Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham was built in 1684 to house three hundred old or disabled soldiers from the many wars of the time. In 1991 the hospital was remodeled and became the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).

This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.

Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

Imagine you were living in Dublin city in the seventeenth century and were used to looking at small medieval houses and narrow streets and then you went to see the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham outside of the city. It was huge! Such a ‘modern’ building had never been seen in the city before. It was all on its own and high up on a hill overlooking the Liffey and surrounded by large grounds.

It made such an impression on seventeenth-century Dubliners that it became the building that was shown most often in pictures of the city. In fact, in 1684, just after the main parts had been finished, a rule was introduced to stop locals accepting money from visitors that wanted to see it.

The Royal Hospital was built on the orders of the first Duke of Ormond, the Viceroy of Ireland (the representative of the King of England). It was to be a big house for three hundred old or disabled soldiers from the many wars of the time. This is why it is called ‘royal hospital’. It was begun in 1680 by Sir William Robinson – he also designed Marsh’s Library beside St Patrick’s Cathedral. It took seven years to build and was finished in 1687.

The hospital was built around a square courtyard with covered passageways, called arcades, surrounding it. The soldiers lived in the eastern, western and southern wings. They had to wear a uniform so everyone knew them. They became known as the ‘Chelsea pensioners’, because a similar hospital had been built in Chelsea in England shortly after the one in Kilmainham.

The master had his residence in the northern wing. This wing also had the Great Hall, which was used as a dining hall. There was a chapel with beautiful wood carving by James Tabary, a Huguenot refugee who came to Ireland in the 1680s. The Huguenots were Protestants who fled from France where they were persecuted because of their religion.

The Royal Hospital remained an old soldier’s home until 1927. For some time it was also the headquarters of the British army in Ireland. During the Easter Rising it was used as a barracks for the British troops who were sent to Ireland to defeat the rebels.

In 1991 the hospital was remodeled and became the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). IMMA puts on exhibitions featuring works by modern artists from Ireland and around the world.

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