St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral

My 9th great-grandfather was probably married at St. Finnbarr’s Cathedral in the city of Cork, Ireland.

William Pritchard was listed as a mariner on the marriage licence bond dated 1688. Ruth Wells was from Bandon, a town about 19 miles south west of Cork. They had at least five children: Paul, Henry, William, Margaret, and Peregrine.

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The church that stands today was built in the 1860s and 1870s (an interesting story about how that church got built at twice the proposed cost can be read here). Originally the site of a monestary dedicated to St. Fin Barre, a church has existed on the site since the early 17th century. The church that my ancestors were married in was badly damaged by a 24-lbs. shot during the Siege of Cork in 1690 during the Williamite War. Only the steeple remained intact. In 1735, a new, smaller church was constructed. A book about churches in Cork City describes the 1735 church as “Doric in style, attached to a featureless modern tower with an ‘ill-formed’ spire.”1 The current church was started in 1865, consecrated in 1870, and the spires were finished in 1879.

Since my ancestors hadn’t been in this newer church, we spent most of our time outside, in the graveyard and around the church. I was impressed by the depiction of the 10 virgins around the center entrance to the church.

While I don’t know that any ancestors were buried at the cathedral, we decided to take a look at the headstones. There were headstones throughout the entire churchyard. They didn’t seem to have much of an order, with new and old intermingled everywhere. As we browsed through them, we found lots of headstones whose inscriptions had washed away with age and elements. We looked for family names, wandering up and down the sidewalks and through the grass.

At some point, I realized that some of the stairs I had been using were remnants of old headstones. We walked back to the front of the church and found headstones cemented in the ground along the base of the church and as a retaining wall along the edge of the hill. I wondered if these were displaced when the current cathedral was built.

This post is part of my Ireland Genealogy Trip series.


  1. O’Callaghan, Antóin (2016). The Churches of Cork City. Dublin: The History Press Ireland. ISBN 978-1-845-88893-0.

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