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St Carthach (Mochuda), Lismore

(52°8′35″N, 7°55′39″W)
X 05 99
pre-1974 traditional (Republic of Ireland) Waterford
now Waterford
  • Tessa Garton

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Feature Sets

A cruciform church with long nave and chancel and 13thc. transepts and S crossing arch are 13thc. The basement mouldings and engaged shaft on the exterior of the S wall of the chancel are also 13thc. A number of fragments from the earlier church are reset inside the W wall of the present church.


The monastery of Lismore was founded by St Carthach (Mo-chuda) in 636, and became one of the great religious centres of Ireland. A diocese of Lismore or Waterford was established at the synod of Rathbreasail, and two bishops of Lismore are recorded in the next few years: Mac Aeducain (d.1113) and O Daigthig (d.1119). In 1127 St Malachy moved to Lismore from Bangor, and Cormac Mac Carthaig entered the monastery of Lismore. Malchus (Mael Iosa O h-Ainmire) was the major figure in the monastery at this time, and died at Lismore as Bishop of Waterford in 1135. In 1151 Christian O Conairche, who had been consecrated Bishop of Lismore at Clairvaux, came to Ireland with Cardinal Paparo, and remained as papal legate in Ireland after Cardinal Paparo's departure, from 1152-79. In 1166 Christian held a synod at Lismore, and the cathedral was consecrated in the same year. There is a reference to the great church of Lismore in 1173, when the city was pillaged by the Normans. In 1363 the see of Lismore was united to Waterford, but it retained its own cathedral until the Reformation. The cathedral was razed to the ground in 1579, restored in 1633 and rebuilt in c.1680.


Loose Sculpture


Henry compared the seated figure to the series of figures on White Island (Fermanagh), while O'Keeffe saw the tendrils of hair at the side of the head as evidence of a 12thc. date. The billet decoration on the impost (i) is rare in Ireland, but is also found at Cormac's Chapel, Cashel (Tipperary), Ardfert Cathedral (Kerry) and Killeshin (Laois); similar linked bosses are found at Aghadoe and Temple-na-Hoe, Ardfert (Kerry), and in the larger church at Rahan (Offaly). The impost and the multi-scallop capital (iii) might come from the church consecrated in 1166, whereas the capital with foliage decoration (ii) is similar to the lavabo capitals at Mellifont (c.1210) and probably dates from the early 13thc. It is also similar to the 13thc. capitals of the S crossing arch in the cathedral, although the foliage on the crossing arch capitals is thinner and more stringy than that on the loose capital. In 1989, during works to the cathedral fabric, a piece of rubble masonry with a section of Romanesque wall painting was recovered. This is now stored in the cathedral library.


A. Gwynn, R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses, Ireland, London, 1970, 91-2.

Proceedings: Lismore; St. Mochuda's Cathedral, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 27, 1897, 356-8.

F. Henry, Figure in Lismore Cathedral, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 67, 1937, 306-7.

P. Galloway, The Cathedrals of Ireland, Belfast, 1992.

S. Sanderlin, The Monastery of Lismore in (eds.) W. Nolan and T. P. Power, Waterford History and Society, Dublin, 1992, 638-1111.

T. O'Keeffe, Lismore and Cashel: reflections on the beginnings of Romanesque architecture in Munster, Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 124, 1994, 118-151.