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St Fethlimidh Cathedral, Kilmore, Cavan

(53°58′46″N, 7°24′55″W)
H 384 035
pre-1974 traditional (Republic of Ireland) Cavan
now Cavan
medieval Kilmore
now Kilmore
  • Roger Stalley

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Feature Sets

Kilmore Cathedral is a 19thc. Gothic building which contains a Romanesque doorway built into the N wall of the vestry (located in the angle of the N transept and chancel).

The Kilmore doorway is said to have come from the church on Trinity Island in Lough Oughter, three miles away, though the evidence for this is not conclusive. Trinity Island was the site of the old monastery of Dair-inis. The original site of the see of Breifne, which was transferred to Kilmore c.1250. A new cathedral was constructed at Kilmore during the 17thc. and this was apparently when the Romanesque doorway was moved from Trinity Island. The existing Gothic building at Kilmore dates from about 1860, so the portal has been reconstructed twice. There are plenty of signs of misunderstandings.


Exterior Features



The stones of the inner jambs have been incorrently assembled and the capitals and bases may not be in their original sequence. There appears to be no support for Leask's contention that the doorway originally had inclined jambs, which were 'corrected' during one of the reconstructions. The appearance of the portal is marred by over-enthusiastic repointing with excessively white mortar.

The structure of the doorway, with continuous inner jambs, is typical of Irish portals and the style of the carvings has many affinities with works along the river Erne, particularly the sculptural fragments from Devenish (Fermanagh). The monster head capitals are related to those at Clonmacnois (the Nun's Church, 1167) and Boyle Abbey (sedilia, post-1161). The curious floral patttern found on the inner jambs is a debased version of a design found on one of the pre-Romanesque stelae at Carndonagh (Donegal). The panel of animal interlace on the W jamb (W6) is one of the most outstanding examples of the so-called Irish Urnes style to be found in Romanesque stone carving.

There is no documented date for building at Trinity Island, but on stylistic grounds the doorway can be assigned to c.1170. The portal was analysed at great length by Oliver Davies, though several of his conclusions are misleading.


O. Davies, 'The churches of County Cavan', Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 19 (1948), 99–110.

A. Gwynne, and R. N. Hadcock, Medieval Religious Houses: Ireland, London, 1970, 87–9.

H. G. Leask, Irish Churches and Monastic Buildings, 1, Dundalk, 1955, 146.