Parish History

Longford Parish

The official name of our parish is Templemichael and Ballymacormack. It was created in the late 1700s and so is of comparatively recent origin in an Irish context. There had also been a Dominican Friary in the town of Longford, founded in the early 1400s. The two distinct parishes of Templemichael and of Ballymacormack had been linked to other surrounding parishes in the diocese before the current parish was formed. Templemichael had previously been listed with the parish of Clonguish, and had links with Moydow and Killoe parishes at later times. Ballymacormack had a long connection with the parish of Killashee dating back to at least the early 1500s and in the 1700s was joined with Moydow for a time.


St. Mel’s Cathedral

The Cathedral is named in honour of St. Mel, who died around the year 487/488, a contemporary of St. Patrick, and first Bishop of Ardagh. The foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid on 19 May, 1840 by Bishop O’Higgins, just before the start of the Great Famine which was to cause so much misery and death over the following decade. The building as a result was delayed and the Cathedral did not open for worship until 1856, by which time John Kilduff had become bishop of the diocese.



The Entrance Lobby and 200 foot high Bell Tower, designed by John Bourke, were completed in 1863. The portico at the front with six large 37 foot high columns, designed by George Ashlin, was added later during the years 1889-1893. At the top of the columns there is a triangular piece which is known in architecture as a tympanum. Within this there is a large scene sculpted by George Smyth depicting the consecration of St. Mel as Bishop of Ardagh by St. Patrick. On top of the tympanum three statues stand out against the skyline, one at each side depicting St. Mel and St. Ciaran, patrons of Ardagh and Clonmacnois respectively, and in the center a statue of the Sacred Heart.

St. Mel’s Cathedral was solemnly consecrated on 23 May 1893, exactly 53 years after the foundation stone was laid. The bishop at the time was Bartholomew Woodlock.



The inside of the Cathedral is a simple but majestic style. The Cathedral is constructed like many churches in the shape of a cross. This cruciform shape has a long central nave from the front door to the altar – the roof of the nave as is tradition rises higher than the two aisles on either side. The nave of the Cathedral is flanked by six columns on either side. The sanctuary at the top of the Cathedral was renovated in 1975 after the Second Vatican Council. It was a controversial change at the time and many in the town who knew the Cathedral as it was lament its passing to this day. Those who know only the present layout find a welcoming space that is still most beautiful. A tapestry designed by Ray Carroll and made by Killybegs Carpets is located at the back of the altar and represents the Coming of Christ in Glory.



As you face the altar to the right are two chapels, firstly the Blessed Sacrament altar with a Ray Carroll backdrop depicting Jesus after his Resurrection at table with two disciples whom he has accompanied on the road to Emmaus. Further to the right is the Mortuary chapel with a representation of the Pietà. To the left-hand side of the sanctuary you will see Our Lady’s altar and the Holy Family chapel. There are very detailed and beautiful stained-glass windows by the internationally-acclaimed artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931) at the end of the side chapels. On the St. Mel’s College side there is a depiction of the Resurrected Christ and on the presbytery side there is a representation of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These two windows are beautifully lit up at different times of the year by the rising and setting sun. 1983 saw the completion of the new Choir Gallery and the installation of the new Pipe Organ by Kenneth Jones of Bray.



St. Mel

Saint Mel died in 488. He is said to have been a Briton who came to Ireland with Saint Patrick, his uncle, with whom he worked until he was ordained in Ardagh. He is one of the earliest Irish saints and gave the religious veil to Saint Brigid. He is, along with St Ciaran of Clonmacnois, the patron saint of the Catholic diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, and is commemorated in the name of the Cathedral church of the diocese in Longford.