RAY CLEERE reflects on a historic occasion for a church that has played a significant role in the history of Kilkenny
The Priory Church of St. John the Evangelist, known as St. John’s Church, in John Street in Kilkenny recently celebrated its 200th anniversary. St. John’s is a thriving Church of Ireland Church in the heart of Kilkenny City in which the parishioners gather to worship on Sundays and on Holy Days.
St. John’s Church has played a significant role in the history of Kilkenny, the medieval capital of Ireland.
Towards the end of the twelfth century the Canons regular of St. Augustine were given an area near Greensbridge in Kilkenny in which to establish a foundation. In 1211, Earl Marshall, the Norman Lord, who had built Kilkenny Castle, gave an endowment to the Canons regular of St. Augustine and land “beyond the bridge of Kilkenny to the East and adjoining the same bridge”.
That reference was to what is known today as St. John’s Bridge. On December 27, 1220, the Feast of St. John, Mass was celebrated for the first time on the high altar of the new abbey. In 1325, over 100 years later, the domestic buildings at the new location were completed and in the meantime the monks lived on their original site at Greensbridge.
The new priory was an extensive walled monastery as all the land around Michael Street belonged to it at the time. A fragmentary building, the remains of a small church or oratory, situated about 100 metres to the West of the main church, is all that is left of the latter development. It may have been attached to the Prior’s residence, since the land between it and the river Nore is still known as the Prior’s Orchard.