ie St Columba’s and St Patrick’s windows). The damp entering the aisle wall at the choir is causing large sections of internal plaster to boast. The spiral staircase to the bell tower is cracked and unsafe. The existing wrought iron ladder and platform to the spire from the bell tower is unsafe and as a result the spire parapet gutter has not been maintained for several years. The works will cost £353,480. The works will begin on Monday, 25th May and will continue for 20 weeks. The main contractor is Stewart & McConnell, Derry (lowest tender)".[4][5][6][7]


The organ has always been located in a west end gallery. The original organ was built by Telford of Dublin and installed in 1873. In the mid 1950s this instrument was replaced with an 11 rank extension organ by the John Compton Organ company of London. Only for the Cathedral's extremely lively acoustic, the instrument is of questionable musical quality. No pipes are visible, which detracts greatly from the overall appearance of the West end. The fine stone carved gallery and rose window above, are marred by what looks more like a loudspeaker cabinet than an organ. By the late 1990s this organ had fallen into only sporadic use, with the main Sunday services being accompanied by a Johannus electronic instrument located in the south aisle.

The Cathedral today[edit]

The cathedral forms part of the Parish of Templemore in the city of Derry, which also includes Saint Columba's Church, Long Tower. The Bishop of Derry - Most Reverend Donal McKeown is the Parish Priest of the Templemore Parish. Bishop McKeown was installed as Bishop of Derry in the cathedral on Sunday 6 April 2014. As of 1st September 2015, the cathedral is served by two full time priests, Father Paul Farren (Administrator), & Father Patrick Lagan (curate). The cathedral is also served by a deacon, Reverend Christopher McDermott, who is due to be ordained a priest in 2016. [8][9][10] Other retired priests and visiting priests help serve the cathedral too, with some retired clergy residing in the cathedral parochial house. The bells of the cathedral can be heard ringing out over the Derry area each day at 8:00am, 12:00pm, 6:00pm & 9:00pm ringing out seasonal tunes and calling parishioners to masses. As of December 2014, the cathedral parish covers a Catholic population of 9,742.[11][12]

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