Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the beautifully restored Lady Chapel offers a glimpse into the past.
In the great Cathedrals of 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, was restored in the 19th century.
From mid-17th to the early 19th century, the Chapel was known as the ‘French Chapel’ as it was used by Huguenots (French Protestant refugees) after they came to Ireland following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. One of these Huguenots, Dr Elie Bouhereau, was the first librarian of Marsh’s Library and is buried here.
The Chapels either side are dedicated to Saint Peter on the North side, and Saint Stephen on the South side. Other objects of interest in the Lady Chapel and the side chapels include the chair 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.
There are records of many interments beneath the floor of the Chapel. The tomb of an Archbishop of Dublin, Archbishop Tregury who died in 1471, can still be viewed. It was Tregury who gave the first organ to the Cathedral in his will.
The window inside the gate of the South Choir aisle 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 now serves as a private Chapel space and today the majority of midweek services in the Cathedral take place here. It is also used for Choir rehearsals and recitals.
In September 2012, the Lady Chapel was closed for a major conservation and cleaning project which cost approximately €700,000. The work included an extensive cleaning of the space including all the stone work, monuments, stained glass and the floor tiles. The services of Irish craftsmen and women were used throughout, highlighting the tremendous skills extant in this country. A new lighting scheme has been installed and the ceiling has been repainted. This necessary work has been funded through the income generated by our visitors and by the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Cathedral.
New communion tables and seating have been designed and commissioned again from an Irish manufacturer.
The Lady Chapel, hitherto closed to the public, is now open through the day for visitors and pilgrims alike and the Dean and Chapter are delighted that such a beautiful and historic space is open for all to enjoy.
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