If you are looking for a historical and spiritual destination in Ireland, you might want to consider visiting St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tuam, County Galway. This cathedral is not only a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture, but also a witness to the rich and turbulent history of the region.

St. Mary’s Cathedral is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland. It is located on the site of a former monastery founded around the year 501 by St. Jarlath, who is considered to be the first bishop of Tuam and the patron saint of the archdiocese. Tuam became a prominent ecclesiastical center and a seat of learning in the following centuries, attracting scholars and pilgrims from all over Ireland and beyond.

The first cathedral on the present site was constructed in the 12th century, when Turlough O’Connor (1088–1156) was High King of Ireland. The O’Connors had previously been based at Cruachain, County Roscommon. He commissioned a Romanesque-style church that was modeled on the cathedral of Canterbury in England. However, this cathedral only lasted a few years before being destroyed by a fire. A second cathedral was later built in the 14th century but was also destroyed.

In 1839, the Archdiocese of Tuam was divided into two separate dioceses: Tuam for Roman Catholics and Tuam, Killala and Achonry for Anglicans. The cathedral was transferred to the Church of Ireland, while the Roman Catholics built a new cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary nearby. Since then, St. Mary’s Cathedral has been serving as the cathedral church of the Diocese of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland.

In the 19th century, St. Mary’s Cathedral underwent a major restoration project led by Archbishop Richard Trench. He hired Sir Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward, two prominent architects of the Gothic Revival movement, to design and supervise the works. Most of the present structure dates from this 1870’s period, but parts of the earlier 12th and 14th century structures survive within. 

Naturally, it was rebuilt in the Gothic Revival style. They restored the nave, transepts and tower, added new windows and pinnacles, rebuilt the chancel and choir stalls, and installed a new organ. They also added some neo-Gothic features, such as the west porch and doorway, the east window and rose window, and the spire.

After the restoration work of the cathedral was completed and with the introduction of the railway to Tuam in 1861, the town’s Anglican population increased, however this gradually decreased over the following centuries.

Today, St. Mary’s Cathedral is a vibrant and active place of worship for the Diocese of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland, with a weekly service held there. The cathedral is also home to some remarkable treasures, such as the High Cross of Tuam (a replica of the original 12th century cross), and the tombstone of Archbishop Malachy O’Morgair (a rare example of Irish medieval sculpture).

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tuam is a testament to the faith and resilience of generations of Christians who have worshipped there for over a thousand years. It is also a showcase of the artistic and architectural skills that have shaped its appearance and character over time.


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St. Mary’s Cathedral



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