St. Vincent’s, Sunday’s Well.

St. Vincent’s, Sunday’s Well.


Of the Cork city churches and buildings that Goldie was involved in perhaps the most dramatic is St. Vincent’s church and presbytery in Sunday’s Well. The church stands overlooking the city from an elevated site above the north channel of the River Lee.

St. Vincent’s was originally designed by the Sligo born architect John Benson (1812-74). The church was officially opened in July, 1856 but it was unfinished at the time and the task of bring the building to completion fell to Goldie. The building of the church had been a difficult process as, following a storm, ‘extensive damage’ to the church left nothing standing except for the ‘east and west gables and the aisle walls.’[1] When the church was eventually opened The Cork Daily Reporter singled out Goldie’s designs for the reredos and high altar:

The most elaborate piece of workmanship, however, in the whole church is the Altar and its Reredos executed in Caen stone. The Reredos is divided into six compartments of which the four outer ones 'contain groups in Caen stone…The altar slab is of Venetian marble … bearing quatrefoil panels of coloured marble…The effect of the whole is very beautiful and reflects the greatest credit on Mr. Goldie.'[2]

Interior of St. Vincent's. Showing eastern window and reredos.

The High Altar was built as a memorial to Fr. Michael O’Sullivan who had been the driving force behind the building of St. Vincent’s. Fr. O’Sullivan died in early June 1855 and it was his successor, Rev. Lawrence Gillooly, who most likely commissioned Goldie to finish the work started by Benson as Goldie was further engaged by Gillooly to work on Sligo Cathedral. Records maintained in the Vincentian archives in Dublin suggest that the only work carried out on the structure of the church by Goldie was the replacement of the roof and the addition of a sacristy. Goldie had proposed the addition of a tower to the western façade of the building but it is unlikely that this ever materialised or, if it was completed, that it was later demolished and replaced by the existing façade. The same archival documents plus additional letters in the repository state that the western façade was built to the designs of local architect Samuel Hynes.[3] The drawings shown here of Goldie’s proposals give some impression of how the building would have appeared had the tower been completed.

View from the south of proposed tower and showing presbytery.

Drawing of Proposed Tower and Presbytery.

Although we cannot be sure how much of the internal structure owes its appearance to Goldie, as he may have adhered to Benson’s designs, we are sure that he was the main architect of the internal furnishings. We can learn from the newspaper reports that he designed the high altar and reredos but he also, according to the records of the Vincentian archive, designed the Passion and Lady altars and their reredos, side chapel screens, and the pulpit.[4] He also, along with Fairfield, designed the case for the organ that was built by the noted organ builder William Telford.[5] The spectacular eastern window was designed by Goldie and manufactured by William Wailes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne who also made the windows of St. Patrick’s in Bandon from drawings by Goldie.[6] The window features the Blessed Virgin Mary surrounded by St. Patrick, St. Joseph, St. Finbarr and St. Vincent along with events from the life of St. Vincent.

It is certain that Goldie designed the presbytery. The Mansion House, now part of the Mercy Hospital Complex in Cork, had been the Vincentian Seminary from 1845.[7] Laurence Gillooly became Superior of St. Vincent’s in 1855 following the death of Fr. O’Sullivan and commissioned Goldie to build the presbytery that now stands adjacent to the church.[8] In 1856, the Community was gifted two houses by a Mary McSweeney, of Sunday’s Well, and it was decided that once adapted the Vincentians would move from the Mansion House, which would continue to serve as a school.[9] As the Community in Cork grew it was decided to commence work on building adequate accommodation for the members and Goldie was selected as the architect to design the presbytery.[10]

View from the west showing turret.

View of the Presbytery and Car Park in 2019.

Commenced in 1867 and completed by 1869, the design had included a revised western façade for the church itself that would incorporate the extended entrance and tower. Whether or not the tower was built, we can see from drawings by Goldie of his intention and how the church and presbytery would have combined to present an even more impressive structure than it is. The presbytery was very well received for both its design and the manner in which it adjoined the church and formed such a picturesque scene when viewed from the city and for the views it would afford the visitor to the presbytery of the city.[11]

View of Western Facade

The presbytery is now in the ownership of University College Cork and houses its music department and it was reported in 2019 that the university had also purchased the Church.



[1] The Cork Examiner, November 25, 1853.

[2] The Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier, July 21, 1856.

[3] Cmi/x/H/crk(4)/4

[4] The Cork Daily Reporter, July 21, 1856.

[5] The Cork Examiner, May 9, 1859.

[6] O’Callaghan, A., St. Vincent’s Church Sunday’s Well, Cork: History and Heritage, (Cork, 2012), 33-4.

[7] Davitt, T., ‘Saint Vincent’s Seminary, Cork, (Part I)’, Collogue: Journal of the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Mission, Vol. 10, Autumn, 1984, 292-5.

[8] Davitt, T., ‘Saint Vincent’s Seminary, Cork, (Part 2)’, Collogue: Journal of the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Mission, Vol. 11, Spring, 1985, 394-405.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Cork Examiner, July 5, 1869.

[11] Ibid.