Christchurch Cathedral Interior, Waterford City, Ireland
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The first church on this site was built in the 11th Century, probably around the time the previously pagan Vikings had become Christian and had affiliated themselves to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He appointed the first Bishop of Waterford, Malchus, in 1096. The Mediaeval Cathedral was the setting for the famous wedding of English knight, Strongbow and Irish Princess, Aoife in 1170. This political union was to change the course of Irish History forever.
By 1210 the Normans had taken over Waterford and they built a new Gothic Cathedral in 1210. There is a model of this structure in the Cathedral today. This expanded over the years to include side chapels dedicated to people such as James Rice who was a leading figure in Waterford at the time. The base of one of the Norman pillars of the Norman Cathedral is still remaining and has been opened up for viewing. During the demolition of the Gothic Cathedral the famous Waterford Vestments were discovered. Dating from late medieval times they are the only complete ser of either British or Irish High Mass vestments to survive the Reformation. Part of the set has been restored and is on display at Waterford Museum of Treasures.
However by the 18th Century, the progressive City Corporation of the time regarded this Gothic Cathedral as being very old fashioned and recommended to the Bishop that a new one should be constructed. It is said that Bishop Chenevix was none too happy with the idea so a little ruse had to be used to 'help' him change his mind. Some potential builders had arranged for rubble to fall in the Bishops path as he walked through the Church, sufficiently close to give him a shock or two! After a couple of narrow escapes Chenevix decided that a new Cathedral was a must. In 1773 the Norman Gothic Cathedral came down, but so strongly was it built that gunpowder had to be used in its demolition. The present Cathedral was begun in 1773 and was completed in 1779 at a total cost of £5,397. At times it has been deigned a tragedy that the magnificent Gothic Cathedral was demolished, but the present building has been described the finest 18th Century ecclesiastical building in Ireland (by Mark Girouard, a noted architectural historian).