The Irish Room

By Bridget Malott

December 2019

The Irish Room is a nationality room located inside of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. The Cathedral of Learning is the second tallest university building in the world and an important Pittsburgh landmark. The building is known for its nationality rooms, many of which reflect a certain culture’s religion.

The Irish Room represents an oratory, a small chapel used especially for private worship. The design of this oratory represents one of the 12th century, which is a period of intense religious fervor for Christianity. During that time, many small oratories were built off the west coast of Ireland for Christian worshipers. The room is modeled after King Bishop Cormac’s tomb, who was a scholar, warrior, king, and bishop of Irish history. To the right of the room sits a chest that rests a replica of the Gospels from the Book of Kells, Ireland’s most treasured manuscript, prepared by monks during Ireland’s Golden Age. The elaborately carved arches over the blackboard and doorway are highlighted with pre-Christian symbols, cat masks, and boar heads. On the column capitals of the winders and doorway are found human masks with long flowing beards. These elements remind us that the pagan influence extended into Ireland’s Golden Age of Christianity. The stained-glass windows depict famous teachers at three of Ireland’s oldest centers of learning: St. Finnian at Clonard, St. Columbkille at Derry, and St. Carthagh at Lismore. This stained-glass piece took inspiration from the stain glass windows at the Church of St. Finian in Clonard, a highly influential monastic center. The window wall pillars are sculpted with forms adapted from the Church of Clonkeen near Limerick. The cornerstone is an original stone from Abbey Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic site founded by Saint Ciaran in the mid-6th century. Its Gaelic lettering reads, “For the Glory of God and the Honor of Ireland.” This oratory-inspired room features religious details that emphasize the importance of Catholicism throughout Irish tradition.

Further Reading

 “The Irish Classroom.” The Irish Nationality Room,

“Irish Nationality Room.” Historic Pittsburgh,

How to Cite

MLA: Malott, Bridget. “The Irish Room.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, 17 Jan. 2020,

APA: Malott, B. (2020, 17 January). The irish room. ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh.

Chicago: Malott, Bridget. “The Irish Room.” ReligYinz: Mapping Religious Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh, January 17, 2020.