The Armagh Cathedral at Cathedral City was built on a hill of “Ard Mhacha”, which translates to the Height of Macha, a legendary tribal princess, in 445 AD by St Patrick. The church has been destroyed and rebuilt 17 times.
Cathedral City witnessed a lot of turbulent history. In 832, it was faced with the Viking invaders from Norway. In 995, a fire was caused by a lightning strike that destroyed its roof.
Cathedral City withstood numerous wars and destruction and remains to this day a testament to the beauty of ancient archaeology.
The Architecture of Cathedral City
The Irish Builder described the interior of the Cathedral as follows: “On Sunday, the 24th ult., this Roman Catholic cathedral,” was consecrated. It is stated that the building has already cost upwards of £60,000, and there remains much in connection with the exterior and interior to be completed yet.
During the progress of the works, the architectural features of the building have been often described. For the present, it will suffice to say that it is erected on the west of a hill in the immediate vicinity of Armagh, to the north-east of the town. From any portion of the pathway around it, splendid views of the surrounding district can be had, while for miles around the tall spires which surmount the front towers are distinctly recognisable.
It is built in the form of a cross, the arms extending almost due north and south. In style, it is in the main Decorated Gothic, but in the front especially are several noticeable departures from the original design.
Those are to some extent accounted for by the revolution which between 1841 and 1854 took place in church architecture, and the fact that successive architects who have had charge of the £ thought it well to make changes more or less extensive in the original plans.
These changes have naturally produced a rather mixed style in the appearance of the building viewed as a whole, but still, the mixture of style does not detract from the beauty of the edifice. The foundation stone was laid on the 17th of March, 1838—more than thirty-five years ago.
Internally the building is lofty, well-proportioned, and admirably lighted. The walls are 210 ft. in length, 91 ft. high from floor to ridge of the roof, 72 ft. across nave and aisle, and 112 ft. across the transept.
The spires in the front rise to a height of 210 ft. The nave is separated on each side from the aisles by six bays of clustered shafts, with moulded capitals surmounted by busts of saints, and supporting deeply-moulded arches, while three bays of similar shafts and arches separate the church from its aisles: Extending the whole length over this series of arches are the triforia, consisting of polished marble shafts, with moulded bases and carved capitals, each arch being filled up with elaborate tracery work.
About the triforia rise the clerestory, containing in each bay three-light traceried windows. The windows of the aisle are three-light, those of the north and south transept five-light, while the east window is seven-light, and all are filled with moulded mullions and rich tracery.
The glass at present in those windows is plain, but it is intended subsequently to have it replaced by stained glass, which, when fitted, will add much to the beauty of the interior. At present, there are four altars erected in the building, the high one occupying an elevated position in the eastern portion of the central transept, and the others being placed against the western end—one facing down the chancel and the other two facing the side aisles. All of them are formed of highly-polished Sicilian marble, and the upper three are surmounted by beautifully carved arched tracery, having niches for miniature statuettes, some of which, representing evangelists and angels, are already placed in position. On the high altar stands a large brazen representation of the Crucifixion, with at either side three large massive brass standards for wax tapers.”