The History behind Armagh Cathedral Architecture is an interesting one, the Catholic Cathedral of St. Patrick includes architectural styles from a mixture of different time periods, due to the many restorations that the Cathedral has gone through over the centuries. The cathedral sits on the original site of the first stone church that was built in Ireland by St. Patrick back in 445. Of course, today it is a grand site of stone, mosaics, and stunning architectural feats, but it still pays homage to Ireland’s patron saint with the depiction of a story about St. Patrick told in the great east window.
The site was originally purchased from the Earl of Dartrey, and Thomas J. Duff from Newry was appointed as the architect for the project. The work began on St. Patrick’s Day in 1840, and continued to proceed slowly until 1904. At the start of the project the foundation stone was blessed, and at the close the ceremony of consecration was held. The project took a long time because of circumstances that affected the funding of the build, including the Great Famine, when the church had to place its focus on helping the poor and starving over the construction of the church.
During the long gap in building, Thomas Duff died, and when the construction work began again in 1854, J. J. McCarthy took over. He was known for his neo-Gothic work and he changed the design of the church. Duff had designed plans for a perpendicular Gothic building which was now seen as decadent. McCarthy instead reflected plans that were considered a return to purer architectural design that were closer to decorated Gothic. The cathedral was finished in 1873. Prior to completion, a seven terraced flight of steps were installed that lead from the Cathedral gates down to the west door piazza.
Redesign & Restoration
In the 1960s the Second Vatican Council decreed that all sanctuaries had to be redesigned, and Liam McCormick won first prize for his design that would open up the sanctuary area, and create a Cathedral that more closely resembled Duff’s original plans.
Work on the sanctuary was concluded in 1982. However, this was not the last piece of the jigsaw, as a large restoration project for Armagh Cathedral began in 2003, when it became evident that major structural repairs had to be addressed. All of the restoration work was completed by McAller & Teague of Dromore, who were also overseen by the Belfast architect firm of Gregory Architects. Separately, the Belfast firm of Rooney and McConville were hired to redesign the sanctuary.