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St Mary's Collegiate Church (Church of Ireland - Anglican & Episcopalian)
Youghal, Co Cork, Ireland. E-Mail:
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History    South Transept    Chancel     North Transept    Nave     Church Services    Plan
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St Mary's Collegiate Church, Youghal, one of the oldest churches in Ireland, is a building of great beauty, a place of worship and prayer, a church whose life has been closely identified with the history of Ireland for nearly 1000 years. Standing on a site devoted to religious worship from early Christian times, the church is likely to have been founded by St. Declan c. 450, rebuilt in Irish Romanesque style c. 750, and its great Norman nave erected c. 1220. This rebuilding in the early 13th century was under the direction and hand of the Masters of four local lodges of operative masons, whose marks are to be seen in the pillars of the Gothic arches.

The blue, grey and red stone building is cruciform in shape, symbolic of the truth that the existence of the Church depends upon the fact the Christ died on the Cross. The main entrance to the church is through the decorated west doorway. Adjoining the main building is a 63 ft. donjon tower of feudal times, now used as a bell tower. The extensive graveyard is almost surrounded by the town walls, where may be inspected the Archer's Walk and a space for a pauper's coffin.


The earliest entry in the Vestry Book of Youghal is a statement of parish accounts for the year 1201. Pope Nicholas IV, in the taxations of 1291, described Youghal as being the richest benefice in Cloyne; the list of clergy connected with the church can be traced back to this date.

In 1464, St Mary's was made a Collegiate Church, with the foundation of "Our Lady's College of Yoghill" by Thomas, 8th Earl of Desmond. It was served by a warden, eight fellows and eight choristers who lived in a collegiate manner in their building beside St Mary's Church. Students were taken from 1465 and the College received strong papal support in the early years. Pope Innocent VIII referred to it as the "University of the City of Youghal".

During the wars of the late 16th century, the church was occupied by the insurgent forces of Gerald, 14th Earl of Desmond, who, among other acts of desecration, unroofed the beautiful 15th century chancel.

Sir Walter Raleigh, one of the most dynamic and colourful characters of the Elizabethan period, was Mayor of Youghal in 1588 and 1599 and lived in Myrtle Grove, the Warden's residence. In 1649, during the Commonwealth, Cromwell stayed in the College and conducted his campaign from Youghal, and delivered a funeral oration from the top of the chest which is still preserved in the church.

George Berkely, Bishop of Cloyne and great philosopher, was Warden of the College in 1734, and conducted services in the church. John Wesley visited Youghal in 1765 and attended divine service in St Mary's.

Large-scale works of restoration, including the re-edification of the chancel and re-glazing of the beautiful East window , were carried out between 1851 and 1854. A restoration programme of remedial nature was undertaken between 1970 and 1973.

In 1999, under the direction of Canon Peter Rhys Thomas, the Chancel was reroofed and repointed. The 130,000 plus contract was funded by grants from Bord Failte and through sponsorship from Youghal Urban District Council, the Church of Ireland Beresford fund and private donations.

Click on the thumbnails to see the current restoration work being undertaken.
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St Mary's is a building which combines intimacy for Sunday to Sunday worship in the re-ordered chancel, with spaciousness for larger occasions. The Lady Chapel is reserved for private prayer


This contains the elaborate monument of Sir Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, and shows him with his first wife at one side and his second wife, Katherine Fenton, at the other. Some of Boyle's fifteen children, including the infant Robert Boyle, the establisher of "Boyle's Law", are also represented. Boyle died in 1643 and was buried in St Mary's Collegiate Church. Here also is the tomb with the effigies of the founder of this chapel, Richard Benett and his wife Ellis Barry. The Villiers banner overhangs the tomb of Sir Edward Villiers, Lord President of Munster and half brother of the Duke of Buckingham. The stoup at the entrance is 13th century and boasts refined Elizabethan roof trusses.


The East window contains the coat of arms of some of the great families connected with the district. Observe the Tudor carving of the prayer desks, and in the sanctuary the triple sedilia for the clergy and the piscina for washing the communion vessels. The recessed altar tomb in Perpendicular style of the 15th century is that of Thomas Fleming, 7th Earl of Slane.


This is the oldest part of the church and is entered through a screen in memory of parishioners in the Great War 1914-18. The double piscina here is rare. On a stone in the north wall is a Viking ship in low relief about 6 inches long. At the junction of the transept and the north aisle a chamfered and moulded flying arch spans the aisle diagonally.

THE NAVE   top

To the right of the chancel arch is the surviving rood stair and the 14th century stone font. The roof trusses are of early Irish medieval design and construction. The timber has been dated c. 1135 and this tallies with the building period of the church. The carved pulpit with canopy is dated 1738. The ancient rest for the Mayor's sword was erected in 1684. The throne was erected in the 18th century for the Bishop of Cloyne as Warden.


SUNDAYS 1130 hrs.
2nd & 4th Sunday of the month
Morning Prayer

1st, 3rd & 5th Sunday of the month
Holy Communion

Holy Communion

The Church is open for visitors throughout the week

The Lady Chapel in the North Transept is available for private prayer and meditation.


Outline plan of St Mary's


6.  FONT



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