Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


University College Cork was founded in 1845 as Queen's College, at that time a secular state institution for third level education for men. By the end of the century the College had prospered and was taking in students not only from the city but from the whole county. Since Queen's College was non-sectarian, initially there was no Chapel built for College use. The Honan Chapel was built by private bequest to fill this gap and to provide a spiritual base for Roman Catholic students attending College. Robert, Matthew and Isabella Honan, brothers and sister, were the last of a wealthy Cork merchant family who wished to make a bequest to College; leaving its disposition to John O'Connell, their lawyer.

It is to John O'Connell, a devout man who later, after the death of his wife became a priest, that we owe the unique composition that is the Honan Chapel and its contents. He was supported by the President of College at the time, Bertram Windle. At the end of the nineteenth century Irish ecclesiastical architecture, fittings and liturgical textiles were strongly influenced by other Catholic European countries and in many cases materials were brought in from abroad. The startling innovation of John O'Connell's concept was to look back to Early Christian Irish buildings and artifacts for inspiration, and to insist that Irish artists and craftspeople would design and make almost everything in the Chapel.1