James Gandon and Thomas Cooley designed this regal structure on the banks of the River Liffey, which was built between 1786 and 1802. Today it houses Ireland's High Court and Ireland's Supreme Court, as well as Dublin's Circuit Court.
How The Four Courts Got its Name
The name Four Courts is derived from the four original court divisions that the building housed when established. These were: Common Pleas, Chancery, Exchequer, and King's Bench. In the late 19th century, the courts were merged into a single High Court of Ireland.
The imposing façade is enhanced by a six-column Corinthian portico. There are three statues here, Moses in the center, with Mercy and Wisdom on each side. The statues were carved by Edward Smyth. The lantern dome of the Four Courts is huge - 64 feet in diameter, and makes the building easy to spot even from a distance. The view of the rest of Dublin City from the rotunda is also exceptional.
The Four Courts and The Irish Civil War
The building visible today is actually a restoration of the original. During the Irish Civil War, following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, much of the original was destroyed by bombs and fire as the anti-treaty rebels fought government forces in this part of the city. Anti-treaty republicans barricaded the building in 1922, and Michael Collins' new government shelled it from across the river. Fire also destroyed the adjoining Public Records Offices, and as a result, many irreplaceable legal documents and family records that had been stored in the basement for safekeeping were destroyed. Nearly 1,000 years of irreplaceable artifacts were lost, along with valuable legal and historical records, Irish Parliament documents, and the registers of hundreds of Irish parishes. The anti-treaty rebels were ultimately bombarded into submission. The Four Courts was, however, rebuilt and restored according to James Gandon's original design, in a process that took ten years to reach completion.
Opening Times (Court Session Times)
Visitors to Dublin are permitted to enter and explore the building whenever court is in session. Monday to Friday
- 10am to 1pm
- 2pm to 4pm
Image by Darragh Sherwin