Scaffolding surrounding the spire at St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan Town, which is currently undergoing restoration work. Photo Rory Geary

Urgent Restoration Works underway at St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan.

A very visible feature on the landscape of Monaghan in recent weeks has been the erection of scaffolding around the tower and spire of St Macartan’s Cathedral overlooking the town. This is part of an ongoing project of urgent restoration of this magnificent and historic building which has both local and regional significance. The Cathedral, which holds the Seat of the Catholic Bishop of Clogher, was built between 1861 and 1892 to the design of the famous 19th century Gothic architect J J McCarthy, while the grounds and entrance were completed in the 1940s. It is a listed Protected Structure of regional significance. However, the effects of rainfall, carbon damage and climate change have taken their toll on this precious jewel.

Work on restoring the fabric of St Macartan’s Cathedral began initially in 2019 resumed in 2022. The restoration work involves vital repairs to parts of the roof and on the parts of the building most in need of critical attention. These include the urgent repair work to the stonework fabric of the entire building, especially the tower, spire, pinnacles and rose windows.

The cost of phase one of the work (on the northern side of the Cathedral) was in excess of €600,000. The current phase, which includes stone conservation work on the tower, spire, pinnacles and the south transept and front entrance, will be in excess of €3m.

While the vast bulk of the cost of restoration will fall on the local Catholic parish as well as all parishes across the diocese, some funding has been already been obtained from external sources. During 2019 and 2020, €100,000 was received from the Irish Heritage Council through Monaghan County Council. In May 2021 the Historical Structures Fund 2021 announced a grant of €160,000 towards restoration of the Rose Window over the main entrance which is to be phased over 2 years. An additional grant from the Gubay Foundation was received in 2022 towards the same Rose Window restoration. In March 2023, Monaghan County Council, under the Historic Structures Fund 2023, awarded an additional €200,000 for urgent external refurbishment and stone conservation and internal high-level plaster repairs. A successful application to the Benefact Trust UK, which is open to Christian communities in the UK and Ireland helping to protect and enhance Christian buildings among other charitable endeavours, awarded St. Macartan’s Cathedral restoration project GBP£100,000 in July 2023.

While these grants are very welcome and indicate the significant local and regional heritage dimension of the Cathedral, the bulk of the task of funding will lie with the Diocese of Clogher and the Parish of Monaghan & Rackwallace. A major diocesan fundraising campaign for this very extensive project will be launched soon. Speaking this week, the Cathedral Parish Administrator Canon Paddy McGinn said that the work is vital and urgent for the protection of the building. “St Macartan’s Cathedral is an important part of the fabric and life of Monaghan town, the parish of Monaghan & Rackwallace and the wider Diocese of Clogher. The effects of the years and the weather have taken their toll on the stonework and the roof, and we have to protect not only the building but the beautiful treasures that are the stained-glass Rose Windows and other artefacts. All of this is part of the historical patrimony of both the local Catholic community and the wider community of Monaghan and beyond. It falls to us in this generation to save it and preserve it for the future”, he said.


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