- "Pray for the soul of Joseph O'Brien. Died 9th
March 1899. In whose memory this Holy Family is presented to the
Cathedral by his loving wife"
- Image courtesy of P. Walker
Click on images to enlarge
A chapel from the penal period existed between Carlow College
and the Dublin Road. In 1787 Dr. Henry Staunton, Parish Priest of Carlow, built
a sizeable Church on the later Cathedral site.
The Cathedral was completed in 1833 and the old
church was demolished. Part of its transept walls were retained and
incorporated into the new structure.
It is gothic in
design. Thomas Cobden was the main architect. The magnificent tower and
lantern, reaching 46 metres, was inspired by the cloth Hall at Burges in
Belgium. The story of the Cathedral goes as follows.
In the early 1780's Dean Henry Staunton
erected a parish chapel on the site of the present Cathedral .
This chapel was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the
title of the Assumption and stood on a plot of ground
leased from Mr. Edward Halfpenny . By the late 1820's it would
appear that the chapel in Carlow was not big enough to cope
with the numbers using it. On Easter Monday, 7th April 1828 the
first stone was laid in the area in front of the existing chapel.
Many fund raising functions were held. One such function was a
dinner held in Coffey's hotel, tickets for the dinner cost £1
The building project ran in to
difficulties with flooding. Thomas Cobden was then asked to draw
up specifications which would overcome these problems. Cobden's
plans were dated June 1829, the estimated the cost of labour 3,917pounds 0 shillings and 9 pence.
On completion the Cathedral was very
simply furnished. John White a carpenter constructed a lot of the
woodwork in it, though Cobden himself didn't think it was
possible to construct the alter railings. The only surviving
original items of furniture are the bishop's chair
and the original stalls.
The successful completion of the
building work in 1833 represented a magnificent achievement for
the people of Carlow and the diocese who contributed the most of
the final cost of the building - £9,000.
Many changes came over the years to how
the Cathedral looked. In 1997 the architect Richard H. Pierce was
asked to do up the Cathedral. Pierce himself says that all his
changes have been based as closely as possible on shapes and
patterns which existed in Cobden's time.
A sculptor in memorial to bishop James
Doyle (J.K.L. - 1st Bishop of Carlow Cathedral) was finished in
1839 (see picture below). John Hogan was the sculptor. In the statue the Bishop is
seen appealing to heaven for the regeneration of his country.
Erin is on one knee, her body bent, is beautiful and dignified
- The greyish-blue stone used came from a quarry on the
- The White granite used came from Col. Bruen's quarry at
- The Oak for the great-framed roof came from nearby Oak Park.
- The Cathedral is a handsome mixture of Gothic revival styles
and was a tower of 151ft.
- The windows are early medieval in style while the low pitched
roof has a late medieval appearance.
The picture on the left is of The
Most Rev. Dr. Doyle ("J.K.L") in his original position in the cathedral
before the restoration and the picture on the right shows him in his new
location within the cathedral.
In 1837, John Hogan
of Tallow, Co. Waterford, won the commission for the memorial statue
to Dr. James Doyle. It was finished in Rome in 1839 and placed in
"J.K.L" James Doyle (b1786 -
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, 1819-1834., that champion of the Catholic cause. He
preached a most powerful sermon at the inauguration of the Pro-Cathedral in
Marlborough Street, Dublin on the 14th
of November 1925.