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St. Theresa’s Church

This charming 18th century church is hidden away on a side alley off Grafton Street, Dublin's busiest thoroughfare.

Highlights

  • Crisp architecture
  • Charming interior
  • Serene ambience
  • An oasis of calm, in a busy shopping and entertainment district
  • Still popular and active within the community
  • Excellent choir with great acoustics
  • Intriguing history 

Features

This church, begun by the Discalced Carmelites --- also known as the Barrefoot Carmelites --- has a history of service to the people of Dublin spanning more than two centuries. While the granite exterior is less impressive than some other Dublin church façades, the church's cruciform interior is both impressive and pristinely maintained. The arcades are elaborately moulded and enriched with columns of polished granite. Stained-glass windows, tasteful statues and impressive artwork adorn the walls. The church offers a mass schedule for visitors and parishioners along with confessions, and an active calendar of social events. A small shop connected to the building tells the history of the Church and sells items relating to the Dublin Carmelites.  

Hogan's Dead Christ

The most noteworthy statue in the church is a life-sized, white marble statue of Christ in the tomb. It was created by the Irish sculptor John Hogan in Rome, 1829.

Choir

Many visitors comment on the wonderful choir, boosted by the awesome acoustics of the building. To hear the choir, you will have to attend the Sunday morning mass service at 11am.

History of St. Theresa’s

The Discalced Carmelites were a reforming separatist branch of the Carmelite Order, co-founded during the 16th century by the Spanish mystics St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Teresa entered the Carmelites at Avila but had become disenchanted with monastic life. Solitude was rarely observed and visitors, often of high social and political rank, were frequent. Teresa created a new monastery, which --- in keeping with the wider Counter-Reformation effort --- sought to return to the Order's roots. Teresa's followers lived a quiet life of poverty, and tried to help the poor in their community.

When the Barefoot Carmelites first arrived on the shores of Ireland, its members said mass and administered the sacraments to worshippers at the childhood residence of Father Paul Browne. Father Browne had brought the order to Dublin circa 1625, and their operations quickly grew from their humble beginnings in his Cook Street house. With Catholicism suppressed under British rule, civil authorities moved to close all chapels and evict the friars on St. Stephen's Day 1629. They were forced to move to another location, elsewhere on Cook Street. The dawn of the reign of King James II, a fellow Catholic, led the friars to believe that they could live and perform their ministry in peace and safety. All that changed at his defeat at the Battle of Boyne by William of Orange, and Dublin's Barefoot Carmelites were homeless once again.

During the decades that followed, members of the order continued to set up chapels and places of worship only to disassemble and relocate them as circumstances dictated. Finally, in 1757, they moved to an alley off Lower Stephen Street known as Sheriff's Court. Here they set up a chapel and made many improvement, sure of a reasonable rental renewal. The landlord charged such high rent that they were forced to move again. A group of wealthy businessmen banded together to help the friars and in 1786, led by the Protestant builder William Semple, they leased the northeast section of Clarendon Street and levelled the buildings. The new Clarendon Street Chapel as it was then known opened its doors for worship on Sunday, 1 May 1797.

Images

Exterior of St. Teresa's Church. Image by Christopher Amos.

Hogan's Dead Christ sculpture in St. Teresa's. Image: Wikimeda

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