Thursday, 1 March 2018

The real-life story of
the mystery prince
buried in Limerick

The simple and humble gravestone of Prince Milo of Montenegro in the churchyard at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year. The programme to mark this anniversary was launched recently by Bishop Kenneth Kearon and Dean Niall Sloane, and celebrates the role of the cathedral in the life of the city – including the community, civic, cultural, educational, ecumenical, musical, historical, sporting and tourism dimensions.

Saint Mary’s was a gifted to the Church by Donal Mor O Brien, the last King of Thomond and the great-great-great grandson of Brian Boru. The cathedral has been a site of Christian worship since 1168 and is one of the oldest buildings in Limerick City.

Dean Sloane has said celebrating this special anniversary includes ‘opening it up to the city of Limerick and the wider community. The main themes for the year are welcoming in, so anybody is welcome to come in.’ There will also be a tangible dimension to the celebrations as each month will focus on a charity or cause based in or around Limerick.

The highlights of this anniversary include a visit by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and a special service of thanksgiving.

In addition, each month the cathedral is highlighting figures associated with Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The first figures were Donal O’Brien, the benefactor of the cathedral (16 January), and the Barrington family (20 January).

Later this month, as part of this series of lunchtime talks and tours, I am speaking on Milo Petrović-Njegoš (1889-1978), Prince of Montenegro. Prince Milo was born in Njeguši in the tiny principality of Montenegro, which was divided between Austria and Poland during World War I, and later incorporated into the modern state of Yugoslavia.

Prince Milo dedicated his life travelling the world pursuing diplomatic efforts to regain international recognition for his country from China to Italy and Britain, to and Mexico and the US. Towards the end of his life, he lived in Roundwood, Co Galway. He died in Barrington’s Hospital, Limerick, in 1978.

It may all sound very Ruritanian, but I hope to tell his real-life story and to explore why he is buried in a simple and humble grave in the cathedral churchyard.

Later historical figures and themes in this series of lunchtime talks and tours include the Cleeves family (17 April), Robert Graves the poet (15 May), Pádraig Pearse (19 June), Edmund Sexton Pery the patron of Limerick architecture (17 July), Dr Samuel Crumpe physician (21 August), Hannah Villiers educationalist and philanthropist (18 September), Frances Condell, Mayor of Limerick (16 October), Bishop John Jebb (20 November), and the cathedral’s musical legacy (18 December).

I preached in the cathedral last month (18 February) as the canon precentor. Visiting preachers and speakers later in the year include the Very Revd Victor Stacey, former Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (17 March); Frank McDonald of The Irish Times; Canon Daniel Nuzum, chaplain of Cork University Hospital (26 August); Canon Peter Campion of the King’s Hospital, Dublin (26 September, Diocesan Schools Service); Archdeacon Andrew Orr (7 October, Harvest); John Lonergan, former Governor of Mountjoy Prison (14 October, Prison Sunday); Bishop Paul Colton of Cork (21 October, Civic Service); and Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel (4 November, Remembrance Sunday).

Saint Mary’s has a special place in the life of Limerick and its citizens. It has been a royal palace and today it is a place of pilgrimage and prayer, with a unique role in all aspects of city and diocesan life. Dean Sloane says the central theme of this year’s celebrations is opening the doors to all and forging links with Limerick and beyond ‘so that we may echo the Christian message of faith, love, and witness.’

The cathedral community is passionate about conserving, preserving and sharing the rich heritage of Saint Mary’s. We do not receive any Government or EU funding toward the day-to-day running and maintenance of this historic building. Support, through admission fees and donations is important and makes a difference in ensuring that the many and varied aspects of the cathedral’s life and ministry continue.

A Prayer for Saint Mary’s Cathedral:

Almighty God,
in whose keeping are the plans and purposes of your Church,
mercifully look upon this ancient place of worship,
inspire its worship,
so that your light may spread throughout these United Dioceses and City,
to the Glory of your Name, and the coming of your Kingdom. Amen.

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