St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick is the oldest building in the City. It is undergoing a restoration programme aimed at keeping this wonderful place of worship firmly on the map.
It is being acheived in phases, according to Dean Sirr. He emphasises that “worship continues throughout restoration”.
Dean Sirr is adament that it is not a museum but a living Cathedral that serves the community. The Cathedral is in daily use, but it is far from a typical church.
It is rich in history. The impressive stain glass windows were once used to teach the illiterate about the Christian faith.
The last King of Munster, Dona Mor O’ Brien, founded the cathedral in 1168. Parts of the original structure can still be seen including the West Door, which was the main entrance to the palace. The door is only used now on ceremonial occasions. Bishops of Limerick have for centuries entered through the door as part of their installation ceremony.
Since restoration began, hidden stairwells have been found within the walls. Dean Sirr believes that we are seeing what was never intended to be seen, and some concealed truths within the building may forever lie undiscoverd.
The most noteworthy reminders of the past are carved misericords in the choir. These are wooden shelves on the underside of folding chairs, used to lean on during long periods of prayer. They are the only complete set of misericords left in Ireland.
The people of Limerick continue to worship today in its ancient confines and no trip to the city is complete without a visit to this historic building.
(text published in ‘The City Voice’ 3 dec 2010)