Recent excavations carried out on site of Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Youghal, to establish the cause of subsidence of the church floor, uncovered a number of features of archaeological and historical significance including a stone vault and ‘centuries old’ heating system. These excavations come as part of ongoing restoration work in the church which is being funded by The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltahct. Funding for this project comes on top of previously awarded grant which was made under the ‘Buildings in State Care 2014 Fund’.
The church is of great historical importance and is now a registered National Monument of Ireland (see link below for further details of listed national monuments in cork area). A National Monument refers to:
‘a monument the preservation of which is a matter of national importance by reason of the historical, architectural, traditional, artistic, or archaeological interest attaching thereto and also includes (but not so as to limit, extend or otherwise influence the construction of the foregoing general definition) every monument in Saorstát Eireann to which the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1882, applied immediately before the passing of this Act, and the said expression shall be construed as including, in addition to the monument itself, the site of the monument and the means of access thereto and also such portion of land adjoining such site as may be required to fence, cover in, or otherwise preserve from injury the monument or to preserve the amenities thereto’ (National Monuments Act 1930).
Once ownership or guardianship of a monument is appointed to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht ( or relevant local government), they become responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. To date there are over 1000 monuments in state care ranging from prehistoric to early modern buildings. The Collegiate Church of St. Mary is under the care of Youghal Town Council as part of a tailored agreement to protect the interest of the monument, however still operates as a place of worship.
The church already enjoys a rich heritage dating to as far back as the early 13th century when it was established as a place of worship. The features unearthed during excavations are to be recorded and preserved in situ so I am hoping to visit the site while the excavations are ongoing and take a few pictures. If any of you are in the area you should pop along and see the discoveries first hand.