I’m not a religious guy but I always love the sense of history I feel within walls this old, the echoes of lives and stories that spaces like these bore witness to.
On the site where the palace of the late King of Munster, Donal Mór O’Brien once stood, Saint Mary’s Cathedral was founded in 1168 on King’s Island, the oldest part of Limerick. It is the oldest building in Limerick still in continuous daily use today.
The design has strong indications of both Romanesque and gothic styles of architecture with Romanesque arches and doorways and gothic windows. Like many medieval churches in Ireland, however, the building has been heavily ‘restored’ by the Victorians.
A modern day restoration project has been ongoing since 1996 to removed a thick concrete render finish which was applied to the entire interior at some stage. This seems to have lead to significant issues regarding damp in the stone walls.
The interior shows its medieval origins with its thick walls and piers supporting the wooden roof. Under the now largely removed render, the walls are relatively plain, having a rubble stone surface – any carvings or embellishments being kept for various screens and memorials set into the walls in numerous locations throughout.
In 1691, the Cathedral suffered considerable damage from cannon balls, particularly on the east end, during the Williamite Siege of Limerick. Two of these cannon balls can be seen hanging at the entrance to the splendid St. George’s Chapel, AKA the Perry Chapel
Despite the thickness of the walls, it is a remarkably bright space – due mainly to the large windows inserted during the various Victorian alterations.
The oldest part of the graveyard around Saint Mary’s Cathedral dates from the 12th century, but the earliest burial records date from 1726. It is an active graveyard to this day.
See a much more in-depth analysis of the building here