Kylemore Abbey & Neo-Gothic Church
Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Kylemore, Galway,
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.
For more than a century, Kylemore has been the quintessential romantic nineteenth-century Irish castle overlooking a lake in the West of Ireland. 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 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.
The happy days he spent here with his wife and children came to an abrupt end with her death in 1874, He then commissioned a lovely neo-Gothic church for her in the style of a fourteenth-century English Cathedral, which can be reached along a leafy walk to the east of the castle. The Church described as a “cathedral in miniature” is beautifully proportioned with excellent acoustics and can seat approximately 80 people. The exterior of the Church is decorated with beautiful angels that lean down protectively from the eves testify to the feminine inspiration behind the building. The dark granite façade is echoes the surrounding hillsides and the imposing precipice of Leim na h’Éilte (the Deer’s Leap) which drop sharply from the mountainside behind the church.
The interior of the Gothic Church is uniquely elegant, with beautifully detailed stone carving, marble pillars, stunning vaulted ceilings and enchanting stained glass. The pale caen sandstone is in stark contrast to the greys of the outer building and gives the impression of entering a light filled oriental grotto. The marble pillars feature Irish marbles from the four provinces of Ireland, green Connemara marble (Connaught), red Cork marble (Munster), black Kilkenny marble (Leinster) and grey Armagh marble (Ulster). The use of Irish marbles is a good example of how Mitchell Henry championed Irish materials and workmanship throughout the Kylemore estate. The stone carvings feature intricate, flower, foliage and bird motifs as well as charming angel figures high over the entrance door. The stained glass windows in the Chancery feature five of the seven female virtues in rich jewelled colours and wonderful craftsmanship.
Choirs travel from around the world travel to Kylemore Abbey to sing in the Gothic Church with its superb acoustics. All are welcome to attend the choral performances and admittance is included in the Kylemore entry fee. Please check our events calendar on www.kylemoreabbey.com for details of upcoming events in the Gothic Church.