For Thursday Doors this week I took another trip up one of the back streets near my place of work. These are some of the entrances to The Collegiate Church of St. Mary, in Youghal Co. Cork. I couldn’t get a decent shot of the main doors, as there were too many people in the way and both doors were wide open. So I had to make do with the side entrances. Inside, you certainly get a feel for how old this historic building is. It has an amazing history and rightly deserves its claim to be the oldest church in Ireland that has held continuous worship since the 13th century.
There may have been a church much earlier on this site, even as far back as the 5th century, when Saint Declan founded a monastery at Ardmore, only a few miles away. Some of the exposed roof timbers have been carbon dated to the late 12th century and the story is that French carpenters were brought in to construct it.
When subsidence was noticed in one of the aisles experts were called in, which resulted in the discovery of an underground form of central heating, similar to the Roman aqua duct system. It was dated back to the 18th century and as the church is pretty cold these days, the congregation back then may have been quite a bit warmer during worship.
In the fifteenth century it became a Collegiate Church when a college of clergy and singing clerks was founded next to it and placed in the care of a Warden. The former Warden’s house, in due course, was owned by Sir Walter Raleigh, who was Mayor of Youghal in 1588 and 1589.