Diocese Of RaphoeDonegal
|The SEE of RAPHOE appears to have originated during the abbacy of St. Eunan, who converted the church of the monastery into a cathedral, and became the first bishop, but at what date cannot be precisely ascertained ; nor is any thing more recorded of his successors prior to the English invasion than the mere names of one or two prelates of whom the last, Aengus, died in 957. Gilbert O'Laran, who was consecrated in 1160, was a subscribing witness to a charter of confirmation granted by Maurice McLoughlin, King of Ireland, to the abbey of Newry, and is in that deed described as Bishop of Tirconnel, from the name of the territory in which the church of Raphoe is situated. During the prelacy of Carbrac O'Scoba, who succeeded in 1266, part of the diocese was forcibly taken away by German O'Cherballen, Bishop of Derry, and added to that see; and in 1360, Patrick Magonail erected episcopal palaces in three manors belonging to the see;
The last Roman Catholic bishop, previously to the Reformation, was Donat Magonail, who assisted at the Council of Trent in 1563; and the first Protestant bishop was George Montgomery, a native of Scotland, who was Dean of Norwich and Chaplain of Jas. I., and was consecrated to this see in 1605. Robert Huntington, celebrated for his extensive attainments in oriental literature and his assiduity in collecting, during 12 years residence at Aleppo, a valuable series of oriental manuscripts, of which many are in the Bodleian library at Oxford, and who had, while provost of Dublin University been instrumental in printing the Old Testament in the Irish language, was appointed Bishop of Raphoe in 1701, but lived only 12 days after his consecration. John Pooley, who succeeded in 1702, repaved the palace and enlarged the cathedral by the addition of a north and south transept, rendering it perfectly cruciform.
Since 1605 the see had been held as a separate diocese till the passing of the Church Temporalities act of the had of Wm. IV., by which it was enacted that, on the next avoidance, it should be united to the see of Derry, which unions on the decease of the late W. Bisset, D. D., in 1835, was carried into effect and the temporalities became vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
It is one of the ten suffragan bishopricks that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Armagh ; and comprehends the greater a part of the county of Donegal, extending for 55 miles in length and 40 miles in breadth and comprising an estimated superficies of 515,250 statute acres. The lands belonging to the see comprise 1392 acres of profitable land, consisting of the town parks ; and the gross annual revenue, in an average of three years ending on Jan. 1st, 1832, amounted to £5787. 8s. 2d.
The chapter consists of a dean, archdeacon, and the four prebendaries of Drumholm, Killymard, Inver, and Clondehorky. The consistorial court is held at Raphoe, and consists of a vicar-general, two surrogates, a registrar, deputy-registrar, and two proctors, The registrar is keeper of the records, which are of modern date ; all prior to 1691 are supposed to have been destroyed when at the castle was taken by Cromwell, or when it was afterwards plundered and burned by the soldiers of Jas. 11. The total number of parishes is 34, of which 5 are district parishes, comprehended in 34 single benefices, of which 5 are perpetual curacies ; of these, 5 are in the patronage of the Crown, 15 in that of the Bishop, 2 in the patronage of incumbents, and the remainder in lay and corporation patronage : there are 34 churches and 28 glebe-houses. The cathedrals which is also the parochial church, and to the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £1005, is a plain, ancient, cruciform structure with a square tower, which was added to it by Bishop Forster in 1737, as appears by the date on a stone over the door : there is no economy fund.
The Episcopal palace, formerly a strong castle, is about a quarter of a mile from the town : it is a handsome and spacious castellated building, pleasantly situated in tastefully disposed grounds.
The deanery-house, which is also the glebe-house of the parish, was built in 1739, at an expense of £1680, and has been subsequently enlarged and improved from their own funds by various successive incumbents ; it is pleasantly situated about a mile from the town.
In the Roman Catholic divisions the diocese is co-extensive with that of the Protestant see ; it comprehends 24 benefices, containing. 36 chapels, which are served by 50 clergymen, of whom 24 are parish priestly and 126 are coadjutors or curates ; the bishop's parishes are Conwal and Aughnish ; the cathedral is at Letterkenny where is also the bishop's residence.