The Cathedral of Saint Fin Barre at Cork
William Burges in Ireland
David Lawrence & Ann Wilson
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William Burges was one of the most intriguing and eccentric figures in the history of 19th-century architecture and decorative arts. In 1863 he was awarded first prize in the architectural competition to rebuild St Fin Barre's cathedral in Cork, with the stipulation that the cost of the new building not exceed £15,000. By 1881 £100,000 had been spent on a magnificent limestone structure in the architect's favourite style, Early French. The sculpture, stained glass, mosaics, painted decorations, furnishings and metalwork were all designed by Burges, giving the building a typically Burgesian panache as well as an unusual visual coherence. A unique archive, of drawings, paintings, plaster models, and of documents of every kind, allows the authors to piece together a detailed account of the erection of this building. It is an extraordinary tale, which touches on architecture, art, the religious and social history of Ireland.
David Lawrence, an historian and photographer of stained glass, has since 1991 been engaged on making a comprehensive catalogue of windows in the Church of Ireland. Ann Wilson lectures in Art and Design History in Cork Institute of Technology. She is currently engaged in doctoral research on the work of Cork sculptor, Séamus Murphy.