The Galway Cathedral stands as a landmark for the city of tribes. It was built on the site of an old jail. Although controversial at the time, it put a lot of Irish to work and got the attention of Catholics worldwide, including U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Work began in 1958 and was completed in 1965. It is the last great stone cathedral to be built in Europe and President Kennedy visited in June 1963. It was a visit that lasted an hour but that is said to have changed the lives of many Galwegians forever.

“He came here himself, he did, in to see it when it, and he helped promote what we were doing and why. And that generated funding from America for us,” says Father Peter Rabbitte.

“He was assassinated just months after he came here (November 1963) and like the rest of the world, we were devastated. It was decided that this cathedral would honor him. That is how the mosaic came to be.”

It depicts America’s 35th president praying. It is in an alcove of the famous cathedral and it is often the first thing Americans visiting the Galway Cathedral ask to see.  

“This is a special place, for those who are religious and even for those who are not,” Father Rabbitte says.

“President Kennedy did a lot to support our effort in building this wonderful space, we remember him to this day and so do all those who come here.”

Hear the story of the Galway Cathedral from Father Rabbitte by following this link.

Erin Meehan Breen is an Emmy award-winning writer currently based in Galway. You can find her work and her podcast, Erin's isle, at

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