Built on Barrack Hill the Church of the Sacred Heart dominates the local landscape and can be seen from approach roads on entering Carndonagh.
The Christian tradition in the area has roots stretching back 1,500 years to the arrival of St. Patrick. The monastic foundation he established grew in prominence near the site of the Carndonagh Cross.
In the 1780s, Dean O’Donnell erected a place of worship. A chapel was built in 1826 which served the community for over a century. Only the name, Chapel Street (which runs along the graveyard), survives.
It was dedicated by Bishop Farren on 28th October 1945 and the construction cost was £60,866. The price included a separate quotation of £4,966 for the tower and excluded excavation costs. John Masterson of M.H. Associates acted as architect, and John Hegarty, Buncrana was the principal contractor assisted by local craftsmen.
The leaded lights and windows were created in the stained glass studios of A.W. Lyons, Dublin. John Smyth and Sons supplied the sanctuary lamp and tabernacle. The world famous company of Gillett and Johnston installed the bells and clock in the tower.
Built in Romanesque style, the exterior is faced with squared Wicklow granite and is cruciform in design. The building has an impressive tower and a dome surmounted by a cupola, with a twelve-foot bronze cross.
The visitor enters through the ornamental porch and narthex, displaying four nineteenth-century carved stone panels which are thought to be the work of Italian craftsmen. From the nave, the visitor can see two lines of symmetrical columns made of Dublin granite and topped with carved capitals and linked into an arcade.
The lancet clerestory has antique, hand-made, coloured Norman slab glasses. The sanctuary is divided by a wrought iron decorative screen, designed by local craftsmen and the sanctuary floor is of granite from Glen, Carrigart.
A relic of St. Oliver Plunkett lies beneath the altar. The baptismal font to the west was donated by the Simpson family. The chair is made of oak with a decorated brass inset.
A refurbishment was carried out in 1998 in keeping with modern liturgy and added colour and a spiritual ambience. Over 1,600 worshippers can be accommodated.
The Church has many unique and interesting features, including some fine statuary by Albert Power, the renowned sculptor. A visit is strongly recommended.