Cobh’s original Roman Catholic Church was constructed in 1808, but it became necessary to replace that church as the town’s prosperity and population grew. By 1864, it was decided that a new and larger church was needed. But not just a church for the parish, but a cathedral for the Diocese of Cloyne. Queenstown, as the town was called at the time, was the largest town of the diocese and it was therefore deemed the logical place to build such a structure. And it was decided to dedicate the cathedral to the diocesan founder, St. Colman (522-600).
By 1868, the original church had been demolished and work on St. Colman’s was begun. Construction wasn’t easy. It became necessary to widen and enlarge the old site in order to accommodate the size of the cathedral. A wall around part of the site was required on the seaward side and, in some parts, the foundations were sunk to 24 feet. It took a full year just to put in the foundations.
The roof was finally installed in 1879, and the first mass taking place later that same year, it actually took a full 47 years before the structure was finished. It was at that time, in 1915, that the final external works were completed, which included the spire which raised to an impressive height of 90 meters, 295 feet. And in 1919, the cathedral was finally consecrated.
For those emigrants who traveled from Cobh/Queenstown, St. Colman’s Cathedral was the last thing they saw as they left the harbour. St. Colman’s dominates the Cobh hillside with its huge bell tower, now topped by a spire. Bells would ring until the ship exited the harbour. Today the tradition continues. Each passenger ship and ferry that passes through Cork Harbour will hear a bell ringing from the cathedral. In turn the ship will sound its horns. This is a continuing symbol of good luck wishes for the passage. Knowing this, it’s quite a moving experience to witness a ship or ferry sailing passed the cathedral and hearing the bells.All Ireland Travel