The original site of the diocesan cathedral was at Templemore (Irish: An Teampall Mór or ‘the Big Church’). The church was destroyed in the Nine Years’ War (1593-1603). In 1613, James I formed, by Royal Charter, the new County of Londonderry and The Honourable The Irish Society was established to build the City.
Paramount in its plans was the erection of the Cathedral. The Society sent over from London a silver-gilt chalice (the ‘Promised Chalice’) and paten for the church it intended to build. The following year, a bell was also sent over, bearing the legend: ‘Fear God, Honour the King. Re-cast for Londonderry Steeple in 1614’.
Construction work began in 1628. The Cathedral was built of stone from local quarries and the stone which records completion can be seen in the porch of the Cathedral:
“lf stones could speake
Then London’s prayse
Should sounde who
Built this Church and
Cittie from the grounde”.
St Columb’s is named after St Columba – one of the three patron saints of Ireland – who was born at Gartan in Donegal. It was the first Cathedral built in the British Isles after the Reformation.
The building is a fine example of ‘Planter’s Gothic’. The present tower was completed in 1802 and the spire was added about 20 years later. In 1861/2, the interior of the Cathedral was entirely re-modelled. The old square pews were removed, and all the present oak work of the nave was provided. The addition of the chancel in 1887 completed the Cathedral on the plan of its founders. The erection of the Chapter House in 1910 provided much needed accommodation for the clergy and choir, and enhanced the Cathedral’s external appearance.
The Rector of The Parish of Templemore and Dean of Derry is the Very Reverend Raymond Stewart