As is the case of most Irish dioceses, the origins of the Church in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore are mainly monastic.
In the early twelfth century, when the diocesan system was coming into being, there were three ecclesiastical centres that laid claim to diocesan status : Ardmore, Lismore and Waterford. Ardmore and Lismore had monastic ancestry; Waterford had not.
Of the three centres, Ardmore was the most ancient. Its origins lay in the very early days of Christian Ireland: possibly even pre-Patrician. St. Declan was its founder and his name and fame were highly revered throughout the whole territory of the ‘Deise’ people. Ardmore’s status continued long after Declan – into the thirteenth century.
Lismore enters into Irish church history with the arrival from Offaly of a Kerryman named Carthach (Carthage) or Mo-chuda and his group of monks in the year 636 a.d. Carthach only survived one year in Lismore, but the monastery he founded was to become one of the outstanding monasteries of medieval Ireland. In the great twelfth-century ecclesiastical reform, it was particularly prominent: outstanding churchmen like Celsus of Armagh were brought to it for burial; Celsus’ successor, the great Malachy, spent seveal years in its monastic school. Christian O’Conairce, first Abbot of Mellifont, was consecrated Bishop of Lismore in Clairvaux in 1151. He was to succeed Cardinal Paparo as Papal Legate and for nearly thirty years he was to be a very powerful Church influence in post-invasion Ireland.
The third important centre of Christianity was Waterford. Since Viking times, Waterford had become a Danish settlement and was gradually becoming Christian. The mercantile status of Waterford was second only to Dublin and, towards the end of the eleventh century, the time seemed ripe for it to seek increased ecclesiastical importance. So a petition was sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury that a monk from Winchester be consecrated Bishop for the community of Waterford. The year was 1096 and the first bishop was Malchus or, to give him his Gaelic name, Mael Isu Ua hAinmire.
And so, when the diocesan system came to be established at the Synods of Rathbreasail (1111) and Kells (1152), there were three claimants for diocesan status from the Deise region. At Kells, all three were established as dioceses. Ardmore was recognised a a diocese with its own bishop until about 1210, when it seems to have become subsumed into Lismore.
The individual dioceses of Waterford and of Lismore went their separate ways until 1363, when the Bishop of Waterford, Roger Craddock, was transferred to Llandaff in Wales, and Robert le Reve of Lismore became the first Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. And so the situation has remained ever since.
As full and accurate list as is possible of all the Bishops of Waterford, Lismore and Ardmore is to be found on a plaque in the cathedral in Waterford.
Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Waterford.
The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, Barronstrand Street, Waterford is the oldest Roman Catholic cathedral in Ireland. The work began in 1793 with the protestant Waterford man, John Roberts, as architect. Robers also designed the Church of Ireland cathedral.
Over the years, additions and alterations have been made. Most of the present sanctuary was added in the 1830’s; the apse and a main altar in 1854. The beautiful baldachin, which is support by five Corinthian columns, was erected in 1881.
The carved oak Baroque pulpit, the chapter stalls and bishop’s chair, design by Goldle and Sons of London and carved by Buisine and Sons of Lille, were installed in 1883. The stained-glass windows, mainly by Meyer of Munich, were installed between 1883 and 1888.
The Stations of the Cross, which are attached to the columns in the cathedral, are nineteenth-century paintings by Alcan of Paris. The cut-stone front was built in 1892-1893 for the centenary of the cathedral.
In 1977, a new wooden altar was placed in the redesigned sanctuary. the Belgian walnut panels of the base of the altar were originally part of the altar rails at St. Carthage’s Church, Lismore.
There are many plaques in the cathedral. One of them commemorates fourteen famous Waterford men; Luke Wadding OFM, Peter Lombard; Patrick Comerford OSA; James White; Michael Wadding SJ; Peter Wadding SJ; Thomas White; Paul Sherlock SJ; Ambrose Wadding SJ; Geoffrey Keating; Luke Wadding SJ; Stephen White SJ; Thomas White SJ and Bonaventure Barron OFM.
Ten Waterford Crystal chandeliers were presented by Waterford Crystal in 1979.
In 1993, the Bicentenary of the Cathedral was celebrated.
Otteran’s death is recorded as being in 548 A.D. and his grave was greatly revered in Iona. It is said that he was the first person to be buried in the monastic cemetery of the Norsemen, whither they carried their dead chieftains and great men for burial from all parts of Europe. The Vikings chose Otteran, the titular guardian of their ancestors’ ashes, as patron of the city of Waterford in 1096. Later he was chosen as patron of the Diocese.
Killotteran Parish, west of Waterford City, derives its name from the townland on which stood an ancient Church. The name itself is ecclesiastical, signifying the Church of Odran, or Otteran as it is more commonly Anglicised.
(See Ardmore for information on St. Declan & Lismore for information on St. Carthage)