Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman

The mother church of our diocese, the stately Gothic-Revival Cathedral of St. Patrick and St. Colman graces Hill Street in the heart of the city of Newry. It is proudly regarded by all sections of the community as Newry's finest building and stands as a silent witness to almost two centuries of faith, struggle and sacrifice. Opened in 1829, built of local granite, it was the first Catholic Cathedral opened in Ireland after the granting of Catholic Emancipation.

The Eastern facade of the Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman, Newry
The Eastern facade of the Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman - Photo by Mark G. Byrne

Cathedral history podcast

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Cathedrals Chronicles is a documentary podcast series, produced by volunteers, telling the story of Newry Cathedral. Each episode tells the story of the cathedral in short instalments as it approaches its bicentenary in 2029. We’ll meet the people who built it. We’ll discover its works of art from Italian mosaic to German stained glass. We’ll learn about an assassination, fires and bombs that threatened to destroy it. Join us.

Find the link to the series on your favourite Podcast service here:

Description of the cathedral

The Cathedral in its early years lacked the rich mosaic decoration for which it became renowned. The transepts and bell tower were added 1888-90

The first stage of the building was designed by Thomas J. Duff, a native of Newry, and the renovation undertaken during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. Henry O'Neill, was designed by G. C. Ashlin (Ashlin and Coleman, Dublin) with Denis Neary as builder. The latest renovation undertaken during the episcopate of Most Rev. Dr. F.G. Brooks, in order to bring the Cathedral in line with the liturgical reforms promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, was designed by Felix Forte of McLean and Forte, Belfast. It extended the Sanctuary towards the congregation where the altar would be in the best possible view from all parts of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is an architectural gem. Cruciform in plan, the whole structure possesses an architectural unity. It is built entirely of Newry granite with a graceful well-proportioned facade with a Norman arched doorway and octagonal twin Norman turrets. The square sculptured granite tower over the northern transept is entirely the work of local sculptors. An expansive terrace of granite steps leads into it.

The Western facade of the Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman - Image by Mark G. Byrne

As one enters the Cathedral, one's eyes are immediately drawn to the magnificent Sanctuary with its steps in Botticino marble, carpeted in an Irish hand-woven burgundy-shade carpet with a Celtic design border matching the mosaic of the main aisle, opening up the Sanctuary on three sides to the people. The tabernacle rests on a plinth of white marble with panels of Breccia Pernice between columns of Rosso Verona marble. The door, of handsome wrought gold beset with coloured jewels, is covered with a golden dome and sides. The two fine panels of the former reredos rest on plinths matching that of the tabernacle. They are mainly of Carrara and statuary marble, relieved by columns in Siena and Verde Alpi marble and by small panels in Porta Santa. They stand at angles to the tabernacle, the left carrying a beautiful sculpture of the Nativity and the right, a sculpture of Christ commissioning the Apostles. On either side is a marble seraph carrying a torch. In the front of the altar is a fine representation of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper" sculptured in Sicilian marble which was formerly in front of the High Altar erected in 1891 as a memorial to Dr. Leahy.

The beautiful pulpit in white statuary marble with a front panel depicting the Sermon on the Mount was erected by Most Rev. Dr. McGivern in the 1888-90 building scheme and now forms part of the Sanctuary as it did then. The "Cathedra" or Bishop's chair is of white statuary marble blending in with the carved Carrara marble screens which divide the Sanctuary from the side chapels of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph which are also erected in Carrara marble with mosaics and marbles. A marble panel with the arms of the diocese, the Blessed Virgin crowned and holding the child Jesus, with the words "Monstra esse to matrem, matrem ecclesiae Dromoren" (show yourself to be a Mother, the Mother of the Church of Dromore) is on the back of the throne.

Bishop Henry O'Neill, to the left in this photograph. gives a blessing to the congregation at the end of a Mass to begin Forty Hours' Adoration in the new Cathedral Sanctuary. 1909.

The Sanctuary columns are of polished stone, Newry grey and Balmoral red - and were polished during the latest renovation. The exquisite silver Sanctuary lamp above the main altar was the gift of Mr. John McAreavey. The Sanctuary lamps in the side chapels were the gifts of the Children of Mary Sodality (Our Lady) and James Fleming (St. Joseph) respectively. The Sacred Heart Shrine was erected by the Sacred Heart Fraternity and the magnificent stained glass window, depicting scenes in the life of the Holy Family, originally over the High Altar in 1880, was presented by the Holy Family Fraternity.

The Cathedral walls from floor to ceiling, the Sanctuary floor and the passages in the nave, are entirely in mosaics, showing a variety of designs including Celtic, fleur-de-lys and rose, which were washed during the latest renovation. Set into the communion passage are three symbols signifying the Blessed Eucharist the Chi Rho, the Fish and the Pelican. In front of the altar is a large panel in mosaic of Newry granite depicting a Celtic Cross with the letters SPC (Saints Patrick and Colman). The Sanctuary and side chapels are adorned with magnificent stained glass windows.

Interior of the Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman - Image by Mark G. Byrne

The marble pieta, now placed in its own niche at the side entrance, was a gift from the Boyd family. The bell of the Cathedral, cast by the Dublin foundry of Sheridan in 1862, was melted down and recast in 1987. Two new joy bells were added to the peal and the inscription now reads:- "This bell was recast in year I987 and named Colman. When I call, hear my voice and come to the Sacred Mysteries."

Thus, built in local granite and mainly the work of local craftsmen, our Cathedral is an edifice that is imposing in its architectural dimensions, inspiring and prayerful in its wealth of artistic interior decoration and eminently suitable for its prime function. It stands as a fitting tribute to God and to the outstanding generosity of successive generations of the people of Newry.

Content adapted from 'PARISH OF NEWRY' by Sr. Dr. Evelyn Kenny.

Cathedral of Ss Patrick & Colman during the Easter Vigil - Image by Mark G. Byrne

Click here to visit the Newry Cathedral Parish website.

Click here to view the cathedral webcam.

Visit the cathedral

Visitors to Newry Cathedral are welcome year-round during opening hours, when services are not taking place . The cathedral is usually open during the day. A limited number of guided tours are usually available during the summer months. Contact Newry Parish to enquire.

Click here to find the cathedral on Google Maps. (External site.)