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Interior, St. Fin Barre's Cathedral (variously spelt). William Burges. Designed 1862-63; consecrated 1870; fully completed 1879. Cork, Republic of Ireland.

Left: The Pulpit. Right: Altar, pulpit and lectern. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

A cathedral has overlooked Cork from this spot since as early as the seventh century, but in 1865 the remains of the medieval structure, and its eighteenth century rebuilding, were demolished to make way for a new, larger and grander edifice. To win the competition for it, Burges had designed a compact yet impressive cathedral in the French Gothic style, narrow inside but soaring to a great height, with three spires — one at the crossing and two others at the west. He also designed a wealth of architectural sculpture, especially for the west front. Amongst other figures below the intricately carved rose window are those in the highly wrought resurrection scene of the tympanum, while the wise and foolish virgins (the latter dejectedly holding their empty lamps) approach the bridegroom on each side of the central doors (see Matthew 25:1-13). Numerous gargoyles and other embellishments can be seen throughout.

Left two: The Cain and Able window. Right: Stained glass window in memory of Burges. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

The fine detail everywhere is rich in symbolic significance as well as in craftsmanship. For example, on the pulpit St Paul is depicted as "sitting on an upturned 'pagan' altar," while the brass reading-stand on the pulpit is supported by "a winged dragon which symbolises evil taking flight at the sound of the Word being preached" ("St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork"). Amid the "single iconographic scheme" of the stained glass windows (Williams 6), which progresses from the Old Testament at the west end to the New Testament in the ambulatory, is one erected by Alfred Burges to the memory of his eldest son, "Architect of this cathedral." Designed by Burges himself, it shows the King of Heaven presiding over the four apostles, who hold open the Word of God. As elsewhere in the cathedral, Matthew is shown in human form, while Mark is shown as a lion, Luke as an ox and John as an eagle. Below them flame the seven candles of Revelations 1:20, representing the seven churches of Asia Minor. Under the inscription is a simple shield and a small, worn-looking plaque with a mosaic surround, bearing Burges's entwined initials and name.

However, everything here, including the church fittings, furnishings, mosaics, ironwork and stained glass, shows Burges's distinctive hand, making the whole cathedral a memorial to him and to his own distinctive style of "Burgesian Gothic."

Other Views and Related Material


Crook, J. Mordaunt. "Burges, Wiliam (1827-1881)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Viewed 23 August 2009.

"St Fin Barre's Cathedral, Cork" (welcome leaflet available in the cathedral).

"The Present Cathedral" (Cathedral website). Viewed 23 August 2009.

Turnor, Reginald. Nineteenth Century Architecture in Britain. London: Batsford, 1950.

Williams, Matthew. William Burges, 1827-81. Andover, Hants: Jarrold Publishing (Pitkin Guide), 2007.

Last modified 24 May 2015