Cork's new arts centre opens after restoration of church


CORK’S NEW multipurpose arts and cultural hub in the historical building of Christchurch in the city centre has opened following a €4.8 million restoration of the site.

Built in 1740, the original Georgian Christchurch building was known as Holy Trinity Church. It served as the official church for Cork Corporation in centuries past and was home to the Cork city archives, now rehoused in a purpose-built building in Blackpool on the north side of the city.

The refurbishment includes the integration of the Triskel Arts Centre building next door on Tobin Street.

Triskel will manage the building on behalf of Cork City Council and is joined to the church via an extensive glazed link.

The project involved restoration work on the building’s stained-glass windows, bell tower, pews, organ, flooring and ceiling. Additional fire exits and facilities for the disabled have been provided.

The new site will host concerts, plays, exhibitions and a variety of arts performances. The acoustics in the building, which has a capacity of 250, are considered to be among the best in Ireland. The original pews have been maintained but made more comfortable.

Triskel Christchurch will house several noted artists groups and cultural ambassadors.

These include independent theatre company Corcadorca, The Black Mariah, an independent visual arts project that presents exhibitions by Irish and international artists, and Plugd Records, Cork’s long-running independent record store.

Cork city manager Tim Lucey said the restoration was an example of the council’s commitment to the arts.

“In this age of austerity, Cork City Council’s redevelopment of Christchurch is a massive statement of confidence in the arts,” Mr Lucey said. “The €4.8 million renovation project has preserved the heritage of the Christchurch building.

“More crucially, it has transformed this ancient church into a living, breathing hub of diverse artists and creative collaborations, making it a vibrant and active part of the city’s cultural landscape again,” he added.

The project, which took three years to complete, was supported by the council, the European Regional Development Fund and the Southern and Eastern Regional Assembly.

Launch celebrations over the weekend included the Irish premiere of Being Dufay, a musical work by Ambrose Field sung by tenor John Potter. The concert was free.

The celebrations also featured the world premiere of composer John Gibson’s original score, Christchurch Music.

Cork sculptor Vivienne Roche is the first artist to exhibit in the dedicated exhibition space.

She has used the complex patterns of changing light in the church, including the naturally refracted light that streams through the original stained-glassed windows, to create a series of drawings and sculptures as a “response” to the building.

The council bought Christchurch in November 1979 for £20,000. It stands on the site of several churches dating back to medieval times. It was the principal parish church, religious centre and civic church in Cork.

Local tradition has it that the poet Edmund Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle at a previous incarnation of Christchurch in 1594.