Kylemore Abbey & Neo-Gothic Church
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Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Kylemore, Galway, Republic of Ireland
Ms Bríd Connell
Kylemore Abbey Neo-Gothic Church was built in the style of a fourteenth-century English Cathedral in memory of the wife of Mitchell Henry, who owned the neighbouring Kylemore Abbey / Castle.
Kylemore Abbey Neo-Gothic Church.
For more than a century, Kylemore has been the quintessential romantic nineteenth-century Irish castle overlooking a lake in the West of Ireland. To reach it from Galway, the visitor drives through splendidly lonesome countryside, flattish at first but then changing to mountains. At the foot of one such mountain, Kylemore rests majestically, making the journey seem very worthwhile for the combination of Godand man-made beauty rising in terraces from lake to mountain in a magical wooded setting. Kylemore in Irish suitably means ‘large wood’.
Its fairy-tale history started appropriately with a honeymoon in 1849, when Mitchell Henry, the son of a wealthy Manchester cotton merchant, married Margaret Vaughan of County Down and visited a Connemara that was just beginning to recover from the devastating effects of the potato famine a few years earlier. He was captivated by the scenery, and promised to build his wife a Gothic castle there, which he did in the years 1867-71, to the designs of Samuel Ussher Roberts, the Galway district engineer, and the architect James F. Fuller.
The happy days he spent here with his wife and children came to an abrupt end with her death in 1874, and he sold the castle to the Duke of Manchester in 1903. He then commissioned Fuller to design a lovely neo-Gothic church in her memory (currently under restoration) in the style of a fourteenth-century English Cathedral, which can be reached along a leafy walk to the east of the castle. Kylemore was put on the market again in 1920, when it was fortunately bought by the Irish Benedictine nuns who had been established in Ypres in Belgium in 1665, had come briefly to Ireland under James II in 1688, but then returned again to Ypres, only to be bombed out of their convent during the First World War. Returning once more to Ireland by way of England, they finally settled at Kylemore Kylemore Abbey Neo-Gothic Church which, while retaining its castle character, now took on its present title of Abbey. Here the community work and pray in their own private part of the building, and run a very successful international girls’ boarding school in another part, both of which are closed to the public.