The Holy Trinity Church was designed by the Pain brothers in 1834 in the honour of Father Theobald Mathew. He was one of Cork’s most famous figures, the ‘Apostle of Temperance’, who went on a short-lived crusade against alcohol in the 1830s and 1840s – a quarter of a million people took the ‘pledge’, and whiskey production halved.


Although the Capuchins arrived in Cork as early as 1637 it was many years before they settled in the foundation which we now know as Holy Trinity Church and Friary.

Their earliest recorded appearance is in the southern side of the city, just outside ‘the South Gate’. The first half of the 17th century saw many years of religious persecution. Capuchins, like other religious and priests, lived a hunted existence drifting around in disguise amongst their flock.

As the century wore on they seem to have established a permanent apostolate in the south parish and by 1741 had some sort of a friary in Blackamore Lane, just behind ‘Sullivan’s Quay’. They had a chapel, which became known as ‘The South Friary’ built there by 1771.

It was a thickly populated area, a congested district - so that congregations grew under the constant prompting of the friars. Eventually the building could no longer hold them so Father Theobald Matthew, just before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, decided to build a larger church. At the time the city of Cork, under the power of rapidly developing commerce, had begun to expand in all directions. George’s Quay had been built during the second half of the previous century so as to make the river navigable for shipping and in 1806 Parliament Bridge had replaced an earlier structure connecting both sides of the river. Below this bridge, near the busy shipping centre of the southern channel Father Theobald Matthew selected a site for his church. The foundation stone was laid on the 10 October 1832 but the church was not opened for public service until eighteen years later (10 October 1850).

Many reasons caused the delay, shortage of money, faulty foundations, the Total Abstinence Campaign and the Famine. Although the church had been roofed and the exterior finished somewhat in accordance with the original design it was without steeple until later. That was added in 1891 as a result of the centenary celebration of the birth of Father Matthew (1890).

After the opening of Holy Trinity Church, 1850, the Capuchins who had been living in various places in the South Parish got a lease of a house (1855) at No.8 George’s Quay. Here they were able to come together and live a regular life. Later they moved across the river to a house built by Fr. Cherubine - an Italian at the corner of Queens Street and Charlotte Quay, just where the Cork Gas Company at present stands. Finally in the summer of 1884 they came to the present friary, which gave them direct communication with the church. The building of the friary was started by Fr. Simeon and completed by Fr. Seraphin who became the first Provincial of the re-constituted Province.