The Cathedral of St John the Baptist (co-ordinates 54.27000 -8.47700) is believed to have been built on the site of an Anglo-Norman hospital or ‘Alms house’ dating back to 1242.
A mortuary was built here in 1637 by the then Governor of Sligo, Sir Roger Jones of Banada.
The slab of his tomb, which dates from 1637, can be seen on the west wall of the church, and features Sir Roger Jones and his wife.
The church which stands here today was built in 1730 by the famous German architect Richard Cassels who is also credited with designing Hazelwood House, Powerscourt House and the home of Irish politics, Leinster House and is in fact the oldest building in continuous use in Sligo Town.
The original design of St Johns Cathedral was influenced by the old basilica pattern of the early Roman architecture, though sadly, many of these original features of the church were lost during extensive renovations carried out in 1812 and in 1883, when gothic features replaced much of Cassels work.
Yeats mother, Susan Mary Yeats married the young barrister John Yeats here on 10th September 1863, she died in London in 1900. There is a brass memorial dedicated to Mary on the wall near the pulpit.
Mary Butler Yeats was the eldest daughter of William Pollexfen who supervised the building of his own tomb in the adjoining graveyard.
William Pollexfen, grandfather of William Butler Yeats and Jack. B. Yeats, is buried near the main gate, in a tomb with low walls and black chains surrounding it.
An unusual feature of the graveyard is the fact that it contains a peculiar kind of clay which is said to prevent the decay of bodies buried within it. Instead, the bodies are converted into Adipocere, a soft waxy substance which can last indefinitely.
The roots of the yew tree’s within the cemetery were surrounded with earth brought in especially to overcome this problem.
The graveyard also holds the Thornley family plot. The Thornley name has very interesting connections with the Cholera epidemic in Sligo Town during 1832, and also with Count Dracula, as Catherine Stoker (nee Thornley) was the mother of Bram Stoker, author of the world famous Dracula novel.
Bram Stoker’s biographers, Harry Ludlam and Daniel Farson, both agreed that it was the stories re-told to a young Bram Stoker by his mother, which inspired him to write his famous gothic novel in later life.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist is open to visitors in the summer season and a very warm welcome awaits both locals and tourists.
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