History of Saint Peter’s Church
The Memorial Church which is neo-Gothic in style measures 161 feet in its extreme length, the width across the aisles is 65 feet and 101 feet across the transepts. The height to the apex of the nave roof is 80 feet and 222 feet to the vane of the spire. The walls and exterior dressings are of local limestone from the nearby quarries of Sheephouse, whose renowned stone-cutters took pride of place in the foundation stone laying ceremony procession.
True to its Gothic design the Church is complete with aisles, transepts, side chapels, two external porches, baptistry and organ gallery.
Outside it is crowned by a beautiful and highly ornate tower and spire 222 feet high at the south western corner, with lesser towers, pinnacles and statues which serve to harmonise and enrich the general effect.
The principal statues are of St. Peter and of St. Oliver Plunkett, the latter carved in Portland stone by a Dublin sculptor from a portrait in oils of the Saint, painted shortly before his execution. There are three entrances from the front and flanking the central entrance are two marble statues, St. Joseph on the right and the Blessed Virgin on the left. Immediately over the front entrance again is a finely sculpted panel depicting Christ giving the keys to St. Peter.
Above the main door is a large and exquisitely designed rose window, and two similar ones, said to have been part of the older Church are set directly opposite each other in the transept gables.
The chancel is one of the most striking and beautiful features of the Church. It is lighted by a series of windows depicting the chief events in the life of St. Peter. Underneath these windows are a series of artistic panels. The groined roof of the chancel is most ornate and artistic, each panel being filled with a medallion.
The High Altar which is the central focus of the Church is a creation in pure Carrara marble. The exquisitely carved sculpture beneath the altar table depicts in finest detail the scene at the last Supper. In the panel on the left above the altar table is a carving of the Nativity and on the right one of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Four side altars, each a work of art of its kind go to provide each chapel with its crowning ornament. To the immediate right of the High Altar is a side altar dedicated to the Holy Souls.
The beautiful carving in marble beneath this altar is a reproduction of The Dead Christ by he eminent Irish sculptor John Hogan. This work was originally set beneath the High Altar until the last Supper was commissioned by Archdeacon Segrave. Further to the right is the altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart, surmounted by a fine mural of The Ascension of Our Lord.
Again to the immediate left of the High Altar, is another side altar erected by the Immaculate Conception Sodality to the memory of Father Finegan, their spiritual director from 1902-1910. Beneath this altar is a carving of the Annunciation scene. Further to the left is the Shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett, where that precious relic, the head of the Saint is venerated. On the arches supporting the organ gallery the Arms of the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Pontifical Arms are displayed. A fine mural of the Annunciation covers the inside wall over the left side entrance while a similar mural depicting the Baptism of Christ covers the wall above the Baptistry.
All the interior dressings are of both stone and polished Aberdeen granite. The great arches in the nave rest on pillars of the latter stone with carved and decorated capitals in Bath stone and the intersections of the arches are surmounted by carved stone busts. Four of these, the larger ones nearer the High Altar are identified. These are the figures gracing the arch intersections on either side of the recesses framing the rose windows in the transept gables. On the left the bust on the arch nearest the High Altar is that of Pope Leo XIII who was the reigning Pontiff when the Church was founded. The second figure on this side is Primate McGettigan who officiated at the laying of the foundation stone. On the top right hand side the figure holding the crozier is Cardinal Logue who presided over the consecration ceremony. The second figure on this side, holding a model of a Church is Monsignor Murphy, the inspiration for and the revered founder of this magnificent Church.
It is claimed that irrespective of the many lesser lights and small windows too numerous to mention set in the belfry, the towers and the spires, the Church is lighted with no less than forty-two large stained glass windows.
All the artistic work in the Chancel and side chapels was carried out by Monsieur Gustavius Linthout & Son of Bruges in Belgium and the painting of the Church by the Downes Brothers of Peter Street Drogheda.