A day could be spent exploring the interior of this magnificent building. It is thought a church may have been founded on the site by St. Declan as far back as 450 and was rebuilt in Irish Romanesque style around 750. These timber structures were destroyed in a storm in 1192 were replaced by the current stone church which was built in 1220. It consists of an aisled nave, north and south transepts and adjoining tower.
Sir Richard Boyle renovated the south transept (“Boyle’s Chapel”)of the Church in which he built an elaborate monument to himself. It depicts his two wives and a few of his 16 children. His first wife died in childbirth and she is depicted with a baby at her feet. The skulls indicate someone already dead at the time the monument was carved. Boyle himself died in 1643 and was buried here along with his mother – but not his wives. Incidentally, further elaborate monuments by Boyle can be found in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
The oldest inscribed gravestone with a date is for 1632.
Items to note include many Masonic symbols , most easily visible on the pillars (Youghal has one of the oldest Masonic lodges in Ireland), the roof which is made from Oak – each truss is a single oak tree. The Mayoral Scabbard hangs from one of the central pillars and was ceremonial in nature rather than practical. Cromwell’s Chest by the alter was used by him in 1649 to give a eulogy at the funeral of Colonel Jones.
The balcony in St. Mary’s Collegiate Church was reputed to have been where patients from the nearby fever hospital would come to mass – the congregation not being too inclined to have them mingle amongst them! The Fever Hospital formed part of the Town Walls and the outlines of the windows can still be seen today, along with the steps to the entrance. When patients died and were too poor to afford a coffin and burial plot, they were carried in a casket and buried in a mass grave just outside the Town Walls. A coffin shaped recess is still visible in the walls, it was here the casket would be stored to await its next unfortunate soul.