17 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
60, Waterford’s two cathedrals

Holy Trinity Cathedral on Barronstrand Street, Waterford … designed by John Roberts and is the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford … said to be the finest 18th century church building in Ireland, it replaced the earlier cathedral used by Bishop Patrick Comerford in the 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This week, I am offering photographs of churches with close associations with my family and ancestors. My photographs this morning (17 April 2021) are from the two cathedrals in Waterford City.

We are all surprised when we Google our own name, find our own name in an index in a book, or get an email or a parcel intended for someone else with the same name. I still feel uneasy when I see my name on someone else’s grave, and I am still slightly surprised, no matter how often I see it, to read the name Patrick Comerford on pillars and plaques in Holy Trinity Cathedral, Waterford.

Indeed, there are two cathedrals in Waterford: the Church of Ireland cathedral on Cathedral Square – Christ Church Cathedral or, more formally, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity; and the Roman Catholic cathedral on Barronstrand Street – Holy Trinity Cathedral. Both were designed by John Roberts, who shaped much of Georgian Waterford.

For a period in the 1640s, before the Cromwellian siege of Waterford in 1649-1650, the older Church of Ireland cathedral was used by the Roman Catholic diocese, when Patrick Comerford (1586-1652) was Bishop of Waterford and Lismore (1629-1652).

The copes, chasuble, dalmatic and other vestments he had used in Waterford, were long lost and disappeared for generations. A later bishop, John Brenan, claimed the ecclesiastical Patrick Comerford had taken the ‘ornaments’ of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore to France.

The City Corporation decided to build a new Church of Ireland cathedral a century later. John Roberts built Christ Church Cathedral (1773-1792) on the site of Waterford’s mediaeval Gothic cathedral. He also built a new Roman Catholic cathedral on the site of the old Penal chapel on Barronstrand Street (1793-1796).

During the demolition of the older cathedral, the mediaeval vestments missing since Patrick Comerford left for France in 1651, were found in the crypt. In a gesture of ecumenical goodwill, centuries before ecumenism became standard practice, they were presented by Bishop Richard Chenevix to his Roman Catholic counterpart, Bishop Peter Creagh, and they are now kept in the Museum of Treasures in Waterford and the National Museum in Dublin.

Bishop Patrick Comerford is named twice in tablets in Holy Trinity Cathedral. One plaque lists him with other distinguished theologians, priests and bishops from Waterford, including Peter Lombard, Archbishop of Armagh, James White, the Jesuits Michael Wadding, Peter Wadding and Ambrose Wadding, Thomas Walsh, Archbishop of Cashel, and the historian Geoffrey Keating. A second plaque lists him among the Bishops of Waterford, between Patrick Walsh and John Brenan, who accused him of taking the cathedral vestments with him when he left Waterford.

Bishop Patrick Comerford died at Nantes on 10 March 1652, aged 66, and was buried in Nantes Cathedral with full episcopal honours.

The family tradition continued in the city’s cathedrals: Edward Comerford was the organist at Holy Trinity Cathedral until he died in 1894.

Patrick Comerford listed among the distinguished theologians, priests and bishops from Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 16-21 (NRSVA):

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

Patrick Comerford listed among the Bishops of Waterford and Lismore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (17 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for those who give of their time, talent, and treasure for the continued building of the Kingdom here on Earth.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A cope used by Bishop Patrick Comerford on display in Waterford Heritage Museum

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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