St Audoen’s Church - Open House Dublin 2024
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St Audoen’s Church

St Audoen’s Church in Dublin’s historic centre has been in constant use since about 1190, making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city. While other churches were demolished and rebuilt in contemporary styles, St Audoen’s was simply adapted and adjusted to reflect its changing role, with four centuries of expansion followed by another four centuries of contraction and consolidation. 

Among the building’s oldest surviving architectural features are a baptismal font and Romanesque doorframe, both carved from Dundry stone at the time of the church’s foundation. Less celebrated, though no less significant, are the rubble stone walls constructed from local calp limestone which are still standing after eight centuries of changeable fortunes for the building. These walls sheltered a parish church and a side chapel for a religious fraternity, served as the back wall of Georgian tenement houses and fell into decaying ruins before being restored and re-roofed in recent decades.

The area still in use as a parish church is the only part of the site to have been protected from the elements throughout its history. Thanks to this fact there are four wonderfully preserved sandstone Gothic arches dating to about 1300 which have retained their delicate ‘dogtooth’ details. Because the church survived unaltered for so long it has the distinction of having both Gothic and Neo-Gothic features side by side, as medieval architecture came back into fashion in the Victorian era. The pews, pulpit and other wooden furnishings – installed in 1848 – pay subtle homage with their pointed arch motifs. 

The belltower has observed many changes in this part of Dublin since the early 15th century and has had to be reconstructed and remodelled occasionally due to gunpowder explosions, storms and general wear and tear. However, it is still accessed via its medieval spiral staircase of 96 stone steps. Near the top of the tower are six bells, three of them forged in 1423, making them among the oldest set of surviving church bells in the world. They are still in weekly use after 600 years.

Today, the historic building is shared by the Church of Ireland parish and a National Monument in the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW). It therefore retains an unbroken continuity of active worship going back to the very first Normans to occupy the city. During the summer opening season, the OPW welcomes thousands of visitors to its museum exhibition and offers free tours of the site, and the parish generously allows access to the working church to allow visitors to experience the full splendour of Dublin’s oldest parish church.

The ruins of the original church now house an interpretive exhibition. Credit: Carla Bass | @Captured_Chapters
Three of the bells in the bell tower are 600 years old in 2023 – the oldest in Ireland. Credit: Carla Bass | @Captured_Chapters


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