A presentation by Catryn Power, at Youghal Celebrates History Conference 2012. The presentation gave an informative insight and understanding of burial customs at the St. Mary’s Collegiate Church graveyard, Youghal. The 10th Annual Conference was held between the 29th -30th September at The Mall Arts Centre, Youghal. The Theme of this year’s Conference was Pomp and Circumstance- ‘Tales from the Tombs of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church’.
PARADISE REGAINED: A history of burial at the church and graveyard of St. Mary’s Collegiate Church and the future management of its conservation.
SYNOPSIS OF LECTURE
A highly valued place for Youghal local community to respect and commemorate its dead loved ones, for about 900 years. Ritual practices changed according to the century, tradition and the pocket, from simple coffin-less and earth-cut burials of lay people in shrouds, sometimes held together with pins, to the burials of the high-status individuals in table top tombs, others with obelisks in the yard of the church to the burials in vaults sunk into the church floor; the occasional one in medieval times, in poisonous (to the excavator) lead. Graveyards, overflowing with burials, and rotting burials under church floors causing sanitation problems, as well as dreadful odours, brought further changes to burial methods. The fear of corpse robberies still saw new cages placed around tombs etc.
An integrated conservation management of such monuments as the graveyard and the church is a significant challenge. Old monuments need attention: metal fixtures rust, stone cracks, earth settles. Descendants move away. Economies have financial difficulties. Unmarked burial areas require recognition and retention. The character of these Monuments must be preserved in perpetuity. Good conservation policies and archaeological practices must be maintained. There are some worrying issues of conservation at St. Mary’s; appropriate conservation specialists are essential. Erosion is evident on the external surfaces of the building.The church and graveyard are in good condition, nevertheless.
WEATHERING RESULTING IN EROSION OF MASONRY THROUGHOUT THE CHURCH ITSELF AND THE MEMORIALS
CONSERVATION OF BURIAL MARKERS IS ALSO ESSENTIAL
EROSION OF THE BURIAL GROUND BY WEATHERING, AND GRAVE DIGGING OVER THE CENTURIES
OVERDIGGING OF THE PATHWAYS ENCROACHING INTO THE BURIAL GROUND, AND COLLAPSE OF SIDES
NEGLECT AND LACK OF MAINTENANCE OF ASSOCIATED BOUNDARY WALLING AND
OTHER STRUCTURES RESULTING IN A DANGEROUS SITUATION
THE LOCATION OF POSSIBLE PRE TOWN WALL DEFENCES PROBABLY LATE 12TH/ EARLY 13TH CENTURY
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