A historic city convent which has undergone a €10m conservation and regeneration project is set to open as an iconic heritage and visitor centre.

The 18th-century South Presentation convent, school, and grounds in Cork City have been converted into an “urban oasis”, complete with contemplative gardens.

Final preparations are under way to open Nano Nagle Place, named after Ireland’s first global social pioneer who founded a religious order on the site in 1775, in the heart of the South Parish quarter next Wednesday.

Sr Emma Rooney, who moved to Cork recently from Newfoundland and who is one of three resident Presentation Sisters living on the site, said they were delighted the buildings can now be shared with the public.

Nano Nagle Place programme manager Danielle O’Donovan and CEO Shane Clarke. Picture: Denis Minihane
Nano Nagle Place programme manager Danielle O’Donovan and CEO Shane Clarke. Picture: Denis Minihane

“The vision to renovate this amazing place was to put wisdom into action. However, we don’t see it as ours alone but as a place of inspiration to share with the whole community,” she said.

The heritage centre describes life in 18th-century Cork and tells the story of how Nano Nagle worked tirelessly to help and educate the poor and disadvantaged. It also charts the congregation’s global expansion.

The regenerated wider campus houses a garden café due to open in the autumn, a design shop, education spaces, the Lantern community inclusion and migrants’ inclusion projects, and the beautifully regenerated 1779 convent building which will hold the congregation’s archive.

The chairman of the board which oversaw the project, former lord mayor Jim Corr, said:

“Community, education, culture, spirituality, and nature are all core to our vision and we can’t wait for everyone to discover so much of what is great about Cork right here at Nano Nagle Place.”

Shane Clarke, chief executive of Nano Nagle Place, said he is proud and excited to be entrusted with opening this “urban oasis”.

Nano (Honora) Nagle was born into a wealthy family in 1718 in Ballygriffin, Co Cork, and was educated in Paris. After her return to Ireland, she noticed the huge gap between rich and poor and began ministering to the city’s poor. She became affectionately known as the Lady of the Lantern.

The heritage centre describes life in 18th-century Cork and tells the story of how Nano Nagle worked tirelessly to help the poor.
The heritage centre describes life in 18th-century Cork and tells the story of how Nano Nagle worked tirelessly to help the poor.

She opened her first school around 1750, at a time when educating Catholics carried a three-year jail term. By 1758, she had seven schools across the city.

With money provided by her uncle, she acquired the South Presentation site and founded the Sisters of Presentation on Christmas Eve, 1775, before she took her final vows in June 1776, aged 58. She died, aged 66, on April 26, 1784, and is buried on the site.


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