The Cathedral’s experiences of the 17th Century provide an interesting insight into this turbulent period in Irish History.
The Cathedral had endured a period of uncertainty in the 16th Century, as the British monarchy continued to deal with the repercussions of the Reformation. On taking to the throne, Edward VI (son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymore) demoted the Cathedral back to the status of a parish church. Following his death, his half-sister, the Catholic Queen Mary, restored the building to Cathedral status as she sought to restore Roman Catholicism across her kingdom. When Queen Elizabeth I took to the throne she restored Anglicanism once again and offered a period of relative stability.
After her death in 1603 however, the Cathedral was once again thrown into chaos by external events. During the English Civil War, the Cathedral fell into disrepair through a lack of funds. In 1651 Oliver Cromwell used the Cathedral to hold court martials and according to legend he also stabled his horses in the nave of the building as a gesture of disdain towards the Anglican Church (although this has never been verified).
The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 once again offered the Cathedral a period of stability and a chance to carry out repairs. In 1663 Protestant refugees, known as the Huguenots, fleeing France were offered the use of the Cathedral’s Lady Chapel. However, peace in Ireland did not last for long. In 1688 the Catholic King James was deposed by William of Orange, war broke out across the kingdom, and reached Irish shores in 1690. King James used the Cathedral during his time in Ireland to hold Catholic mass. However, following James’ defeat at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, King William traveled down to Dublin and restored the Cathedral once more to Anglicanism. William decided to use the Cathedral to bury one of his most important generals (The Duke of Shomberg) who had been killed during the battle.
The following year another military commander (Lord Lisburne) was buried in the choir of the Cathedral after he was struck by a cannon ball during the Siege of Limerick. Lord Lisburne was the grandson of a former Dean of the Cathedral, Adam Loftus.
Today there are still a number of features in the Cathedral which mark this tumultuous time. The chair used by William III (William of Orange) during his visit to the Cathedral is still on display in the North Choir aisle, alongside the tomb of the Duke of Shomberg, and the original cannon ball which was responsible for killing Lord Lisburne hangs from the wall of the choir marking the place where he is buried.
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