St. Mary's Pro Cathedral is the main Catholic parish church of Dublin City centre, situated on a back-street, one block east of O'Connell Street.
- Exterior is based (on one side) on a Greek temple design
- Interior has a beautifully carved altar
- Contains records of births and marriages from 1784
- Statues of St. Mary, St. Patrick, and St. Lawrence O'Toole, patron saint of Dublin. St. Mary's is the Episcopal seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin
A Cathedral or not a Cathedral?
St. Mary's has the unusual status of pro-Cathedral, meaning "temporary" or "acting" Cathedral". The Cathedral was built in 1825, at a time when Catholics still had few rights in the city, where power was held by the ruling Protestant elite. It was only intended as a temporary precursor for a more ornate cathedral for Dublin's Catholics which was never built. Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral had been granted cathedral status in the 12th century by the pope, so according to Vatican officialdom, Christchurch --- despite being a Protestant place of worship since the Reformation --- is still Dublin's Cathedral. Since no other Cathedral was built, the pope must revoke Christ Church's designation if St. Mary's can be elevated to full cathedral status, an event that would be without precedent.
Built on the site of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary, St Mary's Pro Cathedral was dedicated in 1825. Because of strong anti-Catholic sentiment under British rule, most Catholic churches built prior to Catholic emancipation were typically found in hard-to-find locations, down narrow alleys, out of the way of any considerable pedestrian traffic. The location of St. Mary's, away from the main thoroughfares, was the best that Anglo-Irish leaders would allow a Catholic church at the time. Nevetheless, that it was granted at all was a sign that Catholics were gaining power, and Catholic emancipation was indeed achieved three years later in 1828.
The Pro Cathedral is also famous for its Palestrina Choir The famous choir can be heard singing online during the 11am Latin Mass each Sundays.
St. Mary's Pro Cathedral. Image: Canadian Pacific