St. Mary's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth
St. Mary's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth - altarSt. Mary's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth - end wallSt. Mary's Oratory, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth - organ

Laurence Reneban (1798-1857) was President of Maynooth College during the mid nineteenth century, the period that saw the building of Maynooth's second great quadrangle, St. Mary's Square. The architect was Augustus Welby Pugin, who was mainly responsible for Gothic Revivalism in Britain and Ireland. Peel's increased grant to the College in 1845 heralded the commencement of Pugin's buildings at Maynooth, which were built during the Great Famine. There were problems, as Pugin explained in his diaries: "There are great difficulties about Maynooth, the grant is quite insufficient for the building." There are two chapels in St. Mary's Square: the great College Chapel built by McCarthy in 1879 and St. Mary's Chapel, originally a study hall (Pugin) refurbished as a chapel in 1878 after a disastrous fire which destroyed that wing. This would account for the present plaster vaulting and panelled ceiling. In 1967 the chapel was re-ordered, when the sanctuary was moved from the west wall to the long north wall, with the congregation surrounding it on three sides. This proved to have a number of advantages in a long narrow space.

Restoration and Conservation

The present conservation project (a Maynooth College Millennium Project) embraces a new liturgical ensemble, restoration of the building fabric and stained glass windows, leaded lights, new heating and lighting installations, new stone floor to narthex, new woodblock floor and oak panelling, new pipe organ, complete re-decoration, and the commissioning of major artwork, and movable furniture.

Antiphonal Plan

The main thrust of the plan is the restoration of the main axis (east-west) of the chapel to coincide with the ritual action of priest/assembly. This gave rise to an antiphonal plan arrangement with the alignment of all major liturgical foci (altar, ambo, celebrants chair, tabernacle) along the spine of the east-west axis, allowing a corporate liturgy to occupy the shared centrality of the worship space, with the private devotion area and tabernacle located on the west wall. Here a large Tapestry (Patrick Pye) fills the wall space between the two stained windows, and an abstract painting on canvas (Kim En Joong) surrounds the Tabernacle (Benidict Tutty). This ensemble, designed by the architect, creates an explosion of colour on the west wall, and presents a strong and prayerful focus, outside of the Eucharistic area.

Artists Credits

Tapestry: Patrick Pye
Tabernacle: Benedict Tutty
Abstract Painting surrounding Tabernacle: Kim En Joong