Dublin has always been rich with places that you will need to visit while being in the city. Among all the suggestions and choices which we are always trying to bring, we decided to head to the Christ Church Cathedral and bring you the wonder of this place. For nearly one thousand years, people have been coming to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to worship God. Now it’s also a historical place and building that has gone through several changes and renovations.
Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (also known as The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity) is the older of the city’s two medieval cathedrals. The church has also been a place of pilgrimage for almost 1,000 years. Christ Church Cathedral is located in the former heart of medieval Dublin, and it is the only one of the three cathedrals or acting cathedrals which can be seen clearly from the River Liffey. The church was built on the high ground overlooking the Viking settlement at Wood Quay.
A Thousand Year Old History
Dúnán, the first bishop of Dublin and Sitriuc, Norse King of Dublin, founded the original Viking church, which was probably subject to the archbishop of Canterbury. By 1152 it was incorporated into the Irish church and within a decade the famous Archbishop Laurence O’Toole had been appointed. He acted directly in diplomatic efforts between the Dubliners and the Anglo-Normans including Strongbow (Richard de Clare) following the capture of the city in 1170. It was due largely to John Cumin, the first AngloNorman archbishop, that the Hiberno-Norse cathedral was replaced with the Romanesque and later Gothic cathedral, parts of which survive today.
In 1395 King Richard II sat in state in the cathedral to receive homage from the kings of the four Irish provinces O’Neill of Ulster, McMurrough of Leinster, O’Brien of Munster and O’Connor of Connacht. In 1487 Lambert Simnel, pretender to the English throne in the reign of Henry VII was ‘crowned’ in Christ Church as Edward VI.
In the sixteenth century, reform again came from England when Henry VIII broke from Rome. He dissolved the Augustinian priory of the Holy Trinity and established a reformed foundation of secular canons. In 1562, the cathedral was in ruins and emergency rebuilding took place immediately. This temporary solution lasted until the 1870s.
In 1689 King James attended Mass at Christ Cathedral Church. One year later, returning from the Battle of the Boyne on 6 July 1690, King William III gave thanks for his victory over King James II and presented a set of gold communion plate to the cathedral. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Christ Church’s crypt was used as a market, a meeting place for business, and at one stage, even a pub.
The cathedral as it exists today has been heavily influenced by the Victorian architecture style due to the extensive restorations and renovations carried out by the architect George Edmund Street (between 1871 and 1878).
Nowadays, Christ Church Cathedral houses the important Treasures of Christ Church exhibition, featuring a video of the cathedral history. The exhibition features manuscripts and artifacts that take the visitor through one thousand years of the cathedral’s history, including the stunning royal plate given by King William III in 1697 as a thanksgiving for his victory at the battle of the Boyne.
Renovations and Rebuilding of Christ Church Cathedral
The cathedral was extensively renovated and rebuilt during the period from 1871 to 1878 by George Edmund Street. The 14th-century choir was completely renovated and the tower was rebuilt, as well as the south nave arcade.
Following the extensive renovation over the centuries, it is difficult to tell which parts of the interior are medieval or Victorian.
The cathedral contains the reputed tomb of Strongbow, a medieval Norman warlord who came to Ireland at the request of King Diarmuid MacMorrough and whose arrival marked the beginning of Anglo-Norman involvement in Ireland. According to the Christ Church Cathedral website, in 1562 the nave roof vaulting collapsed and Strongbow’s tomb was smashed; the current tomb is a contemporary replacement from Drogheda. Alongside the main tomb is a smaller figure with sloping shoulders, suggesting a female figure, but wearing chain mail, which may indicate that it was a child.
Christ Church also contains the largest cathedral crypt Britain or Ireland, which is open for visitors.
There you can find many monuments and historical features, including the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland, two carved statues that were transported from the Tholsel (Dublin’s medieval city hall), a tabernacle and set of candlesticks which were used when the cathedral last operated (for a very short time) under the “Roman rite”, when the Roman Catholic king, James II, having fled England in 1690, came to Ireland to fight for his throne and attended High Mass in the temporary restoration of Christ Church as a Roman Catholic cathedral.
If you head to the west end of the cathedral, you can find a stone bridge that leads to the former synod hall, which was built on the site of St Michael’s. The hall is now home to the “Dublinia” exhibition about medieval Dublin.
When to Visit
The Cathedral is open for visitors from September to October:
Monday – Saturday: 09.45-17.15;
November to May:
Monday – Saturday: 09.45-16.15;
Sunday: 12.30-14.30, 16.30-17.15
June to August:
Monday – Saturday: 09.45-18.15
Sunday: 12.30-14.30, 16.30-18.15
Ticket prices for adults are €6; while seniors only pay €4; and students are offered the cheapest ticket at €3.