Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 18, 2002
In search of St. Colman of Cloyne
Poet and royal court retainer St. Colman of Cloyne was converted to Christianity by St. Brendan
Feast Day - November 24
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
It was called the Cove of Cork, one of the finest and safest deep water harbours in the world and for years Irelandís main port of entry. But it has also seen decades of misery, angst and heartbreak as thousands of the countryís people were forced by famine to flee their native soil.
And the magnificent St. Colmanís Cathedral that now towers over the town has a history intimately associated with the thousands whose last sight of their homeland was the crowded little port.
Today, Cobh is transformed -Ė pastel house fronts face on to broad waterfront parks. It began as a fishing village on Cork harbourís Great Island in 1750 and soon became Irelandís busiest port, particularly during the infamous famine years of the mid-19th century. In 1849, the town was renamed Queenstown by Queen Victoria, a name it retained until 1922.
Itís a popular day trip from Cork, one-half hour away by train or bus, particularly because of its historical maritime attachments. Thereís a large memorial to the victims of the Lusitania sinking nearby in 1915 and those of the Titanic, whose last stop was at Cobh.
The main attraction however, is The Queenstown Story, a multimedia exhibition opened in 1993 in the townís old railway station, that portrays the history of emigration through Cobh.
St. Colman convertsSt. Colman of Cloyne (522Ė604), sculpted in marble, surveys the port city from high, high up on his cathedralís south transept. After spending his early years at Cashel as a royal court retainer, noted for his poetry in both Latin and Irish, he was converted to Christianity by St. Brendan in about 580.
He served as bishop of Cork and Limerick before establishing the first church and subsequent Diocese of Cloyne in a town near Cobh. A round tower there survives from a monastery founded by the saint.
St. Colmanís Cathedral is a pleasure to look at, crowning the hillside above the town and filling almost every upward vista. And the climb up laneways and sloping streets is worth the goal 50 metres above the water.
The church was designed by noted architects Pugin and Ashlin in Gothic Revival style. It was built between 1868 and 1915 of an unusual blue granite.
Largest in Ireland The carillon of 47 bells, largest in Ireland, is regularly played at recitals and of course the soaring church steeple is a regional landmark.
By a strange twist, the older chapel on the hill that had witnessed the departure of thousand of famine emigrants rapidly became too small for its congregation. For a variety of reasons, not all arrivals in Cobh travelled overseas. Many chose to take their chances in the busy port town.
Impressive stained glass windows in the nave depict Christís miracles and parables while the transepts, with their magnificent rose windows, honour Mary and St. Joseph.
And many must have succeeded because within 20 years of the depths of the famine, a magnificent church was planned to accommodate the swollen population. Poor as they were, they were now many, and some money was arriving in Ireland from established émigrés.
And today, the continuing health of the diocese can be measured by attendance at the two daily and five weekend Masses celebrated in the cathedral.
Inside, the vaulted, dimly lit St. Colmanís creates an ambience that fulfills the buildersí desire to replicate a medieval European house of worship.
Mary, St. Joseph honouredImpressive stained glass windows in the nave depict Christís miracles and parables while the transepts, with their magnificent rose windows, honour Mary and St. Joseph. Thereís an exuberant spired reredos behind the site of the original main altar.
Relics of one of Irelandís heroes, Blessed Thaddeus McCarthy, Cloyne bishop in 1491, repose in one of the several chapels off the chancel.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.