The historic St Mary’s graveyard off Kilkenny’s High Street reopened to the public on Friday morning.
Officially opened by Mayor David Fitzgerald, the gates to the grounds of the former Church of Ireland premises are now open daily, and guided tours will be taking place there this summer, starting from this week.
Strolling along the new pathway through the cemetery, it is possible to see some of the city’s best-known names, including Shees and Rothes. Looking towards St John’s Church on the other side of the city and to Kilkenny Castle, it also becomes clear just how high a status the site had in the city in past centuries – both in location and elevation.
Those present at Friday’s opening also got a glimpse of the church’s impressive monuments room, which contains tombs and grave markers dating back several centuries.
“Hopefully this is the start of a new visitor attraction in Kilkenny,” said senior Borough Council official Brian Tyrrell.
The mayor then welcomed all to come and enjoy the history and heritage of the site, which the council purchased from the Church of Ireland in 2009.
“We have prided ourselves over the generations of having retained much of our history, and there have been a number of gaps on that roll of honour. St Mary’s has been a cause of concern for many in the city,” he said, noting that it is the burial place of many of the original burghers and founders of the city.
“Today is a good day but it’s only the start of the road – but more importantly it is the opening of a gate to bring people into this wonderful facility,” the mayor said. He also said he understood that the National Museum was in discussions about relocating some of Ireland’s and Kilkenny’s “treasures” to the church building when it is turned into a museum in the coming years – “what I believe will be a landmark project in our city.”