Second smallest chapel in the world

The story behind Ireland’s smallest chapel

A few photos from a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim, we regularly drive through Carrick heading to Sligo but decided to stop for lunch and a stroll a few months ago. I had heard that Carrick had the smallest chapel in Ireland which had been renovated in the last few years so we decided to go and view it, we found it tucked away on the corner of Bridge Street and Main street.

The story goes that when a local woman named Mary Josephine Costello died at the age of 47 on the 6th of October 1877, her husband Edward Costello, a local rich merchant was so heartbroken by the death of his beloved wife, he decided to have a chapel built in her memory and have her coffin interred within it.

Victorian Mourning

The Victorian era (1837 to 1901) introduced new funeral rituals and in particular after 1861 when Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s husband died and she went into a long period of mourning, influenced many Victorians and would have had an influence on the grieving Edward’s decision to commission the building of a chapel in memory of his wife.  Early deaths were viewed increasingly as tragic and deserving of elaborate and grand-scale mourning.(i)  Following Queen Victoria’s example, it became customary for the middle class and wealthy families to go through elaborate rituals to commemorate their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish and expensive funeral, curtailing social behaviour for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave.(ii)

Costello had his wife’s remains embalmed and entrusted her body to the care of the local Marist Sisters convent in Carrick until the chapel could be completed.(iii)  Two years later on the 22nd April 1879, the chapel building works were completed and the chapel was dedicated with a mass held where Mary Josephine’s body was interred in a decorated coffin and placed into a sunken floor and covered with a thick glass lid.  Edward had a mass held in the chapel every month until his own death in 1891, his coffin was also interred in the chapel.

The chapel is believed to be the smallest chapel in Ireland and the second smallest in the world, it measures 16 ft by 12 ft and is made of cut stone, there is no woodwork in the church, the roof is made of arched piece of masonry and there is a large stained glass window made from designs by Mayer of Munich.(iii)  The Carrick Heritage group raised funds and had the chapel renovated in 2009 and it is opened daily all year round, its free admission but donations are welcome.  

Chapel in Carrick
Costello’s Memorial chapel

 

Church doorway
Archway into chapel

 

Mary Josephines carved coffin
Mary Josephine Costello’s coffin

 

Mary Josephine Costello Leitrim Portrait
Portrait of Mary Josephine Costello

 

Coffin
Edward Costello’s coffin

 

Smallest chapel coffins encased in the glass floor Ireland
Coffins encased in the glass floor of the chapel

 

 

Irish stained glass smallest church
Stained glass window from designs by Mayer of Munich, renovated by Connon studios Dublin

 

Smallest chapel altar Carrickonshannon Leitrim
Marble altar in the smallest chapel in Ireland

A quick look inside the chapel

 

 

Sources:

(i)   https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/
(ii)  http://www.tchevalier.com/fallingangels/bckgrnd/mourning/
(iii) http://www.carrickheritage.com/costello-memorial-chapel.html

Images: melcoo

 

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