Father Theobald Mathew, the Apostle of Temperance, was born near Cashel in 1790. He was ordained a Capuchin priest in 1814 and served for most of his life in Cork. Apart from his role in the temperance movement, he was known and loved in Cork for his efforts to alleviate distress during the cholera epidemic of 1832, and during the Great Famine from 1845 to 1850. He was also responsible for the purchase of the botanic gardens in Ballyphehane and the establishment of St Joseph's Cemetery. He was the founder of the Cork Total Abstinence Society in the 1800s.
The sculptor John Hogan was chosen to design the monument. However, Hogan died before he could execute his design and the commission was given to John Foley. The Father Mathew Statue was cast in London in the foundry of Mr Prince, Union Street, Southwark. It was placed on a stone pedestal designed by W. Atkins of Cork. The unveiling of the statue took place in 1864.
The commemorative statue is placed on the top of Saint Patrick Street, located directly opposite the Cork City Tourist Information Centre.