The Capel Building lies at the heart of an area of Dublin that, for centuries, has been home to a wealth of cultural, commercial and architectural grandeur. This once-fashionable district for the well to do was neglected for many years but is making a healthy, and welcome, comeback since the instigation of the Historic Area Rejuvenation Project (HARP) in 1996.
While military, legal and religious traditions abound in this area - one more recently associated with its shopping streets - there are three places in particular that form part of The Capel Building's past and will play a role in its future.
St. Mary's Abbey
The entrance to the Chapter House on Meeting House Lane is all that remains of the great Cistertian Abbey of St. Mary's, originally founded by the Benedictines in 1139. One of the largest and most important medieval monasteries in Ireland, the Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in the 1530s and fell into ruins. Its stones were subsequently used in the building of Essex Bridge. Although the Abbey itself has all but disappeared, its memory is preserved in local street names - Abbey Street, Little Mary Street, Capel Street (from the Latin capella, meaning chapel) and Mary Street.
Bank of Ireland
In 1783, the Bank of Ireland located its head office in Mary's Abbey where it was to remain for twenty years prior to moving to the Parliament Building of nearby College Green.
The Markets Area
The present fruit and vegetable market building behind Mary's Lane, opened in 1892, is considered to be one of the finest expressions of the late Victorian approach to open plan buildings. The use of cast iron and glass was characteristic of the buildings of the time, epitomised by the Crystal Palace in London which was built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Dublin City Council plans to spend over €200m on a blueprint for the Markets Area adjacent to The Capel Building. The first stage of this is the creation of a new, 17,000 sq.m market square incorporating the existing fruit and vegetable market buildings. The existing fish market will be demolished and its cast iron support structures will be used to provide canopy covers for outdoor markets and for other activities in the market square.
The Legal Quarter
The Four Courts is the great masterpiece of James Gandon. In 1785 he was commissioned by the then viceroy, the Duke of Rutland, to design a new building for the Four Courts. The law courts in question were those of the Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas. Despite political intrigues and a history of objections, the building was opened in 1796 and completed in 1802, at a cost of some £200,000. Now splendidly restored, the Four Courts remains at the forefront of the Irish legal system.
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