Town and commuter settlement in County Kildare, Republic of Ireland, 24 km/15 mi west of Dublin; population (2002) 10,800. It accommodates part of the National University of Ireland, originally established in 1795 with government funding as St Patrick's College, a training college for Roman Catholic priests, on the site of an earlier college founded in the 16th century by the Earl of Kildare. Lay students have been admitted since 1966 and now form a considerable majority.
The ruins of Maynooth Castle, built by the Fitzgeralds and dating for the most part from the 13th century, lie by the college gates. There is also an ecclesiastical museum. Carton House, the former residence of the Duke of Leinster in Maynooth was remodelled in the classical style by Richard Castle (1690–1751) for the Earls of Kildare in 1739. In the grounds is a shell house, a type of summer pavilion fashionable at the time, the interior of which is highly decorated with seashells.
The university is dominated architecturally by Pugin's mid-19th-century Gothic revival St Mary's Square complex, including St Patrick's House and St Mary's Chapel. In 1846 Sir Robert Peel carried a parliamentary Bill for an increased and permanent endowment for the college; a further endowment of £369,000 from public funds was granted in 1871. It was accorded the status of a pontifical university in 1896 and in 1908 became part of the National University of Ireland, which awards degrees to lay students at St Patrick's. The college library contains some fine manuscripts and early printed books.
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