St. Mary’s N.S. is situated in the heart of medieval Limerick. The school is on the doorstep of King John’s Castle along the banks of the majestic River Shannon. Our parish is one of the oldest in Limerick. It’s a great area for a class history trail!

Here are some of the famous buildings nearby:

King John’s Castle

King John’s Castle is a 13th century Castle on ‘King’s Island’ in the heart of medieval Limerick City. It was planned and built between 1200 – 1212. In the following centuries it was repaired and extended many times .

In 1642 the Great Siege devastated Limerick and the castle. Siege mines weakened the front wall (East curtain wall) of the castle and counter-siege mines carried out during the later and subsequent sieges. To date over 1,000 objects have been excavated including skeletal remains of the siege period.

St. Mary’s Cathedral

The Cathedral of Saint Mary Blessed Virgin has had a long and eventful history. It was founded in 1168 on the site of a palace donated by Donal Mor O’Brien King of Munster. Experts believe that parts of the palace are incorporated into the present structure of the Cathedral. The most prominent is the West Door which tradition has it was the main entrance to the palace. The palace had been built on the site of the Viking meeting house. This had been the centre of government in the early medieval Viking city. The Cathedral has seen many changes as the city expanded around it and it remains today the oldest and most historic building in Limerick.

St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s parish is probably the oldest of the five original parishes of Limerick City. It was in existence before the Synod of Rathbrassill in 1111 AD. It was in this year that the then parochial Church of St Mary’s was raised to the level of a Cathedral by the Bishop of Limerick, Gilbert. Nowadays, the parish contains King John’s Island and includes a part of Corbally. It was divided in 1991 when Bishop Jeremiah Newman created the parish of St Nicholas’ to accommodate the rising population in the area. The population of St Mary’s parish is around 6,000.

With the coming of the Reformation, the Cathedral became the property of the Church of Ireland. Today, the Roman Catholic Cathedral is located in St John’s Parish.

The Exchange Wall

The Limerick City Exchange was built in 1673 to house the city’s covered market and council chamber. The Exchange and nearby Cathedral provided a city centre to 17th century Limerick. In 1702 the Exchange was demolished and replaced by a new larger building that didn’t project onto the street, as the previous one had. This was advantageous in allowing for the development of straighter wider streets in the city. During the mid-1800s, the Exchange fell into disuse as a new town hall was constructed across the bridge in Rutland Street. All that remains of the Exchange now is a row of Tuscan columns in the wall surrounding St Mary’s graveyard. Some repairs to this Protected Structure were undertaken by Limerick Civic Trust in Spring 2009.

St Peter’s Cell

A stone church, dedicated to St. Peter, was built in 1171, by Donal Mór 0 Brien. It stood in the grounds of the present Convent School of St. Mary’s. No trace of the Church now remains. It was in the charge of an order of Nuns known as the Canonesses of St Augustine. These nuns also owned the district now known as Rosbrien.

St. Mary’s Convent

Most Reverend Dr. John Ryan, Bishop of Limerick, aware of the sufferings of the catholic population residing in Limerick’s Old Town in the 1830’s besought Catherine McAuley to establish a foundation of the Mercy Sisters in Limerick.

On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, 24 September, 1838, Catherine McAuley, and her foundation party of five sisters, including Sr. Elizabeth Moore, arrived at “St. Peter’s Cell”, the Poor Clare Convent in Limerick. They were welcomed by two surviving Poor Clare sisters who had remained on in Limerick after the departure of their companions eight years previously and who soon were affiliated to the Mercy Congregation. Henceforth, the convent would be called “St. Mary’s”.

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