Cloyne, County Cork

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter IV-5 | Start of chapter

Cloyne, distant about a mile from Castle Mary, is pleasantly situated on a gentle eminence that rises from the southern vale of Imokilly, it was formerly the seat of the bishop of the diocese of that name; but now, shorn of the honours of an episcopal residence, it has little besides its antiquarian interest to invite the attention of the traveller.[17] The ancient name of the place was Cluaine-uamhach, or "the retreat of the caves,"—the propriety of the designation being evident from the numerous caves of great extent which exist in the neighbourhood: one very considerable cavern may be seen in a part of the episcopal demesne, called the Rock Meadow. The bishopric of Cloyne was founded in the sixth century by St. Coleman, a disciple of St. Finn Barr, the Bishop of Cork.

The ancient cathedral is a small, low building, of an exceedingly plain and simple style of architecture, that refers its erection to a very early period: true it is, that modern innovations have disfigured the character of some parts of the building, and the repairs latterly bestowed upon it have been executed with as little regard to taste or propriety as the patches upon a beggar's cloak. The reconstruction of the choir, in 1776, under the direction of Bishop Agar, offers a striking evidence of this fact, in the absurd way in which light Italian ornaments have been blended with the more austere lineaments of the edifice. The form of the building is cruciform, consisting of a nave, choir, and north and south transepts; but the tower, if it ever possessed one, has entirely disappeared. Within the adjoining churchyard, which is surrounded by numerous venerable trees, that give to it a solemn and secluded aspect, are the remains of a small building, called by some "The Firehouse," by others, St. Coleman's Chapel. It is evidently of great antiquity, and tradition asserts that the bones of that holy man were preserved there until the beginning of the last century, when a bishop of Cloyne caused them to be removed, and the building nearly levelled to the ground.

The episcopal residence at the east end of the village is a spacious but irregular building, having been improved and altered according to the different tastes of the bishops who occupied it. The grounds and garden attached to it are extensive, and have been laid out with a considerable degree of elegance. In this house the celebrated Doctor Berkeley, a man illustrious for his learning, but more illustrious for his virtues, passed many years of his life, dividing his time between his pastoral duties, his garden, [18] and his books, and endearing himself to his flock by his gentle manners, and his earnest endeavours to promote the prosperity of the town.


[17] Cloyne was once the residence of the Fitzgeralds, Seneschals of Imokilly, and it is recorded that a skirmish took place near the town between the Seneschal and Sir Walter Raleigh, in which the latter acquitted himself with extraordinary gallantry. In the north transept is an altar-tomb belonging to these Fitzgeralds, on which are some fragments of a mailed figure, that probably was once attached to it.

[18] Bishop Berkeley.—The fondness of the philosophic Berkeley for his garden is alluded to in one of the letters of Bishop Bennett to Dr. Parr. "The garden," he writes, "is large—four acres—consisting of four quarters full of fruit, particularly strawberries and raspberries, which Bishop Berkeley had a predilection for, and separated, as well as surrounded by shrubberies, which contain some pretty winding walks, and one large one of nearly a quarter of a mile long, adorned for great parts of its length by a hedge of myrtles six feet high, planted by Berkeley's own hand, and which had each of them a large ball of tar put to their roots." The doctor's belief in the sanatory effect of tar upon animal and vegetable life was unbounded; he wrote A Treatise on Tar-Water, which caused a great sensation at the time.