St. Eunan's Cathedral, Raphoe

The cathedral is named after St Eunan (Adamnan) 627-704, a kinsman to St Colmcille, who founded the monastery and church in Raphoe a century earlier. Adamnan's biography of Colmcille, the Vita Columbae has been described as the most considerable surviving literary production of the Celtic church of Ireland. Tradition has it that after Adamnan's death in Iona, where he had been 9th abbot in succession to Colmcille, his body was interred in the cathedral in Raphoe.The only remains of the monastery today are two pieces of a sculptured door lintel dating from around the C9th.


The oldest part of the present building is the south east corner, which dates back to the C12th. The rest of the cathedral is a mixture of successive rebuilding and alterations dating from C17th to the late C19th. The first bishop of Raphoe, George Montgomery, began the construction of the cathedral around 1605. He had been chaplain to King James 1, and was nominated not only Bishop of Raphoe, but of Clogher and Derry.




Most of the extant fabric dates from the 1730s. The entrance is by the porch under the tower built in 1738 by Bishop Forster (1716-1744). By the 1870s, the building had been criticised by architect Thomas Drew as "the most neglected church in the diocese though situated in the richest part of Donegal." In 1892 Drew was commissioned to begin a plan of "medievalizing" and restoration of the building.


The graveyard was the final resting place for persons of all religious persuasions and social status. The deaths of bishops, politicians and vagrants alike are all recorded in the cathedral registers.




One of the many interesting headstones is that of Alexander Montgomery, or "Old Sandy", as he was better known, a colourful character who died in 1800. He represented the Raphoe area as a member of parliament for 32 years, and was noted for his duelling. On one occasion while duelling in the bishop's garden in Derry, his opponent's first pistol round shot off the tails of Montgomery's swallow-tailed coat. Undeterred, Sandy finished the duel sitting in a chair in order to conceal his posterior. His brother Richard Montgomery was a celebrated general in the American War of Independence.


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