By Paddy Ryan
“What was the most profound event in Irish history?” The lecturer asked my group of undergraduates. Replies ranged from the coming of Christianity, the Battle of Clontarf to the Treaty. Agreeing that each was significant, he felt that the Norman invasion had, in the overall tapestry of our history, the most far-reaching effect.
Reverend Paul Mooney must have been thinking on the same lines after he’d taken up appointment as rector of Saint Mary’s, New Ross, in 1998. Saint Mary’s is built within the ruins of the original Norman church that was erected by the founders of New Ross – William Marshall and his wife, Isabel de Clare, daughter of Strongbow and Aoife Mac Murrough.
With such rich seams of history all around him, Reverend Mooney strongly believed that they should be commemorated in some unique way.
His inspiration came from the famous Bayeux Tapestry, graphically detailing the Norman invasion of England, that is displayed in the town of the same name in Normandy, France. While historians have different views on the accuracy of the stories told in the Bayeux Tapestry, all would agree that it is a superb work of art.
However, Reverend Mooney was convinced that the colourful story of the Norman invasion of Ireland could embellish any set of tapestries. It had all the ingredients. Treachery, abduction, an aggrieved husband, power, violence and a royal marriage to seal the deal.