Saint Columb's Cathedral in Derry City was the first Protestant Cathedral built in Britain or Ireland after the Protestant Reformation. When Saint Columb's Cathedral was constructed, between 1628 and 1633, most other Protestant houses of worship had been converted from Catholic institutions.
Its name derives from the ancient Irish monk St. Columba, or Colum Cille. In the 6th century, Columba founded a monastic settlement in the region that eventually evolve into Derry City. Located on London Street, beside the river Foyle, the Cathedral occupies the site of the original monastic settlement.
Items of Historical Interest
- St. Columb's retains its original bells, believed to be the oldest working church bells in Ireland.
- The Cathedral contains numerous relics of the Siege of Derry, 1688-89, including a 270 lb. mortar ball.
- The mortar ball was fired over the city wall at the beginning of the siege, offering terms of surrender to the people of Derry from King James II himself.
- The reply was a resounding cry of "no surrender", which has endured into modern times as a popular Protestant battle cry.
- Stones in the adjoining graveyard lie flat, toppled during the siege to protect the graves beneath from cannonball fire.
The church was built in Planter's Gothic style, and its spire is visible throughout the city. The current spire is the church's third - the previous two were struck by lightning and melted into metal for ammunition during the siege, respectively.
The exterior of the building is fortress-like, with thick stone walls. Inside, there are some exquisite features, such as the bishop's chair from 1630 and a Killybegs altar carpet. The cathedral's 214 oak pews come from native Derry wood, and they have been hand carved to make each one a unique work of art.
The Chapter House displays a collection of siege artefacts, including
- The locks and keys of the four main city gates
- A map of Derry from 1600
- The personal Bible of George Walker, who was governor during the siege
Saint Columb's Cathedral. Image: Nico Kalser