St. Eunan’s Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. Eunan and St Columba as it is also known, is a Roman Catholic cathedral of the Diocese of Raphoe located in the parish of Conwal and Leck in Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. It was built between the years of 1890 and 1900 and there are two Catholic cathedrals in the county; with an older Roman Catholic cathedral of the same name is located in the town of Raphoe.
The Cathedral was commissioned by Cardinal O’Donnell, then Bishop of Raphoe, who in 1888 aged 32 became the youngest bishop in the world at that time. The Cathedral, located on Castle Street opposite Conwal Parish Church in the town celebrated its centenary in 2001.
Cathedral altar c.1900
The Cathedral opened on June 16, 1901 and is built in Victorian neo-Gothic style on a site overlooking the town. It was designed by William Hague, the well known Dublin architect and protégé of Pugin, and following Hague’s death by his partner T. F. McNamara. Saint Eunan’s Cathedral has a spire with a height of 240 feet. White sandstone from Mountcharles was used in the construction. It was shipped along the coast and up the Swilly. Townspeople carried bucketloads of the sandstone to the construction site piece by piece. The cathedral is furnished in oak, with a marble pulpit by Pearse Brothers of Dublin. The pulpit depicts statues of the Four Masters and the Four Evangelists.
The ceilings are the work of Amici of Rome, while the stained glass windows that illuminate the Sanctuary and the Lady Chapel are by the Mayer firm of Munich. They depict thirteen scenes from our Lords life. Celtic motifs and stained glass have been designed by Harry Clarke and Michael Healy. The Great Arch illustrates the lives of St. Eunan (better known as St Adhamhnáin) and St. Columba. The sanctuary lamp is made of solid silver and weighs over 1500 ounces. Some sculptures were created by William Pearse who took part in the Easter Rising.
There are 12 bells in the Cathedral bell chamber. They carry the names of the saints of Tir Conail – Dallan, Conal and Fiacre, Adomnán, Baithen and Barron, Nelis and Mura, Fionán and Davog, Cartha and Caitríona, Taobhóg, Cróna and Ríanach, Ernan and Asica and Columba. The 12th bell weighs over 2 tons 5 cwts. After the Cathedral was opened the organist played “O’Donnell Abu”, “St Patrick’s Day”, “The Last Rose of Summer”, “The Wearing of the Green” and “The Bells of Shandon”.
In 1985, the Cathedral was renovated and remodelled to better conform to the liturgical requirements of the Second Vatican Council. Care was taken to preserve the style and materials of the original altar in the new altar table and chair. The original altar-piece, an Irish carving of Leonardo’s Last Supper, is still present in the Cathedral and has been incorporated into the new altar.
The sandstone exterior of the cathedral was cleaned in July 2001. The stone was then repaired and pointed with a special mortar of lime and sand. Krystol Hydrostop was finally applied to the exterior.
Masses are held on Sundays at 7.30pm (Saturday Evening Vigil); 8.00am, 10.00am, 12.00 noon and 6.30pm. Masses are held Mondays to Fridays at 8.00am, 10.00am & 7.30pm. Saturday mornings at 10.00am. (During June, July, August & September, evening mass is only celebrated at 7.30pm on Fridays, unless otherwise announced in the cathedral newsletter). Masses are held on Holydays of Obligation at 7.30pm (Vigil on the night before); 8.00am, 10.00am, 5.45pm & 7.30pm, unless otherwise announced in the cathedral newsletter.
Polish Mass is held in the cathedral on the first & third Sunday of the month at 4.00pm.
Mass said in Irish is held in the cathedral on the first Sunday of the month at 10.00am.
Sacrament of Reconciliation – Confession
Confessions are heard in the cathedral every Saturday from 12.00 noon – 1.00pm & after the 7.30pm Vigil Mass. Confessions are heard in the cathedral on the Thursday before the First Friday of the Month from 12.00 noon – 1.00pm & at 8.00pm. Confessions are heard in the cathedral every Monday night from 8.00pm.
The Adoration Chapel is open from 1 pm on a Sunday afternoon until 8.30 pm Friday evening. The chapel is located in the grounds of the Loreto Convent and College, which is located adjacent to the cathedral.
Devotions are held in the cathedral on the Sundays of May and October at 7.30pm.
Full details of the cathedral schedules, including up-to-date service times throughout the year, and a weekly uploaded cathedral newsletter is available on the cathedral parish website at www.steunanscathedral.ie
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel of Adoration or The Adoration Chapel, as it is more commonly known as, is situated on the grounds of the Loreto Convent. It was officially opened on December 4, 1988 by the Bishop of Raphoe, Séamus Hegarty. This single-room chapel is a reconstructed building based on the site of an old school set up by the Loreto Sisters. It is not definitively known when the original building was constructed – however during reconstruction work in 1988, a slate bearing a mason’s mark from the year 1850 was discovered. The chapel’s granite altar was designed by Barry Feely from County Roscommon, and is located in front of a stained glass window which displays the “Virgin of the Sign” icon.