Sunday, October 20, 2013

St. Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny, Ireland

St. Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny is a striking landmark that fits in well with the other medieval churches of the town. Surprisingly, the construction did not start until 1843, when Burrell's Hall was torn down and the Cathedral was begun. The church does follow the traditional Gothic style and provides the town with a seat for the Catholic bishop of Ossory.

St. Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny

The nave is a long arched hallway like most other cathedrals, leading to a central altar that is simple.


Main Altar

The altar is flanked by fine statues of St. Joseph and Our Lady.

St. Joseph

Our Lady

The Madonna is noteworthy as the creation of Giovanni Maria Benzoni, an Italian Neo-Classical sculptor. He used Carrara Marble and follows some standard iconography. Mary stands on the world with her right foot crushing the head of the serpent with an apple in his mouth, a clear reference to Eve in the Garden of Eden. The statue is unusual in the attention to detail and the fact that Mary does not have a veil on her head. The statue dates from 1857.

The floor tiles have a beautiful depiction of the Pascal Lamb.

Floor mosaic

On the right side of the altar is a small altar to St. Victoria. During the construction of the Cathedral, Bishop Kinchella went to Rome. The pope gave him this wax figure of St. Victoria which enclose her relics.

St. Victoria reliquary

The Sacred Heart of Jesus was also a popular devotional decoration at the time of construction, if the side altar and stained glass window are any indication.

Altar to the Sacred Heart

Window with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the center

A high altar at the back of the church is nice, surrounded with lots of decorations.

High altar

A side altar has the tabernacle and some nice sculpture.

The tabernacle

Detail from the tabernacle

Who was St. Victoria?
Victoria was born in Rome circa 230 A.D. She was betrothed to a pagan nobleman named Eugenius. She refused to marry him or to offer sacrifices to the Roman idols. Eugenius kidnapped her, taking her to a country villa to try to force her into complying. She managed to flee and joined a group of catechumenates who were about to receive first Holy Communion. On the way, the Roman ruler had a sword run through her heart.

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