St Peter’s Church
In on West Street, in Drogheda town, is St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, reputed to be one of the best examples of a Gothic Revival Church in Ireland.
Designed by J. O’Neill and W.H. Byrne, and made using local limestone, the present church was built in 1880 on the site of the original 1791 structure, and incorporates many aspects of the earlier building. The result is an elegant and impressive church, both inside and out.
St Peter’s Church is famous for its special and extravagant chapel built as a national shrine to preserve the head of St Oliver Plunkett, the last Catholic martyr to die in England and the first Irish Saint to be created in nearly seven hundred years.
St Oliver was born in nearby Loughcrew, Co. Meath, in 1625, ordained a priest in 1654, and appointed Bishop of Armagh in 1669. He worked for years to keep the Catholic faith alive as the Protestant religion attempted to dominate Ireland, but was eventually tried, convicted and executed as a result of the so-called ‘Popish Plot’. In spite of his innocence, he was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in Middlesex, present-day Marble Arch in London, in 1681.
St Oliver was beatified in 1920 and then canonised in by Pope Paul VI in 1975. His body was first moved to a monastery near Hildesheim, Germany, while his head went to Rome. The head was then moved to Armagh before it eventually arrived in St Peter’s Church in 1921, where it has rested ever since.
Surrounding the Saint’s remains is a most impressive piece of architecture, St Peter’s Church is as fine and fully restored as any church in Ireland.