St. Eunan's Cathedral
The only Cathedral in the
County and one of stature
and very imposing architectural character, on the Gothic Style. Many
years ago during the 17th century while Ireland was under English
rule the passing of the Penal Law in 1698 condemned the Irish people to a
life of poverty as near slave on the land. They could not acquire
property, become tradesmen, merchants, civil servants or practice their
During the enforcement of the Penal Law while persecution raged, Mass continued to be celebrated in a hollow in the area of Sentry Hill above Letterkenny - the hill deriving it's name from the custom of posting a sentry watchman on the commanding height to guard against the approach of spy or yeoman. Towards the end of the 18th century one of the very first catholic churches erected in the protestant neighborhood was built near this site. Due to its remoteness from allot of the towns people it was decided to build a church nearer the town and the site chosen is where the cathedral now stands.
The inspiration to build this fine Cathedral came from the late Cardinal O'Donnell, then Bishop of Raphoe.
A Cathedral Building Committee was formed 1890 and the building was then begun. The Cathedral stands on a commanding site overlooking the town. Looking at it we are at once impressed by the excellent proportions - the symmetry and architectural style of the building being self evident. The general use of the pointed arch, the subdivision of large window areas for glazing purposes, the decorative importance of flying and rudimentary buttresses, the ornamentation of structural forms, the natural realism of the stone carving are all features indicative of a late period of the Gothic Style.
Entering the main door one is struck by the beauty of the interior. The decorative symmetry of the arches and the stone carvings together with the intricately designed stained glass windows and paintings blend together to give a calm restful dignity. The most striking interior features are the main Alter and the side alters all of which are carved from Carrera Marble brought from Italy. Carrera and Conemara Marble have also been used with exquisite taste in the Pulpit - which depicts statues of the Four Evangelists and the Four Masters.
The decorative detail of the Great Arch is very striking - it depicts the lives of St Columba and St Eunan. The eye is next attracted to the Rose Window - which depicts St Colmcille pleading for the bards at the convention of Drumceat. The clear outline and strongly differentiated figures here show a fine example of art by the late Michael Healy from Dublin. The Ceramic Floor mosaics around the main alter - the Sanctuary ceiling, the stained glass, tasteful wall painting and carving are all the work of an Italian Artist Signor Amici. A most notable feature throughout is the artistic use of stone - Mountcharles Sandstone was used and the work carried out under the direction of the late P. Dawson.