On Sunday 22nd July 1860 the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr P Cullen (later to become Ireland’s first Cardinal) performed the solemn dedication of the Church of St Mary & St Michael, Rathdrum.
Prior to 1860 there is no tradition of a post-reformation Catholic Church of outstanding importance in Rathdrum. There are several references to a pre-reformation wood church, ‘St Mary’s in the Wood’ but its whereabouts is unknown. After the 1798 rebellion the then Parish Priest, Fr Kavanagh, was permitted by earl Fitzwilliam to use a corridor in the Flannel Hall (now the RDA Hall) as a church for the people. Here from about 1810 to 1860 Mass was offered, sacraments were administered and children received catechism lessons. Now Rathdrum had its own beautiful church overlooking the Avonmore River. This had been made possible by the zealous devotion of Reverend Richard Galvin, P.P. together with the cooperation of the parishioners.
Father Galvin was born on 1st February 1819 in County Limerick. He was ordained priest on the 1st June 1844 by Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr Murray, (who was born at Sheepwalk, – on the Beach Road between Avoca and Arklow in 1768). Fr Galvin first came to Rathdrum as a curate in 1847 and seven years later in 1854 was appointed Parish Priest. Within two years, a man of great energy, impressive personality and sincere conviction, he had secured from Earl Fitzwilliam, the local landlord, a site for the first post-reformation Catholic Church in Rathdrum.
In 1855, Father Galvin began his building programme. The design for the Church was prepared by James Joseph Mc McCarthy (1817 – 1882) an admirer of Pugin. He was also responsible for the design of Maynooth College Chapel and St Kevin’s Church in Laragh. The fee which Mr McCarthy received for his work was £247 8s. 0d. The Clerk of Works – a man by the name of Crimmeen – was paid £1 16s. 0d. per week. The first stone of St Mary & St Michael’s Church was laid on 3 June 1856. A fine example of Gothic design, the plans consisted of nave and chancel with side aisles and chapel porches, north and south and a sacristy south of the chancel. The chancel arch rises from Columns of Galway marble resting on corbels of Caen stone carved into beautiful figures of the patrons. The twelve granite pillars represent the twelve apostles.
The Church can hold a congreation of roughly 300 people. There is a raised choir and organ area at the back of the Church.
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