24. TNW St. Mary's church

Mar 26, 2017, 01:22 PM

A Church Within a Church' Large medieval churches, such as St. Mary's, were generally constructed in the shape of a cross with the shorter part, or ‘chancel', pointed toward the east. The short crossing arms pointing north and south are known as ‘transepts'. The longer base part of the cross is known as the ‘nave' and is where the congregation sat for six centuries of church services. 

Today, although the medieval church is largely intact and well preserved, it is almost completely unroofed. This later church was constructed in the 19th century and is still in active use by the local Church of Ireland congregation. Because the medieval building has lost its roof, it is only within the later church that you can experience the scale and acoustic feeling of being inside a building. Although this church is much later in date than its medieval predecessor it is built on the footprint of the medieval nave and is therefore a similar size to the earlier building. Although St. Mary's was built in the 13th century as a place of Christian worship, its congregation was split by the 16th century reformation. 

The reformation in Ireland had a divisive effect on church congregations with the majority of people remaining adherents of the unreformed Catholic Church and only a minority becoming members of the official Church of Ireland. By the late 18th century the medieval church was far too large for the local Church of Ireland congregation and a decision was made to construct a smaller, modern church resting on the foundations of the medieval nave. This church was finished in 1813 and its spire was finally completed in 1870. The church has a spacious and acoustically pleasing interior which, in keeping with the doctrines of the reformed faith, has a more austere interior design than the original medieval church would have had.

Audio and text: Catherine McLoughlin, 2017 

The Norman Way, Wexford, Forth and Bargy
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William Marshall, New Ross, St. Mary's Church, The Norman Way