Maynooth Main Street

Maynooth - A Short History

by Gerry Egan


The educational, historical and commercial centre of North Kildare is delighted to welcome the many visitors who are participating in the Maynooth 10k + 5k event. The festivities present a great opportunity for visitors to enjoy the many amenities and facilities that Maynooth has to offer.

A Centre of Education

Maynooth is Ireland’s university town, home to Maynooth University (MU) and St Patrick's College, Ireland’s Pontifical University and main Roman Catholic seminary. In 1795 Grattan's Parliament passed an Act, which created an academy "for the better education of persons professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion". The new College became not only Ireland's national seminary, but also the largest seminary in the world. Over its history it has ordained more than 11,000 priests. Many of these have ministered outside Ireland and it has inspired two major missionary societies, directed to China (1918 - the Columban Fathers) and to Africa (1932 - Saint Patrick's Missionary Society).

College Image

Following the foundation of The National University of Ireland, Maynooth became a recognised college of the university in 1910. In 1966 St Patrick's College opened its doors to lay students and its population grew rapidly over the next three decades. In 1997 the Faculties of Arts, Science, Celtic Studies and Philosophy were united in a newly established constituent university of the National University of Ireland.

Maynooth University is today a rapidly developing non-denominational university centre of over 12,000 students. Its traditional core strengths have been augmented by new developments in Finance, Computer Science, Software Engineering and Electronic Engineering. It sees itself as an institution which links a rich history with a distinct mission in a rapidly developing modern Ireland. Today MU and St. Patrick’s College share campus space and many facilities and the college grounds are enjoyed by local residents as well as by the students and staff of the two colleges.

Maynooth Post-Primary School and Maynooth Community College have an enviable reputation locally and nationally and offers a wide range of activities for students with an extensive programme of sports, music, debating and other extracurricular activities. The education picture is completed by four primary schools – St. Mary’s Boys National School, Presentation Girls’ School, Maynooth Educate Together School and Gaelscoil Ui Fhiaich.

A Historical Centre

Maynooth Castle

Maynooth is steeped in history and the town and surrounding area contains many important buildings and other historical and monastic artefacts. Má Nuad, the plain of Nuada is a name that looms large in early Leinster legend Nuadhu being mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters as the maternal grandfather of the legendary Fionn macCumhail. But above all Maynooth has been associated for over 800 years with the Fitzgeralds. Two former seats of the Dukes of Leinster - Maynooth Castle and Carton House – ‘bookend’ the town being at either end of the town’s main street.

Maynooth Castle is a great stone castle founded in the early 13th century that became the principal residence of the Kildare branch of the Geraldines. The original Keep, constructed c. 1203, was one of the largest of its kind in Ireland. Later the castle was a stronghold of the 16th century historical figure Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare better known as Silken Thomas. The castle was overrun in 1535 and was later remodelled in the 17th century when the main focus of the Castle shifted from the original Keep to the buildings in the east of the grounds.

In the mid-eighteen century Carton House (now a luxury resort hotel, golf course and spa) and Leinster House became the seat of the Fitzgeralds. The name ‘Carton’ comes from the old Irish name ‘Baile an Cairthe’ or Land of the Pillar Stone. In 1739, Earl FitzGerald commissioned renowned architect Richard Castles to undertake the project of building Carton House. It cost a mere £26,000 to build at the time. Castles was also responsible for some other great Irish Houses including Westport House, Powerscourt House and, in 1745, Leinster House which he also built for the FitzGeralds.

Carton House

In addition to the properties associated with the Fitzgeralds the area surrounding Maynooth contains many other important churches and monastic settlements including an 8th century round tower at Taghadoe founded by Saint Tua (Ultan), Grangewilliam opposite the entrance to Carton and Laraghbryan. More recent additions to the town’s architectural heritage are St. Mary’s and Ladychapel Catholic Churches and St. Mary’s Church of Ireland, which was part of the Maynooth Castle Complex.

A Leading Commercial Centre

While an important historical centre, Maynooth is very much a modern town, well equipped to meet the needs of the local population as well as the 12,000 students who live in our town. The town has a great selection of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, pubs, supermarkets and other businesses both locally owned and part of national and international chains. Maynooth Education Campus is very grateful for the continued support from these businesses for the 10K + 5K run and for other events that take place throughout the year. We would encourage participants in our run to sample some of our local hospitality while you’re in town!


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