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Cathedral of the Assumption

The Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles
Cathedral Interior

The Cathedral of the Assumption stands on the site of earlier chapels. The first church on this site was part of the Carmelite priory, which dates from the early fourteenth century. Some time before 1730 George Mathew, Catholic proprietor of the Thurles Estate, built a chapel for the Catholics of Thurles beside the ruins of the Carmelite priory. (see Theobald Mathew) It was known as the Mathew Chapel. In 1810, Archbishop Bray consecrated the new "Big Chapel", which was more spacious and ornate than its humble predecessor. Soon after his appointment as Archbishop in 1857, Dr. Patrick Leahy revealed his plan to replace the Big Chapel with "a cathedral worthy of the archdiocese".

Building commenced in 1865, and the impressive Romanesque cathedral, with its façade modelled on that of Pisa, was consecrated by Archbishop Croke on 21 June 1879. The architect was J.J. McCarthy. Barry McMullen was the main builder, and J.C. Ashlin was responsible for the enclosing walls, railing and much of the finished work.

The cathedral has many beautiful features, including an impressive rose window, a free-standing baptistry and a magnificent altar. The prize possession of the cathedral is its exquisite tabernacle, the work of Giacomo dello Porta (1537-1602), a pupil of Michelangelo. This tabernacle, which belonged to the Gesú (Jesuit) Church in Rome, was purchased by Archbishop Leahy and transported to Thurles.

The cathedral was extensively renovated and the sanctuary sympathetically remodelled on the occasion of its centenary in 1979.

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