St. Mary’s Cathedral is situated on the highest point in Kilkenny City and dominates the landscape with it’s beautiful 186 foot tower. Before the arrival of Cromwell in 1650 the Catholic congregation of Kilkenny celebrated mass in the ancient church of St. Canice’s. After this, St. Canice’s reverted to Protestant hands and the Catholics had no cathedral. A small chapel in St. Mary’s parish – St. James’s Chapel, built in 1700 functioned as the church and the cathedral. It was William Kinsella, who was appointed Bishop of Ossory at the age of 33, initiated the building of St. Mary’s in 1842. The Cathedral was designed by William Deane Butler and it’s style is described as as ‘Early English Gothic’ and is believed to be based on Gloucester Cathedral in England. Work began in 1843 and did not finish until after the famine in 1857 and so provided much needed work. The Cathedral has 3 names – St Mary’s, The Church of St Kieran, and, The Cathedral of the Assumption and holds a statue of Our Lady by the sculptor Benzoni who also sculpted the O’Connell Monument in the Irish College in Rome.

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