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In Northern Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries it became common practice to build a Chapel behind the high altar and dedicate it to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Lady Chapel of Saint Patrick's Cathedral was built in 1270 by Archbishop Fulk de Saunford and, like the rest of the building, it was restored in the 19th century. The Chapel was also known for a time as the ‘French Chapel’ as it was used by Huguenots (French protestant refugees) from 1666 to 1816.
The chapels either side, are dedicated to Saint Peter on the North side and Saint Stephen on the South side. Some of the Huguenots are commemorated in memorial plaques on the wall including Dr Elie Bouhereau, first librarian of Marsh’s Library who is buried here.
Other objects of interest in the Lady Chapel and the side chapels include the chair inside the gate, which is said to have been used by King William III at a service of celebration after his victory at the Battle of the Boyne. The window inside the gate commemorates Annie Lee Plunkett, wife of Archbishop Plunkett, and daughter of Benjamin Lee Guinness. She was renowned for her charitable work, and is remembered here with a very appropriate text of scripture for her family: ‘I was thirsty and ye gave me drink’.
The Lady Chapel serves as a private Chapel space. Today the majority of midweek services in the Cathedral take place here. It is also used by the Education Department for the purposes of Education Sessions during term time and for Choir rehersals.
This space is currently undergoing a major restoration and will be closed until April 2013. This work will include an extensive cleaning of the space including all the stone work, monuments, stained glass and the floor tiles. A new lighting scheme will be installed and the ceiling will be repainted. This necessary work has been funded mainly through the entrance fees which are charged to tourists to visit the building. We are grateful for the financial support which we gain through our visitors to the building and donations made to projects such as the restoration of the Lady Chapel.