Near Dublin's former centre, in the Cornmarket area, admirers of medieval architecture should not miss out on St. Audoen’s Church. Situated on one of Dublin’s oldest streets, High Street -- a main thoroughfare for the city's nobility -- St Audoen’s was central to the daily life of medieval Dublin.
- Built by Anglo-Normans in 1190 on the site of a 7th century church
- An 9th century grave slab --- known as the Lucky Stone --- remains of the earlier church
- Beautiful church that retains its original medieval features, such as a large Norman gate
- Ancient carved stones and statues are dotted throughout the building
- The nave, the choir, south aisle, and two chapels remain of the original church
- Cobbled pathway from the side of the church lead to a gatehouse, once part of the medieval walls of Dublin city
- Local legend says the church tower is haunted by the ghost of Darkey Kelly
- 200 metres from Christchurch Cathedral
- FREE enjoyable visit/tour takes just 15 minutes to 1 hour
Two Saint Audoen's Churches
There are, in fact, two St. Audoen’s Churches on High Street – one Catholic and one Protestant, both still active. The Catholic St. Audoen's Church is a 19th century building, today best known for being the church of the Polish community in Dublin.
The Protestant St. Audoen's Church, is Ireland's only surviving medieval church still in use, and has been named a National Monument.
St. Audoen's is named after the seventh century saint Ouen, Bishop of Rouen and patron saint of Normandy. The Anglo-Normans named the church after him when they arrived in Dublin around 1172.
The church was erected in 1190 on the site of an older 7th century church dedicated to St. Columcille. A 9th century gravestone, known as the Lucky Stone and displayed in the entrance, bears witness to the earlier church.
St. Audoen's grew wealthy during the 14th and 15th centuries, as local nobles made donations to ensure their safe passage to the afterlife. Various tombs and monuments were erected in an around the church, paid for by the wealthy --- such as the 1482 stone effigies of Lord Portlester, Treasurer of Ireland and his wife, now housed in the tower.
Two extensions were added to the building during this time. One, St. Anne's Chapel, was added for the benefit of the local guilds -- associations for professional such as silversmiths, hosiers and candlemakers. St. Anne's chapel had several altars, so that priests could offer simultaneous masses for the souls of departed tradesmen -- a lucrative business.
Another extension, Portlester's chapel, was added to the eastern end of the church, where Lord Portlester's tomb was originally located.
Decline of the Church
By 1620, the building fell into serious disrepair, and the Archbishop blamed the guilds of St. Anne's for withholding contributions. Local efforts were made to repair the building but in 1671, with numbers of Protestants in the area dwindling as they moved to the suburbs, Michael Boyle, Primate of the Church of Ireland, ordered its closure.
Nevertheless, it remained in use intermittently over the next 100 years.
By 1773 the small remaining congregation decided to remove the roof from Portlester's chapel, which was now in disuse. In the early 1800s, the roof of St Anne’s Chapel was also removed.
This has since been re-roofed by the state, and now forms the visitor's centre.
In St. Anne's Chapel, the visitor centre is split into two levels, with the ground floor relaying the history of the church. This award-winning exhibition features models of the church at different eras, and examples of medieval items found during excavations.
Upstairs is a smaller exhibition on Dublin's trade guilds and the important role they played in the city's medieval life.
St. Audoen's is also noted for hosting various concerts and exhibitions throughout the year.
Admission is FREE and tourists are usually impressed with the historical importance of the church and the solemn atmosphere of a place so very old and filled with reverence.
St. Audoen's Church. Image by colddayforpontooning
Interior of St. Audoen's Church. Image by Mikel Santamaria
Norman gate and tower. Image by Mark Carvajal