Monday, 14 April 2014

Spending a few days in Saint
Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen

The tower and spire of Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, can be seen for miles around the Fermanagh countryside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, for two or three days this week with the students of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute who have been invited by the Dean of Clogher, the Very Revd Kenneth Hall, to take part in this year’s Holy Week mission in Saint Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

I am staying in the Belmore Court & Motel on Tempo Road, and this is my second time in Co Fermanagh within four of five days. Since I was last in Enniskillen two years ago (March 2012), Queen Elizabeth visited the town in 2012 as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations, and Enniskillen hosted last year’s G8 summit in June 2013. That was the biggest international diplomatic gathering in Northern Ireland, and the world leaders present included President Obama, President Putin, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The first and second year ordinands are taking part in a week-long programme built around the theme ‘This is Our Church.’ The Holy Week mission seeks to engage both parishioners and the wider community of Enniskillen.

The Bishop of Clogher, the Right Revd John McDowell, is the preacher at several special evening services. Other activities during the week include family, children’s and youth activities, pastoral visits and work in local schools.

Saint Macartin’s Cathedral is one of two cathedral churches in the Diocese of Clogher – the other is St Macartan’s Cathedral, Clogher. The dean and chapter of Clogher have their stalls in both cathedrals.

The cathedral in Enniskillen stands on high ground overlooking the town and was originally a parish church. It became a cathedral just over 90 years ago in 1923. The first Saint Anne’s Church built on this site was completed around 1627 as part of the original building of the town of Enniskillen.

Captain William Cole from Devon and the other people responsible for creating the new town of Enniskillen from 1611 on chose the site for the new parish church because it was the higher of the two hills on the island that gives its name to Enniskillen. The lower hill became the site for the original Market House, overlooking the Diamond or town square. That site is now the site of the town hall.

The first church building was probably completed in 1627. However, hardly any of the original church remains, although part of its tower was incorporated into the present one and can be seen above the main entrance door where there is a small, old three-light lattice window and a carved stone dated 1637 together with the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

The first church was small and simple and roofed with shingles that needed constant pair and maintenance. By the beginning of the 19th century the old parish church could no longer accommodate the growing number of parishioners, and in 1826 its length was extended in length. At the time, the Rector of Enniskillen was the Revd John Charles Maude, who was rector 1825-1860.

By 1832, the old parish church and its spire had become structurally unsafe and they were demolished. By 1832, the spire was so unsafe that it was demolished. This offered the opportunity to rebuild the church completely. The new Saint Anne’s Parish Church was consecrated in 1842, and what we see today is essentially the church built that year.

Enniskillen is one among less than a dozen parish churches in Northern Ireland with a tower that has a peal of eight bells or more. When the church was rebuilt in 1842, eight bells were installed, hung on oak frames.

The bust of Archbishop William Magee of York, former Rector of Enniskillen, in the Henry Jones Room in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

William Connor Magee (1821-1891) was Rector of Enniskillen from 1860 to 1864. Later, he became Dean of Cork, and then Bishop of Peterborough. In 1891 he became Archbishop of York and he is buried in York Minster. A bust of Archbishop Magee stands on a window ledge in the Henry Jones Room in the Old Library in Trinity College Dublin. Among his memorable sayings is: “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”

The chancel of Saint Anne’s Church was enlarged in 1889. By the early 20th century, the population of Enniskillen was growing steadily but many of the nearby villages were in decline. By then, Enniskilled was one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Clogher.

An act of General Synod in 1921 designated Saint Anne’s as the Cathedral Church of Saint Macartin in the Diocese of Clogher, although retaining the original Diocesan Cathedral Church of Saint Macartan in Clogher – both named after the same saint but with a slight variation in spelling. Saint Anne’s Church was rededicated as Saint Macartin’s Cathedral in 1923, with stalls for the Dean and Chapter.

Two more bells were added in 1936, making a peal of ten, and the present pipe organ was installed that year. Part of the nave became the Regimental Chapel of the Inniskilling regiments in 1970.

In 2006, the Diocese of Clogher marked the 1500th anniversary of the death of its founding saint, Saint Macartan. As part of the celebrations, Archbishop Magee’s successor, Archbishop John Sentamu visited the diocese during Saint Macartan’s Day.

Today, the Diocese of Clogher is unique in both the Church of Ireland and the Anglican Communion in having two cathedrals. The cathedral can be seen for miles around because it stands on a high hill overlooking the town, topped by a tower and spire that rise to 45 metres.

The Collect of Saint Macartan’s Day:

Heavenly Father,
we thank you for Macartan,
faithful companion of Saint Patrick
and builder of your church in Clogher:
Build up your church through
those whom you call to leadership in this generation,
and strengthen your church
to proclaim the gospel of reconciliation and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

No comments: