Kilmore St. Feidhlimidh Cathedral Door

The cathedral church of St. Feidhlimidh (also known as Kilmore Cathedral) lies just 5km distance from Cavan town, set in a picturesque enclave shrouded by venerable oaks and sycamore trees.

The cathedral was built in 1860 as a replacement for an earlier structure and was dedicated to the memory of Bishop William Bedell, who died and was buried here in 1642. A noted Anglican church reformer credited with writing the first translation of the Old Testament Bible into Irish.

The subject of this article describes an Irish Romanesque doorway, now seemingly incongruously set in a chancel north wall, employed as a vestry door. This then leads us back to another period of mediaeval church history which began as a ‘reformation’ of the Irish church during the twelfth century.

This cathedral doorway gives us everything in the way of stone carving and decoration that we would expect from that marvellous mediaeval era. when Irish craftsmanship evolved a really native style of architecture and left as a memorial of their genius such fertility of conception and such variety and delicacy of design and execution, that nothing more beautiful or more perfect in its kind has ever been done or contrived a product of Irish genius at its best. In that the St. Feidhlimidh door is not very dissimilar to other high status doorways found in noted twelfth century churches and monasteries such as Clonmacnoise, Killeshin (Leix) and Annaghdown (Galway), typical of a period of change taking place all over the country at that time.

One of the striking features of these doorways is the chevron ornamented arch, that zigzag through 180 degrees. At Kilmore there is also carved human heads on the pillars representing bearded men and decorative panels crafted like the iconic artworks seen in the Book of Kells. The bases of the pillars are stylized with foliage and animal enrichments. So much of this work is like that found in the Killeshin church, that seems likely they were done by the same craftsmen.

The origins of St. Feidhlimidh doorway are open to conjecture, given that the official charge is that it came from a nearby small priory church at Trinity Island, built a century after the Romanesque door was constructed. The earliest cathedral church in Kilmore was built during the fifteenth century. After the synod of Kells and Mellifont in 1152, Drumlane priory became central between Kells and Sligo in the kingdom of Breifne, where Augustinian Canons Regular came under the jurisdiction of the Abbot of Kells. With the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, Drumlane priory was left to decay. There is every possibility that some stone architecture might have been removed to other churches including Kilmore.

St. Feidhlimidh's Cathedral Door
Christopher Kirk
Detail of romanesque art on St. Feidhlimidh Cathedral Door
Christopher Kirk
Romanesque face on St. Feidhlimidh Cathedral Door
Christopher Kirk
Kilmore St. Feidlimidh Cathedral Door

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