St. Macartan's Cathedral


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St. Macartan's Cathedral

The Exterior


 Cathedral: western face - J Chester

The cathedral stands high on the town-land of Latlurcan, visible on all main roads approaching Monaghan town. Monaghan became a cathedral town in the mid 1800's and the plan for a cathedral in Monaghan proposed by Bishop Charles MacNally was accepted on 3rd January 1858. The 8 acre site for the cathedral and bishop's house was purchased from Humphrey Jones of Clontibret and on June 21st 1861 the cathedral foundation stone was laid. Its architect James Joseph McCarthy (1817 - 1882) proposed a 14th century Gothic style and the building commenced in 1862. Most of the limestone used in the building came from a quarry very near the cathedral site at Old Cross Square. After McCarthy's death in late 1882 the architect William Hague from Cavan oversaw the building of the spire which stands 81 metres high and the gate lodge. Bishop James Donnelly, bishop of Clogher from 1864 to 1893 oversaw most of the building of the cathedral and on 21st August 1892 he dedicated it to the service of God and the patronage of Macartan, patron saint of the diocese.


Western Face - J Chester


St Paul

Saints Peter and Paul stand, on each side of the main western door, Peter to the left and Paul to the right. Peter clutches the keys of authority given to him by Jesus and Paul carries the sword of martyrdom. Tradition has handed down how Peter died by the cross and Peter by the sword. 



St. Peter standing left of the western door

Above the west door Jesus presents the keys of authority to Peter.





Southern Face - A O D


The East Face - J Chester


North & Western Face - J Chester


Statues on the south face - A O D

On the southern face of the Cathedral there are a number of interesting statues. Standing from left to right are; St. Tiarnach, St. Ultan of Ardbraccan patron of children, St. Columcille of Derry and Iona, St. Dympna of Gheel in Belgium and Tydavnet in the centre, Heber Mc Mahon the warrior bishop of Clogher (3rd right), Bishop Charles Mc Nally, native of the parish of Monaghan and Rackwallace and founder of the Cathedral holding a partially built Cathedral and finally, Bishop Donnelly holding the completed and dedicated Cathedral in his left arm. 

The statues on the northern face of the Cathedral are of Old Testament personalities; Abraham with his staff, Moses with scroll and tablet, David with lyre, Isaiah holding the tablet foretelling the conception of Christ, Jeremiah appealing for help with arms outstretched, St. Joachim and St Anne the parents of Mary the mother of Christ.


 Statues of Old Testament personalities on the north face  - J Chester

St. Macartan's Cathedral Interior

The main door of the Cathedral faces west and the sanctuary wall eastwards. The transept on the left faces north and the one on the right faces south.

In 1983 the cathedral was re-ordered in line with the demands of the new Roman Liturgy. The sanctuary is a series of chapels, dedicated to the sacramental life of the Church. Feel free to view the sanctuary. From left to right:

  • Chapel of the Holy Oils.

The Holy Oils used in the sacraments; Oil of Catechumens, Oil of the Sick and Sacred Chrism are stored in a receptacle called an aumbry.

  • The Baptistery Chapel

The granite font is the work of sculptor Michael Biggs. The tapestry depicts the Holy Spirit descending on the water nourishing the roots of the Tree of Life.

  • The sanctuary of the Eucharist (the main altar)

The Altar (the table of the Eucharist), Ambo (the table of the Word), and the Bishop's Chair, all in granite, are the work of sculptor Michael Biggs. The cross on the left is the work of Richard Enda King. The carpet directly behind the altar shows a fish (ICTHUS in Greek) which is a mnemonic for Iesous (Jesus) CHristos (Christ) THeou (God) Uiou (Son) Soter (Saviour). A gold plate on the Bishop's Chair, cathedra in Latin, reads HAEC EST SEDES EPISCOPALIS CLOGHERENSIS - this is the seat of the Bishop of Clogher. The tapestries behind the Bishop's Chair depict from left to right

  • v St. Macartan (left)
  • v The Trinity (centre)
  • v The Annunciation to St. Joseph (right)

All of the sanctuary tapestries were designed by Frances Biggs and woven by Terry Dunne.

  • The Blessed Sacrament Chapel

The tabernacle which is the work of Richard Enda King is surrounded by the name ‘Solas Dé' and it sits on a granite plinth sculpted by Michael Biggs.  The tabernacle is shaped like a tent which in the Exodus housed the Ark of the Covenant. The tapestry behind shows the broken bread of the Eucharist inside an unbroken circle. The broken bread represents a broken humanity and the unbroken circle the divinity of Christ.

  • Chapel of Reconciliation

The Chapel of Reconciliation on the south transept is located right of the tabernacle. Notice the Irish on both sides of the entrance; on the left - ‘Dúirt Íosa leo, "mise atá ann. Ná bíodh eagla oraibh." And on the right ‘Tháinig sé isteach sa bhád chucu Agus thit an ghaoth'. This means ‘Jesus said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.' He got into the boat with them and the wind dropped.' The anchor above the door is a christian symbol of hope.


Photo by Donal Mc Enroe


Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve 2008 by J Chester



Photo by Donal Mc Enroe


Mass of Chrism on Holy Thursday 9th April 2009 (Photo - J Chester)

The cathedral is also a parish building. It is where we gather for Sunday Mass, baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals and for the parish celebrations of Christmas, Holy Week and Easter. May we continue to be the living stones of the parish of Monaghan and Rackwallace.


Photo by Donal Mc Enroe

On the north side of the sanctuary a cloister links the sacristy. One can pray the Stations of the Cross there. The Stations were painted in acrylic by Frances Biggs in 1990.  


Cloister to cathedral sanctuary - J Chester


Cloister to sacristy and north exit - J Chester

Along the corridor to the north exit the deceased bishops of the diocese of Clogher, the Episcopi Clogherensis, are listed beginning with Bishop Cináeth Ua Baígill (d 1135) to Bishop John Edmund de Courcy (1484 - 1494) whose name is at the top of the middle panel below and up to Bishop Patrick Mulligan (1970 - 1979), predecessor to Bishop Joseph Duffy. In all, fifty one bishops are named on the panels.



A crypt containing the remains of four bishops, Bishop Charles Mc Nally (1844 - 1864), James Donnelly (1864 - 1893), Bishop Richard Owens (1894 - 1909) and Bishop Patrick Mc Kenna (1909 - 1942) lies under the main sanctuary of the Cathedral. A plaque honours their names on the south exit. Two bishops are buried outside on  side by side on the north side, Bishop Eugene O'Callaghan (1943 - 1969) and Bishop Patrick Mulligan.


The graves of Bishop Eugene O'Callaghan (left) and Bishop Patrick Mulligan (right)


Other items to look at in the Cathedral

In the The Lady Chapel on the north side aisle there is a pieta designed by Nell Murphy and cast by Leo Higgins and Colm Brennan. The Magnificat, Mary's prayer to Elizabeth at the Visitation, is woven into a blue background.

The reliquary in the Chapel of Reconciliation contains the St. Faustina Relic. St.Faustina of Poland, composer of the popular Novena to the Divine Mercy, died in Krakow in 1938, was beatified in 1993 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Above the reliquary is a triptych painted by the artist Patrick Pye.

The St. Macartan Icon at the top of the right side aisle is by Luis Alvarez.

The crypt containing the remains of four bishops, Charles Mac Nally (1844 - 1864), James Donnelly (1864 - 1893), Richard Owens (1894 - 1909) and Patrick Mc Kenna (1909 - 1942) lies under the main sanctuary of the Cathedral. Two later bishops are buried outside side by side opposite the north door, Eugene O'Callaghan (1943 - 1969) and Patrick Mulligan (1970 - 1979). Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamnacha.

The Stations of the Cross furnishing the Cloister left of the Bishop's Chair were designed and painted in acrylic by Frances Biggs.

The statue outside at the front of the cathedral is St. Macartan and the Prince. St. Macartan (d506) patron saint of the diocese of Clogher was chosen by St. Patrick as first bishop to this region. The statue recalls  conversion of Prince Cairbre to Christianity by St. Macartan.


Cathedral Centenary Prayer

1892 -1992

This prayer was composed for the celebration of the centenary of St. Macartan's Cathedral in 1992

O Lord, we praise and thank you

for the steadfast faith of all our people,

for the people of the Diocese of Clogher....

for our ancestors who laboured here 100 years ago

with effort, dedication and deep faith.

With calloused hands and loving hearts

they built this Cathedral -

on foundations of hope - on pillars of love.

Their names are written large on every stone;

their hopes embedded deep in living soil,

Lord, may we join together

to commemorate and to celebrate.

We thank you for the 100 years gone by.

We ask your blessing for the year which lies ahead.

May St. Macartan's Cathedral stand serene,

a sign of faith,

shelter for those who need comfort -

a well of warmth, light and love.

May we come here to pray,

to give thanks,

to ask your guidance through the maze of paths

that stretch before us.

May this house be for us and future generations

a beacon, a guide, a resting place,

a house of peace,

a place of reconciliation,

a centre of unity. Amen



A Cathedral Renewed, St. Macartan's, Monaghan, edited by Eltin O'Griffin O.CARM., Columba Press, Dublin, 1998. ISBN 1856072517.


Diocese of Clogher AD 2000 A celebration, edited by Father La Flynn, Editions du Signe, B.P. 94, 67038 Strasbourg, France, 2000. ISBN: 2-7468-0142-6.


Monaghan Cathedral, Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, The Irish Herirage Series: Vol 72, Eason & Son Ltd, Dublin, 1992, ISBN 1-873430-02-7.

St. Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan, Diocese of Clogher, Brian Deery, St. Macartan's Diocesan Trust, Monaghan, R & S Printers, Monaghan, 2008. ISBN 978 0 9560948 0 3.