300 years of St Anne’s: Cork's iconic Shandon church celebrates milestone birthday

A Service of Thanksgiving will be held in the church, famous for telling different times on its four-faced clock tower, on Sunday at 4pm to mark the occasion.
300 years of St Anne’s: Cork's iconic Shandon church celebrates milestone birthday

Shandon is now a landmark of the Cork skyline. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork's iconic St Anne’s Church, with its famous Shandon bells, is celebrating its 300th birthday this weekend.

A Service of Thanksgiving will be held in the church, famous for telling different times on its four-faced clock tower, on Sunday at 4pm to mark the occasion.

However, an air of mystery surrounds the celebrations, as the exact date the historic church was build and consecrated is still uncertain. 

Parish records were lost in a fire in the public records office in June 1922 causing some confusion over the church's date of birth.

Earlier this year, Church of Ireland Bishop the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton launched 'The Shandon Mystery', a call for people with specific information about the dates to come forward.

“We need help," he said at the time.

Cork's iconic St Anne’s Church at Shandon, with its famous Shandon bells, is celebrating its 300th birthday this weekend. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Cork's iconic St Anne’s Church at Shandon, with its famous Shandon bells, is celebrating its 300th birthday this weekend. Picture: Denis Minihane.

"We have looked at all sorts of records, spoken with parishioners, some local people, and spoken to some archivists and historians.

“We have checked dates on parish silver, on plaques and on the font in the Church. There appears to be no foundation stone and no memorial stone commemorating the consecration.

“We would like to know these dates and that is what we mean by ‘The Shandon Mystery’.” 

This weekend's special anniversary mass will be led by Reverend Meghan Farr, and presided over by Bishop Dr Paul Colton.

The preacher will be the renowned New Testament scholar, Dr Paula Gooder, who is Canon Chancellor of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Notable guests at the service will include the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Deirdre Forde, TD Colm Burke, Senator Jerry Buttimer, Cork City architect Tony Duggan and Helen McGonagle of Cork City Library, as well as representatives of local history and community groups. 

Bishop Colton said: "A lot of planning has gone into celebrating this significant milestone in the history of this ancient parish and its 300-year-old parish church which is so iconic in the life, not only of Cork City, but in Ireland. 

Shandon at sunset. Picture: Larry Cummins
Shandon at sunset. Picture: Larry Cummins

"For my part, I am looking forward, on Sunday, to throwing a little more light on ‘The Shandon Mystery’ that we asked the public to help us with earlier in the year."

Rev Farr, who recently arrived in the parish from Wisconsin, USA to take up the post of Priest-in-Charge at St Anne's, said: "I’m delighted to have arrived in Cork and taken up my new post in time to be a part of this historic occasion and to celebrate 300 years of St Anne’s Shandon with the parish and wider community.

"Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and with such love for Shandon."

St Anne’s Church is one of the oldest churches in the city and stands on a site that has been a place of worship since before medieval times.

It was built to replace a previous church, St Mary's, following its destruction in the Siege of Cork in 1690.

De Goldie Fish: The weather vane at the top of Shandon's tower. 
De Goldie Fish: The weather vane at the top of Shandon's tower. 

The tower, which was raised in 1750 to a height of some 120ft to accommodate the famous bells of Shandon, is famous in Cork — and further afield — for the clock and weather vane which have become landmarks of the Cork skyline. 

The famous clock was erected by the then Cork Corporation in 1847 and subsequently dubbed 'the four-faced liar' by locals as the four clocks rarely tell the same time. This is due to the quirks in the clock mechanism and the effects of the wind on the clock hands.

The golden weather vane, which depicts a salmon, earned the nickname 'de goldie fish' and stands as a symbol of the salmon fishing industry, which was once very important to Cork.

The parish and diocese are in the process of developing a full tercentenary programme in partnership with the city, the local community, history groups, and others, including the Church of Ireland nationally.

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