Bells ring here every night at 9 pm as a reminder of the penal laws

According to legend, Eugene was a monk from the Dublin area and foretold the coming of St Columba who in the 6th-century a.d. founded a monastery in Derry. By the 12th century, this had grown to become an impressive cathedral called ‘Teampall Mor’ (Big Church) which was located where the present Long Tower Church is. This served Derry for over 300 years before it was seized and almost destroyed by English Forces in 1568 when it was used as a gunpowder magazine. In 1600, Sir Henry Dowcra entered Derry with a force of 4,000 soldiers, tore down the ruins of Teampall Mór, and used its stones to build the Derry Walls. In 1601, the local bishop was murdered by English yeomanry and after this, no Catholic bishop was able to reside in the city until 1720. This was the time of the Penal Laws and it was only after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 that the Catholic community was able to contemplate building a new Cathedral. The foundation stone for St Eugene’s Cathedral was laid down on 26th July 1851. It was designed by J.J. McCarthy (1817-1882) who was the most outstanding church architect in Ireland of his time (his other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh and St. Mary’s Church in Dingle). The 256 ft spire was only competed in 1903 due to a lack of funding. A statue of St Eugene is set in a niche in the tower above the main entrance doors. The bells still ring every night at 9 pm as a reminder of the Penal Laws which forbade Catholics to attend mass and subjected them to a 9 pm curfew!