Maynooth Castle is mid to late 12th Century Norman castle in Ireland which stands at the entrance to the South Campus of Maynooth University. The Castle was built by the very powerful Fitzgerald family around the early 13th century. The Kildare Fitzgerald’s emerged as one of the most power families in Ireland with Maynooth Castle being one of the largest and richest Earl’s houses. The castle was a stronghold of the 16th-century historical figure Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare better known as Silken Thomas.
The area covered by modern Kildare was granted by Strongbow to Maurice Fitzgerald in 1176. The castle was built at the junction of two streams (“The Abhann Slad” and “The Lyreen”) and became the home of the Fitzgerald family. The Castle was constructed at the most westerly point of The Pale and apart from the Keep which was first built in the early 1200’s the remaining ruins seen today are additional fortifications dating from the 1400’s.
The castle was taken by force in 1535, after the rebellion of the Earl. An English force led by William Skeffington bombarded the massive castle, the heavy modern siege guns of the English army making a ruin of much of the Medieval structure. By February 1537 six Fitzgeralds including Silken Thomas had been caught and indeed executed for treason leaving victory to his cunning enemies.
The Castle was restored from falling into ruin in 1630-35 by Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork after his daughter had married George FitzGerald but much of this building was destroyed in the 1640s during the Eleven years war. Only the gatehouse (on which united arms of the Boyles and FitzGeralds can still be viewed) and the Solar Tower survive. The Fitzgeralds left Maynooth for good and made first Kilkea Castle and then Carton House their family seat. Following another attack in the 1640’s, the Fitzgeralds finally moved out and eventually constructed the Carton estate nearby. The Castle remained uninhabited thereafter.
Restoration work on the castle was restarted by the Office of Public Works in February 2000 to develop it into a Heritage Site. Today the partly ruined building remains as a tourist attraction, with limited access possible.
Restoration work on the castle was restarted in February 2000, by the Office of Public Works. Today the partly ruined building remains as a tourist attraction, with limited access possible. Maynooth Castle holds a detailed exhibition on the history of the Fitzgerald family, one of the most important Anglo-Norman families in Ireland.