The Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Kilmainham, Dublin, is one of the finest 17th-century buildings in Ireland.
The hospital was built in 1684 by Sir William Robinson, official State Surveyor General for James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormonde and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to King Charles II, as a home for retired soldiers and continued in that use for over 250 years. The style is based on Les Invalides in Paris with a formal facade and a large courtyard. The Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London was completed two years later and also has similarities in style.
The Tudor Gothic gateway at the end of the formal avenue leading to the Royal Hospital was designed by Francis Johnston, one of the leading architects of the day. This gateway originally stood beside the river Liffey at Bloody Bridge (now Rory O'More Bridge), but had to be moved after the arrival of the railway in 1844 increased traffic congestion (obviously not new to Dublin). He had placed his personal coat of arms above the arch, concealed by a piece of wood painted to match the stone, his idea being that his arms would be revealed to future generations after the wood became rotten. However, his little trick was uncovered when the gateway was taken down for removal. The coat of arms at present on the gateway is that of the Royal Hospital.
The Royal Hospital Kilmainham graveyards, including Bully's Acre, are located 400 meters to the west. A cross-shaft in the former cemetery may be the remains of a boundary cross associated with a ninth century monastery located at this site.
Following the creation of the Irish Free State the Royal Hospital was considered as a potential home for Oireachtas Éireann, the new Irish national parliament. Eventually it was decided to keep parliament in its temporary home in Leinster House. The Hospital remained the home of a dwindling number of soldiers, before being variously used by the Garda Síochána (the Irish police force) and as a storage location for property belonging to the National Museum of Ireland. The large statue of Queen Victoria which used to stand in the forecourt of Leinster House, before its removal in 1947, was stored in the main courtyard of the Hospital, as were various state carriages, including the famously spectacular State Coach of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland. The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham was finally restored by the Irish Government in 1984 (its 300th anniversary) and controversially opened as the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Some people working in heritage organisations criticised the decision to demolish the eighteenth century barrack rooms in one section of the quadrangle to create open spaces for the IMMA.
Every year on the National Day of Commemoration – the Sunday nearest July 11 - the anniversary of the Truce that ended the Anglo-Irish War – the President of Ireland, in the presence of members of the Government of Ireland, members of Dáil Éireann and of Seanad Éireann, the Council of State, the Defence Forces, the Judiciary and the Diplomatic Corps, lays a wreath in the courtyard in memory of all Irishmen and Irishwomen who have died in past wars and on service with the United Nations.