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Kilfenora Cathedral and High Crosses

Kilfenora: famed as the city of high crosses

Unguided sites

Kilfenora
Clare

Kilfenora Cathedral and High Crosses

Kilfenora: famed as the city of high crosses

Unguided sites

Kilfenora
Clare

Facilities

  • Car park

Notice

Kilfenora Cathedral is a free National Monument in the care of the Office of Public Works

Kilfenora Cathedral and High Crosses

Kilfenora Cathedral is a Church of Ireland church, dating between the late 1100s – 1200. It was built on the site of a former monastery that was founded by St. Fachtna circa 6th century.

Kilfenora holds a very unfortunate history: the earliest reference to the church in the annals is when, in 1055, Murrough O’Brien burned the abbey church, this is before the current structure was built. Repairs were carried out a year later, only for the church to be plundered in 1079, and then accidentally burned in 1100. The structure visible today was built in the transitional style, referring to the blend of both traditional and modern technique.

In 1152, Kilfenora Cathedral was given diocesan status at the Synod of Kells. It is believed that the high crosses, of which Kilfenora is famous for, were created to mark this auspicious occasion. The most famous cross, the Doorty Cross, is accessible to view today, as it was reassembled from its broken fragments, and takes pride of place under the renovated glass roof of the ‘Lady Chapel’ – a term used to describe a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

This Lady Chapel was a later addition to the Cathedral, and the glass roof was erected in 2004/2005 in order to protect the chancel and high crosses. The famed Doorty Cross depicts an image of St. Peter giving a blessing to two figures, said to be a bishop and an abbot. It is said this cross, and its image, represents the Cathedral’s elevation from monastic to diocesan status.

Today, Kilfenora is known as the city of the seven crosses, and has one of the largest collections of high crosses in Ireland.

There is the Burren Centre right next door to the Cathedral for interpretation on the site and the surrounding Burren area. Sometimes the Lady Chapel is still used for Church of Ireland ceremonies and even the occasional concert.

Visit Historic Environment Viewer for more information on Kilfenora Cathedral

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This national monument is protected in accordance with the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2014

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