The manuscript parchment document, dating to July 1900, has been presented to Lord Mayor Donal Counihan by Professor Timothy Counihan and his son Michael Counihan, SC.
The first city mayor to receive the honour was Sir Daniel Hegarty, who had helped to greet Queen Victoria on her second visit to Ireland, in 1900, and who is mentioned specifically in the text of the charter.
Hegarty, the son of a merchant from Summerhill, Cork, died in 1914.
Despite being 107 years old, the charter is in excellent condition, having been kept safely by generations of the Hegarty family.
It was inherited by Professor Counihan’s late wife, Mary Rose Powell, whose aunt was married to Michael Hegarty, the son of Sir Daniel Hegarty.
Professor Counihan, a native of Killarney, is well known in medical circles, having taught at UCD.
He graduated in medicine from UCC, in 1947, and later worked as a consultant at the Mater Hospital, Dublin, where he set up the cardiac department. Ms Powell was also a UCC medical graduate.
The charter, which is about 70cm square and has a large wax royal seal attached by cords, was handed over at a special ceremony in City Hall.
A condition of the granting of the title Lord Mayor was that it be officially enrolled in the High Court in Dublin within six months, with the cost of this to be met by Cork Corporation.
This caused controversy with council members, most of whom were nationalists, and the motion to pay for the enrolling was defeated.
For that reason, Sir Daniel Hegarty had to pay the costs out of his own pocket, which may explain why the charter never formed part of the city’s archives.
There may have been copies of the charter in City Hall but, if there were, it is likely they were destroyed in the burning of City Hall by crown forces on December 11, 1920, during the War of Independence.
The charter will be preserved for future generations and put on public display at the Cork City and County Archives in the new Seamus Murphy Building, Blackpool.