A couple of my readers have requested a background or history of St. John’s Catholic Parish church in Tralee. I am quoting directly here from the 2005 publication The Diocese of Kerry formerly Ardfert: Working in the Fields of God, edited by Fr. Kieran O’Shea but I would also recommend a new publication here where you can also see some of the magnificent stained glass windows in the Church
‘Recent archaeological discoveries in the Lee valley and on the Dingle Peninsula suggest that the Christian tradition in the area predates St. Brendan the Navigator.
The Altraighe, who settled in the Tralee bay area, accepted Christianity with enthusiasm. Churches were built at Annagh and Clogherbrien, ruins of which still survive, Shanakill, Sunday’s Well and Killeen in the Oakpark, area, and Rathass on the eastern outskirts of the present parish. Following the Synod of Kells (1152), when parishes were canonically established, Rahass, (Rath Mhuig Deiscirt) became for a short period the main church in Kerry. Soon afterwards, however, the episcopal seat was transferred to Ardfert.
Tralee town dates from the Anglo-Norman conquest and Geraldine overlordship. It grew up around the great Castle of Tralee (c.1215) and the Dominican Abbey of Holy Cross, founded in 1243. The medieval town had both a parish church dedicated to St. John the Baptist and the Dominican Abbey. The site of the medieval parish church was St. John’s Lane, off what is now Ashe Street, and occupied by the present St. John’s Church if Ireland Church.
The Dominican Abbey of Holy Cross located in what is now the Abbey Street car park, continued in existence up to the Cromwellian conquest. During penal times a secluded Mass-house in Chapel Lane became for a short while a temple of the Eucharist. With the easing of the Penal Laws, a site for a chapel was acquired of Castle Street. St John’s Chapel was completed in 1870. The elegant sixty metre high spire dominates the landscape of Tralee from all approaches.
Internally, the great sanctuary window executed by Michael O’Connor in 1861, ranks among the finest of its style in western Europe. The church was enlarged and extensively renovated between 1950 and 1960. The 1990s have witnessed the floodlighting of the spire, the rearrangement of the sanctuary and the construction of a new parish centre to cater to the pastoral needs of the parish.’
Kieran O’Shea, The Diocese of Kerry formerly Ardfert: Working in the Fields of God, (Strasbourg, 2005), p.126-128.