In 1908, the Irish Universities Act was passed, by which the National University, consisting of the Constituent Colleges of Dublin, Cork and Galway was founded. Part of this act decreed that of the finance provided for the new University, none should be applied "... for the provision or maintenance of any church, chapel or other place of religious observance ..." In response, the building of the Honan Chapel
at University College Cork, and dedicated to St. Finbarr, Patron Saint of Cork, was founded from the Honan Bequest. The foundation stone, laid on the 18th May 1915 recalls ".. built by the Charity of Isabella Honan for the scholars and students of Munster." The chapel, in the 'Hiberno Romanesque' style was designed by James F. McMullen Architect.
"The chapel, itself, is in perfect accord not only with its immediate surroundings, but also with the wide heritage of art handed down to us by the early native church building. It is one of the best reproductions of the ancient style of building and it exemplifies, in a striking manner, all that is best in the Hiberno Romanesque architecture of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries."
- The Honan Chapel, M.J. O'Reilly. Cork Univeristy Press, 1966.
Any refurbishment and intervention must naturally respect the integrity of McMullan's design, in all its details, floor, walls, carvings, fittings and sanctuary furnishings. Nothing that was to be added should detract, in any way from the unity of the building. Liturgical changes required a new altar of celebration, lectern, celebrants chair and Baptismal Font. These new furnishings had to fit into the existing environment without damaging it. The integrity of the existing chancel had to be respected. This was particularly relevant to the existing altar and predella, and also to the magnificent mosaic floor which commences within the entrance door of the chapel and flows right through the nave up into the chancel. This wonderfully inspired design of the River of Life is based on words taken from the Canticle of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace. The new font is placed just within the west door in the centre of the mosaic, which depicts the sun and other stars of the heavens, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. It had been hoped to place the new altar in the centre of the chancel mosaic panel, but this position proved to be too far back for liturgical reasons. It was moved forward, and because of this, some sense of symbolic unity is lost. The new furnishings were not to be fixed to the floor, but should convey that they are merely resting on the surface.
In order to achieve the desired objective adding something worthy of the Honan Chapel in the upgrading and refurbishing, it was necessary to ensure that the new furnishings would be of the highest quality and integrity. To achieve this Imogen Stuart was commissioned to carry out the work of making the new furnishings. Thus her name is added to the illustrious list of artists who contributed to the original interior - Henry Emery, Evelyn Gleeson and Kitty McCormic and members of the Dun Emer Guild, P. Oswald Reeves (enamels), Joseph Tierney, Eleanor Kelly and many more. Also undertaken was the restoration, cleaning and repair of the dossal hanging behind the existing altar and new upholstery for the sedelia. This work was carried out by Jane Almquest.
Work to the fabric of the building included the cleaning of the stonework and the eradication of rising damp and weeping walls (uncoursed squared, rubble masonry in grey-white Cork limestone), repairing and replacing damaged plaster in the interior, new heating and lighting installations, complete re-decoration, cleaning and repair of the floors and stations of the cross (opus sectile), and the restoration of the protective wrought-iron grille in front of the west door.
Client: The Trustess Honan Chapel
Artists: Jane Almquest, Imogen Stuart, Evelyn Ross
Stone Restoration: Ed Hembrook
Learn more about the Honan Chapel
or visit University College Cork