Some of the history and architecture of our parish churches is informatively set out in the following extracts from an appraisal by the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage, which was undertaken in 2007.
St Patrick's church is one of the more important elements of the built heritage of Donegal Town. It is well-built using good quality granite from nearby Barnesmore with high-quality carved and crisp Mountcharles sandstone detailing throughout, particularly to the elaborate doorcases that are testament to the skill of the masons involved. This carefully cut and carved stone detailing is unusual in a twentieth-century building, even a high-status one such as a church. It was named in honour of the four monks (Michael O'Clery, Peregrine O'Clery, Peregrine Duigan and Fearfeasa O'Mulconry) from the Franciscan friary in Donegal Town that compiled the Annals of the Four Masters in the 1630s (completed 1636) and it was dedicated almost three hundred years after the completion of this work in 1936. This was, perhaps, the inspiration behind the design of this church as it references early Hiberno-Romanesque ecclesiastical architecture and symbols with the round tower belfry (in particular), Romanesque doorways, the detailing to the window opening to the nave gable, the steeply pitched roofs, and the base batter to the walls, while the shape of the window openings and the gate piers to the entrance are also reminiscent of the shape of a round tower. This church was built to designs by Ralph Henry Byrne (1877 - 1946), a prominent architect of his day noted for his academic, and rather eclectic, approach to architectural design. A number of the stained glass windows are by Joseph Richard King (1907 - 1974), who took over the management of the Clarke and Sons stained glass company following the death of Harry Clarke in 1935 (IAA). The foundation stone was laid by the in June 1931 and it was dedicated on St. Patrick's Day (March 17th) in 1935 by the Most Revd. William MacNeely.
St Agatha's is an appealing mid nineteenth-century Gothic Revival Catholic church which retains its early form and architectural character. It is constructed using warm coloured squared local sandstone that has a pleasing mildly mottled tonal variation and has crisp but restrained cut stone detailing throughout, particularly to the openings, that is obviously the work of skilled masons and craftsmen. The mildly rock-faced limestone stringcourses add further tonal and textural variation to the exterior. The visual appeal of this building is enhanced by the retention of the cast-iron framed windows and the natural slate roofs, which creates a satisfying patina of age. This notable church was built by the firm O’Neill and Byrne architects (John O’Neill 1828 - 83 and William Henry Byrne 1844 – 1917), a Dublin based architectural practice that carried out numerous commissions for the Catholic Church throughout Ireland, mainly in the 1870s. They were also responsible for the fine Catholic church at Drung near Moville (also dating in 1871) and the St. Patrick’s Church at Crossroads (see 40839017) in 1872-5. The main contractor here at Clar Bridge/Spierstown was a Mr. Colhoun or Derry, while the clerk of works was a John Gallagher of Killybegs. The present church replaced an earlier T-plan chapel on or close to the same site (Ordnance Survey first edition six-inch map of c. 1836). This fine church, located in a prominent position along the main road between Donegal Town and Ballybofey remains a local landmark and is an important element of the architectural heritage of south Donegal. The graveyard and the boundary wall add considerably to the setting and context, and complete this appealing composition.