One of Ireland’s oldest churches to remain in continuous use, St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal, has a great many stories to tell. Now an exciting new immersive visitor experience in the church, ‘Voices of St. Mary’s’, uses a variety of interpretative media to invite visitors to engage with and explore the meaning and significance of this important national monument in East Cork.
Supported by Fáilte Ireland’s Ancient East Storytelling and Interpretation scheme, with matched funding from Cork County Council, a total of €252,000 has been invested in this project.
Mayor of the County of Cork Cllr Mary Linehan Foley welcomed the addition to the list of attractions in her hometown of Youghal, saying, “St Mary’s Collegiate is the largest and most important medieval building in the town; and one of the largest churches in the country. It has international significance and since the early 13th century, it’s been at the heart of the town here. The new approach to interpretation of the site will propel St Mary’s to become a really iconic visitor experience within Ireland’s Ancient East and bodes well for an economic boost for the region.”
Mary Houlihan, Manager Ireland’s Ancient East highlighted how, “Ireland’s Ancient East is home to some of the Europe’s most remarkable built heritage including tombs older than the pyramids, historic castles, ruined abbeys and cultural sites like St. Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal. After an incredibly challenging year for tourism, the new interpretive “Voices of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church”, supported through Ireland’s Ancient East Storytelling and Interpretation Scheme, will enhance the tourism appeal of Youghal, and its surrounds, by offering visitors a unique and immersive experience that will attract visitors for many years to come.”
Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey, thanked Fáilte Ireland for their support, saying, “Cork County is renowned for its rich archaeological heritage which contribute much to our economy, cultural identity and quality of life. Cork County Council recognises the intrinsic value of our heritage sites and invests in protecting and promoting our cultural and historical assets. The funding from Fáilte Ireland is a welcome investment in Youghal and an endorsement of the quality of this project which will be an economic driver for the East Cork Region.”
Building on the existing guided offering, new media and technology has been used to enhance the visitor experience, with a new self-guided, multi-lingual system. Interactive touchscreens allow visitors to explore the past, with fascinating insights into what the church looked like in different periods since Early Christian times. Animated illustrations show the exterior changes to the church over the centuries and video footage of the excavations and discoveries unearthed during the Church’s archaeological dig of 2014 are on display.
The audio-tour is part theatre, part tour, bringing visitors on a remarkable journey through time in the company of the fictional Roe family, sharing in their emotional reunion and their conversations about the history of the church and their own family memories.
A visitor experience not to be missed, St Mary’s Collegiate Church is open 7 days per week, 10 am – 4.30 pm. See www.stmaryscollegiateyoughal.ie, tel: 024-25386.
Personally guided tours are currently unavailable as per Government Guidelines.