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Cork is home to the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, and to many musical acts, including John Spillane, The Frank And Walters, Sultans Of Ping, Simple Kid and the late Rory Gallagher. Singer songwriter Cathal Coughlan and Sean O'Hagan of The High Llamas also hail from Cork. The opera singers Cara O'Sullivan, Mary Hegarty, Brendan Collins, and Sam McElroy are also Cork born. The short story writers Frank O'Connor and Sean O'Faoláin hailed from Cork. Contemporary writers include Thomas McCarthy, Gerry Murphy, and novelist and poet William Wall. There is a thriving literary community centring on The Munster Literature Centre and the Triskel Arts Centre.

Cork has been gaining cultural diversity for many years as a result of immigration, from Western Europe (particularly France and Spain) in the mid to late nineties, and more recently from Eastern European countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary, etc. and in small amount from various African and Asian nations.[citation needed] This is reflected in the recent growth of multi-cultural restaurants and shops, including specialist shops for East-European or Middle-Eastern food, Chinese and Thai restaurants, French patisseries, Indian buffets, and Middle Eastern kebab houses. Cork saw significant Jewish immigration from Lithuania and Russia in the late 19th century. Jewish citizens such as Gerald Goldberg (several times Lord Mayor), David Marcus (novelist) and Louis Marcus (documentary maker) played important roles in 20th century Cork. Today, the Jewish community is relatively small in population, although the city still has a Jewish quarter and synagogue. Cork also features various Christian churches, as well as a mosque. Some Catholic masses around the city are said in Polish, Filipino, Lithuanian, Romanian and other languages, in addition to the traditional Latin and local Irish and English languages.

Cork features architecturally notable buildings originating from the Medieval to Modern periods. The only notable remnant of the Medieval era is the Red Abbey. There are two cathedrals in the city; St. Mary's Cathedral and St Finbarre's Cathedral. St Mary's Cathedral, often referred to as the North Cathedral is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the city and was built in 1808.Its distinctive tower was added in the 1860s. St Finbarre's Cathedral serves the Protestant faith and is possibly the more famous of the two. It is built on the foundations of an earlier cathedral. Work began in 1862 and ended in 1879 under the direction of architect William Burges.

St. Patrick's Street, the main street of the city which was remodelled in the mid 2000s, is known for the architecture of the buildings along its pedestrian-friendly route and is the main shopping thoroughfare. The reason for its curved shape is that it originally was a channel of the River Lee that was built over on arches.[34] The General Post Office, with its limestone façade, is one of the most prominent buildings on the street and the focal point of much pedestrian activity. The original building on this site, the Theatre Royal was built in 1760 and burned down in 1840. The English circus proprietor Pablo Fanque, who enjoyed fame again in the 20th Century when The Beatles referenced him in a song, rebuilt an amphitheatre on this spot in 1850, which was subsequently transformed into a theatre and then into the present General Post Office in 1877.[35] [36] The adjacent Grand Parade is a tree-lined avenue, home to offices, shops and financial institutions. The old financial centre is the South Mall, with several banks whose interior derive from the 19th century, such as the Allied Irish Bank's which was once an exchange.

Cork's most famous building is the church tower of Shandon, which dominates the North side of the city. It is widely regarded as the symbol of the city. The North and East sides are faced in red sandstone, and the West and South sides are clad in the predominant stone of the region, white limestone. At the top sits a weather vane in the shape of an eleven-foot salmon.

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