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Triskel Chirstchurch

June 7, 2011

Recently reopened as an entertainment venue, Christchurch in Cork city has had a long and varied history. The current building is an 18th century neoclassical Georgian building which was designed by architect John Coltsman. Coltsman is also notable for designing the South Gate and North Gate bridges in the city.

The present building is preceded by two other churches going back as far as the 11th century. It is possible the original Christchurch was of Hiberno-Norse (Viking) construction dating from c. 1050. The medieval city of Cork was based around two islands connected by bridges and surrounded by a defensive wall of some sort. These two islands formed the main streets, the current North Main Street and South Main Street. Each street had numerous laneways branching off, some of which survive to this day. This gave the medieval city a grid type structure.

With the two islands you also had two parishes, the Holy Trinity or Christchurch and St. Peter’s. St Peter’s survives today as the Cork Vision Centre on North Main Street.

On this map of Cork from 1545 both churches are labelled, as well as giving an idea of how the city was laid out.

After the Anglo-Normans took control of Cork in 1177 Christchurch became the principal parish church, religious centre and civic church of the city, where thanksgiving and celebrations were given by important members of the city such as the Lord Mayor, Corporation, and other city dignitaries. It is likely around this time the second church was built. Over the following centuries many of the leading merchant families who controlled Cork were buried in the crypts underneath the church. Legend has it that the famous English poet Edmund Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle in Christchurch on Midsummer Day, 11 June 1594.

During the Siege of Cork in 1690, 1,300 Protestants were held captive in Christ Church, St Peters, and the Court House. The city fell and the Protestants held captive in the church were released, to be replaced by the Roman Catholics who were then locked up in the Churches. Although the siege lasted only a few days Christchurch was left with severe and irreparable damage. A canon ball fired from Red Abbey passed through the roof, stained glass windows were torn out, and the lead roof dismantled to provide material for bullets. At the east end of the church, where Hopewell tower was situated, a breach was blown in the city wall and tradition has it that gravestones from the churchyard were torn up and used to fill the gaps. It was eventually demolished in 1716 and on St Patrick’s Day, 8 February 1718, the foundation stone for the new church was laid. The church took eight years to build and originally had a 136ft-high tower at its western end. The steeple was initially planned to go to a height of 170ft but started to sink due to unstable foundations and was later reduced further to 100ft until it was completely removed during renovations in 1820.

Christchurch was deconsecrated in 1978 and purchased a year later by Cork City Council to house the Cork Archives Institute. The archives remained there until they were moved to a purpose built archives building in Blackpool on the northside of the city. Christchurch remained empty for a few years until July 2008 when work began to turn it into an entertainment venue as part of the Triskel Arts Centre. On Friday 15 April 2011 Christchurch was officially reopened.

Here are some pictures of the interior

The former church organ

A memorial plaque to a Major Arthur Gibbings

A coat of arms, possible from the chantry college that was attached to the church

Cork is fortunate to have such a fascinating and historic entertainment venue and hopefully it will continue to function as such for many years to come


Further reading:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2011 9:32 pm

    Great entry. I am sharing this with Steve this evening. I’m itching to come visit and tour!

  2. June 12, 2011 7:38 pm

    Thanks Dave, great overview of the church. Where exactly is it located? I dread asking this, as a Corkonian! I thought it was the Cork Vision Centre but obviously I’m mistaken


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