Dating back to the 6th Century, the Church of St Anne in Shandon rises high above Cork city. 37 metres to be precise, and its steeple can be seen from all parts of the city. Shandon’s 8 bells weigh over 6 tonnes and are commemorated in the song ‘The Bells of Shandon’. Visitors can climb the tower and take in the stunning views below and you’ll even get a chance to ring the bells yourself. Read on for more…
Shandon is a district in Cork city with its place name deriving from the Gaelic term “Sean Dun” meaning “Old Fort”. In medieval times it was known as the Church of St Mary’s, however after its destruction in 1690 during the Siege of Cork, the present day church was erected in 1693. Its location was formerly Mallow Lane, which has also been renamed Shandon Street. In 1722, the growth of Cork resulted in expansion of the church, and the present day church of St. Anne was finally completed that year.
The building consists of two vastly different types of stone, both types were ingeniously sourced using the relics from other Christian landmarks. The red sandstone was extracted from the original walls of the Shandon Castle and the limestone was obtained from the North Mall Franciscan Abbey that was in ruins. The county colours of Cork and its city are red and white and this is due to the high esteem that’s placed on the church. As you approach the Shandon area you can vividly see the red and white coloured stone of St Anne’s. The Church achieved full parochial status in 1772, and its first Rector was the great-great-grandfather of the first president of Ireland, Dr Douglas Hyde.
The Church of St Anne is known the world over for The Bells of Shandon, a poem celebrating the bells of the church written by Francis Sylvester Mahony, a local man under the alias of “Father Prout”. The poem is 4 stanzas in length, comprised of 32 lines in total, and describes the aesthetic beauty of the church and its bells, and the fact that despite hearing the sound of churchbells all over the world, none can compare to the sweet sounds of the Shandon Bells, and their resonance over the River Lee.
The bells of the church tower total 8, weigh over 6 tonnes and were constructed by the Rudhalls of Gloucester. The bells were originally placed in a fixed position, so as to minimize the vibrations and first rang in 1752 for a local wedding. You as a visitor to the church can now ring the bells yourself on the first floor!
The building walls have a thickness of 7 feet and the tower reaches a maximum height of 120 feet. The design of the church was implemented by the McOsterich family and to this day the family’s efforts in creating the splendour of the church are remembered. No matter where in the world, when a member of the family marries, the Shandon Bells will be rung especially in their honour. At the top of the tower there is a weather symbol, a salmon which has a dual meaning – in early Christian times a fish represented the word of the Lord, and it also symbolises the fishing on the River Lee.
There’s a clock on the tower also, locally known as the “Four Faced Liar”. Each face tells a slightly different time during the hour, this is due to different thickness of wood used in the clock facing, hence some hands sticking. Strangely enough though, at the hour mark you’ll see that all of the hands come together to tell the correct time at each clock face!
Various artifacts are also on display during the tour. These include the christening font from the previous church, and also 17th century song books from the local library.
Find out more about the Shandon Bells.
Opening times and entrance fee…
The Church of St Anne’s and the historic Bells of Shandon are open from 10am to 5pm from Easter until November, and from 10am to 3pm from November to Easter.
Adults: 6.00 Euro
Senior citizens and students: 5.00 Euro
Group tours and school tours are welcome by prior booking.
The church is available for weddings to all members of the Church of Ireland, and all are welcome to worship on Sundays at 10am.
The church is located in the historical area of Shandon, at Church Street, on the north side of Cork City, just a short walk from Cork city centre, with its designer shops and high street stores, good value pubs and eateries.
After your day visiting the magnificent Church of St Anne’s at Shandon and the majestic views from the tower as well as ringing those bells, treat yourself by booking one of our Cork city hotels.