Archbishop Croke left his mark on the town of Thurles in many different ways.
Let’s start at the end as Archbishop Thomas Croke is buried in the mortuary chapel of the famous Pisa like Thurles Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly. Here since 22nd July 1902 many a Thurles person was waked on the grave of Archbishop Croke.
There is a white stone bust still to be seen but the beautiful mosaic of Croke with mitre and crozier has been carpeted over as the chapel is now used for Blessed Sacrament adoration.
He is best remembered worldwide today when the name Croke Park (Páirc an Chrócaigh,) is mentioned. Ireland’s ‘premier’ sporting venue is named in honour of Archbishop Croke, it is often called Croker by some GAA fans and locals. It serves both as the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
His most famous statue is at the top of Liberty Square where Archbishop Croke looks over the town of Thurles. To his left is the famous Hayes Hotel where at 3.00 p.m. on Saturday, 1st November 1884 at the Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded. The aims were set out, to foster and promote native Irish pastimes, to open athletics to all social classes, to aid in the establishment of hurling and football clubs which would organise matches between counties.
Within a few weeks of the organisation’s foundation, the then Archbishop of Cashel, Thomas, gave this organisation his approval and became its first Patron and that tradition continues to the present day with Archbishop Kieran O’ Reilly.
As mentioned earlier the Cathedral with its façade modelled on that of Pisa Cathedral in Italy, was built between 1865 and 1879 (consecrated by Archbishop Croke). In my opinion it looks the full, very impressive, Romanesque Revival architecture building, from the garden of the Archbishop’s House and Convent Gardens.
Not only is Archbishop Croke buried in the Cathedral but he left a daily shining light of himself as his head features are imposed on St. Thomas Aquinas. This window can be viewed on the right of the sanctuary just above the sacristy entrance. It is the 18th stained glass window in the ambulatory.
Manufactured by Wailes of Newcastle it was donated by the Croke family.
Pictured above: A view of the Cathedral from the Ursuline Convent.