Cork City

Saint Anne’s Church, Shandon

 The famous Shandon Bells a Church of Ireland. One of Ireland’s most famous Christian landmarks. There has been a Christian Church here since the 6th century. The name Shandon comes from the Irish Sean Dun meaning Old Fort and this area was the Old Fort area of the city. Where now stands the Firkin Crane Centre, once stood Shandon Castle or Barry’s Castle and later the home of the British Government in the province of Munster. There were 28 settlements in and around ancient Cork, Shandon being one of them. There existed on this site a medieval Church dedicated to St. Mary, which was mentioned in the decretals of Pope Innocent 3rd in 1199 as “St. Mary on the Mountain”. In the siege of Cork in 1690, the castle and our original church were razed to the ground by the Williamite forces under the command of the Duke of Marlborough. A Church dedicated to St. Mary was built in 1693 at the bottom of Mallow lane-modern day Shandon Street. In 1722 it was decided to build anew due to population growth the present Church of St. Anne Shandon on the ancient site. During the construction of the present church the Red Sandstone from Shandon Castle and the White or Grey Limestone from the Franciscan Friary in the North Mall were both used? Southern and Western sides were built with White or Grey Limestone and Northern and Eastern sides were built with Red Sandstone, signifying the regions of Cork in which the stone was quarried. Cork takes its sporting colours of Red and White from these stone. It was in 1772 that St. Anne Shandon attained full parochial status when Rev. Arthur Hyde was appointed its first Rector. Arthur was the great-great-grandfather of Dr. Douglas Hyde, pioneer of the Gaelic revival and the first President of the Irish Free State. Dr. Hyde’s house was near Mallow, Co. Cork and was purchased by Michael Flately of “Riverdance” fame and was renovated by him.

The Bells of Shandon By: – Father Francis Sylvester Mahony (1804-1866)

A.k.a. Father Prout.

With deep affection and recollection

I oft times think of those Shandon Bells

Whose sound so wild would, in the days of childhood?

Fling round my cradle, their magic spells.

On this I ponder whene’er I wander and thus grow fonder,

Sweet Cork of thee,

With the Bells of Shandon, that sound so grand on

The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

I’ve heard bells chiming, full many a chime in,

Tolling sublime in Cathedral shrine,

While at a glib rate, brass tongues would vibrate,

But all their music spoke naught like thine;

For memory dwelling on each proud swelling,

Of the belfry knelling its bold notes free,

Made the Bells of Shandon sound far more grand on,

The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

I’ve heard bells tolling Old “Adrian’s Mole” in

their thunder rolling from the Vatican,

And cymbals glorious, swinging uproarious

In the gorgeous turrets of Notre Dame,

But thy sounds were sweeter than the dome of Peter,

Flings o’er the Tiber, peelingly solemny,

O, the Bells of Shandon sound far more grand on,

The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

There’s a bell in Moscow, while on tower and kiosk o!

In Saint Sophia the Turkman gets,

And loud in air calls men to prayer,

From the tapering summit of tall minarets,

Such empty phantom, I freely grant them,

But there is an anthem more dear to me,

‘Tis the Bells of Shandon that sound so grand on,

The pleasant waters of the River Lee.

Only for this man the Church would be one of the many in the city but thanks to his poem the Church is known throughout the world. Francis Sylvester Mahony better known as “Father Prout”, a name he acquired from an eccentric but well-learned Parish Priest in Watergrasshill, Co.Cork, whom he had known and admired since childhood. Born in 1804 on Camden Quay, a stones throw away from the Church. He was the second child of Martin Mahoney whose father Timothy Mahony founded the famous Blarney Woollen Mills. Descended from one of Kerry’s oldest families, the Mahony’s of Dromore Castle. They came to Cork and settled in Glanmire in the middle of the 18th century under the duress of the Penal laws. There they established the Woollen Mills, later they moved to Rochestown and finally settled in Blarney. Francis Sylvester enrolled in the famous Jesuit College of Clongowes Wood at 12 years of age and after four years went to the Jesuit College at Amiens in France and from there to the Jesuit Noviciate in Paris. He went to Rome in 1823 to study Philosophy for two years. A brilliant student he was exceptionally fluent in languages modern and ancient. However his family were intent on him becoming a Priest. Francis was keen to become a Jesuit. During his stay in Rome he failed to be ordained and in the summer of 1825 he returned to Clongowes where he was appointed Perfect of Studies and later Master of Rhetoric.

 He was a highly successful teacher, but still yearning to be a priest he went to Switzerland. He then returned to Rome and sponsored by Dr. Murphy, Bishop of Cork, he entered the Irish College, studied Theology for two years and was finally ordained a priest in 1832. He returned to Cork where he was appointed Hospital Chaplain at the North Infirmary (now a hotel). In the Cholera outbreak of 1832, he devoted himself to the stricken people of the city. This work was shared with Fr. Theobald Matthew, the “Apostle of Temperance”, who 15 years later gave written testimony that Fr. Mahoney was a truly “Apostolic priest”. He now abandoned his priesthood and devoted the next 30years of his life to his literary works, never relinquishing fully his priestly duties. His poem “The Bells of Shandon”, probably first scribbled on the walls of the seminary in Rome found its way into the “Oxford Book of Victorian Verse” and has been enjoyed the world over, bringing fame to Shandon, its bells and the city. He is buried in the cemetery of Shandon beneath the sound of his endearing bells.

History of the Clock:  Within the main tower itself is the famous clock known to Corkonians as the “Four Faced Liar” on account of the time being different on each face during the hour. The reason being, the numbers on the faces are made of wood and gilded, some of the wood is thicker than others and so some hands stick when they reach these thick numbers, but on the hour they all come together. The clock was made by Cork’s famous clockmaker, Mr James Mangan. It was a gift from the Lord Mayor and the Cork Corporation in 1847 and to this day they maintain it. It weighs over 2.5 tons and the dials are 14feet in diameter and on the clock is the inscription: “Passenger, measure your time for time is the measure of your being”.

The Building: The walls of the tower at the base are 7 feet thick and the height to the viewing balcony is 120 feet, and another 50 feet for the pepper pot. The McOsterich family were involved with the design and erection of the tower and to this day a special privilege is afforded them. Whenever a member of the family marries, anywhere in the world, the bells ring out in their honour. On top of this pepper pot is a weather vane in the form of a salmon; it is approximately 13 feet long and painted in Gold Leaf representing the Lord, in that in the old days the sign of a fish signified the Lord’s name. It also represents that in Irish Mythology the salmon was the “Fish of Knowledge”. It also represents the Salmon Fishing on the local River Lee. The weather vane is called “De Goldie Fish” by Corkonians and people in the Northside live under “De Goldie Fish”.

The Bells: Rudhalls of Gloucester made the 8 bells. They weigh over 6 ton and they first rang out over the city on December 7th 1752 for the marriage of Henry Harding and Catherine Dorman. They were recasted in 1865 and in 1906 they were hung in a fixed position so as to reduce the vibration. It was said that when bells were rung in a swinging position the patients in the local hospital, the North Infirmary Charitable Hospital shook in their beds. The original inscriptions are retained on each bell:

(a). When us you ring we’ll sweetly sing.

(b). God preserve the Church and King.

(c). Health and prosperity to all our benefactors.

(d). Peace and good neighbourhood.

(e). Prosperity to the city and trade thereof.

(f). We were all cast at Gloucester in England by Abel Rudhall 1750.

(g). Since generosity has opened our mouths our tongues shall sing aloud its praise.

(h). I to the Church the living call and to the grave do summon all.

The last bell, the tenor, weighs 26cwt. and also bears the name Daniel Thresher, a great benefactor of the Church, who, in his will, left money to provide this bell. It was the same Daniel Thresher who provided the Church of St. Anne with a single bell before the peal was introduced. This bell dated 1745, now hangs in the Church of St. Mary in Sundays Well. The bells can be rung on the first floor. Also on the first floor you may view two statues called Bob and Joan. These were figures on the pillars of the Greencoat School, which was behind the church and in use up until the 1950’s when it closed.

 The Christening Font, dated 1629, is a relic from the church, attached to Shandon Castle, destroyed in the Siege of Cork in 1690 and is inscribed “Walter Elinton and William Ring made this pant (Anglo-Saxon word for Font) at their charges”. Inside is a pewter bowl dated 1773.

At the back left hand side of the Church you will see an oval stained glass window depicting St.Luke the physician in memory to Robert Lee (surgeon) and this is the work of Harry Clarke Studios and was erected in 1934.

In the church are some 17th century books. Some of which came from the first library in Cork City and some came from the Green Coat School that was attached to this Church.

Opening Hours: October to April   — 10am – 3pm

                           May to September — 9am –   6pm

Last time entry: 30 minutes before official closing time.

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