Medieval Mile Museum, Ireland
St Mary’s Hall, formerly St Mary’s Church on Kilkenny High Street, Ireland, was founded in the thirteenth century as the parish church of the city. In use as a Parish and Masonic Hall since the mid-20th century, it was purchased by Kilkenny Borough Council in 2010 with assistance from Kilkenny County Council and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The building is a cruciform 13th century stone structure with a slightly more recent tower at its western end; it sits in a substantial walled graveyard to the rear of High Street. The graveyard has recently been opened as a garden to the public; it contains many important tombs and monuments from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The church had acquired depth and complexity in monuments and nave aisles over time, elements which were later shorn off, the aisles removed, the chancel demolished – a shape expanding and contracting through violent cycles of change. By 2010, the interior had been cut up into separate rooms and levels to make the parish hall.
The project intention was to restore the church as a museum, retaining some of the 20th century interventions, but to honour its medieval spatial complexity by reconstructing the north aisle and chancel to the original plan, but with a different internal section and materiality using the base of the original walls in an non-interventive way. The chancel room overlooks the town, re-establishing its dominant form in the urban landscape; the space beneath it becomes a tomb-filled undercroft. Both of the new gabled elements are finished in lead, with rooflights directed to the levels of archaeology below.
Project: Medieval Mile Museum / Location: Kilkenny, Ireland / Architect: McCullough Mulvin Architects / Structural engineer: O’Connor Sutton Cronin / Mechanical & electrical engineers: McArdle McSweeney & Associates / Quantity surveyors: Brendan Merry & Partners / Health & safety, PSDP: Linesight Safety Management / Building fabric consultants: Carrig Conservation / Consultant archaeologist: Archaeological Projects Ltd / Main contractor: Duggan Brothers, (Contractors) Ltd / Carrig conservation: Building Fabric Consultants / O’Dwyer masonry: Historic Stonework Specialist / O’Malley plastering: Historic Plasterwork Specialist / Connon glass studios: Historic Glazing Specialist / M&I Lead Ltd: Lead Cladding / Completion: 2017 / Photograph: ©Christian Richters (courtesy of the architect)