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  • Irish Jesuit Province

    How Old Is Dublin?Author(s): George A. LittleSource: The Irish Monthly, Vol. 82, No. 966 (Feb., 1954), pp. 43-48Published by: Irish Jesuit ProvinceStable URL: .Accessed: 15/06/2014 17:43

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    THE next point to consider is the churches which we know were

    in pre-Scandinavian Dublin. Fortunately, there is the one fact in

    the whole of this thesis regarding which everybody agrees, that

    there were churches in pre-Scandinavian Dublin. There were of these

    certainly seven and probably nine. Granting that we were always a

    very pious people, this seems to be an over generous supply for an

    unspecified region. The first of these churches was that of MacTail.

    Mac Tail pronounced properly in Irish was confused with that of the

    Irish form of Michael hence the Normans give it the name " Michael

    de la Pole "; the latter name resulting from the fact that it stood near

    a pool which lay at the foot of Ship Street. The site of the old church

    is still marked. It is important for one point principally, namely, that

    it is the only one of the pre-Scandinavian churches of which we have

    a picture. St. Michael's was not taken down until the first half of

    the 18th century. It had a round tower associated with it. This

    building was greatly loved by the people of Dublin.

    Now, St. Bride's?beyond the fact that it was in Bride Street, we

    know almost nothing about its founding. Just the name of it survived.

    St. Kevin's?that stood about the site of the ruined St. Kevin's

    in Long Lane, near the Meath Hospital. That is a very important

    example of the churches since we know, actually, the name of the

    person who built it. He was a Dubliner named Garbhan, and

    Garbhan built it in honour of St. Kevin. It is interesting if only because it is the earliest dedication of the kind that we know of in

    Ireland. Most of the early churches were simply named after the

    owner or founder, but in this case there was a definite dedication in

    the modern sense and the occasion of the dedication possibly gave the hagiographical symbol to St. Kevin. In art St. Kevin is always shown with a bird in his hand. Here is the story: Garbhan was

    travelling through the mountains between Dublin and Wicklow when

    he met Kevin, who, strangely enough, had got tired of his students

    and had run away from them. Garbhan asked Kevin where was he

    * From a recorded lecture.


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    going and Kevin replied he was "

    looking for some peace. He wanted to say his prayers." And Garbhan, who was an older man, said: " You belong to Glendalough. Go back to your work. Remember,

    Kevin?no bird ever laid its eggs when on the wing." And Kevin

    returned to Glendalough and remained there to his death. Garbhan

    returned to Dublin and built that church in Long Lane, which he

    dedicated to God and to Kevin. Of course, there are no remains

    of that original church, but the old ruins which stand there now, stand approximately on the site of it.

    The next church on our list is Christ Church. You must all have

    wondered at some time how it was that a church always entitled either the Cathedral or Church of the Holy Trinity was never called

    that, but always Christ Church. Officially never Christ Church, but

    still no Dubliner ever calls it by any other name. Now, why is this?

    Apparently, according to O'Donovan, the reason was that it was built on the foundation of a much earlier church. One built by Ceile

    Chriost, who was a Bishop from old Kilcullen,who came and settled


    St. Patrick's Church comes next in order. There is a good deal

    of information about this church on account of St. Patrick's own

    visit there. The idea of the visit of St Patrick is one which is always met with disbelief; the reason for this attitude is because it is not

    mentioned in the official "

    Lives ". The authority for this statement

    is usually given as Joycelin's Life of St. Patrick, and every second line

    of this work almost contradicts itself and there are foolishnesses in

    the narrative which are unforgivable. Therefore, it is a completely

    unworthy source and therefore (it is said) Patrick did not come to

    Dublin. That appraisal is completely true in one sense. But there is a

    suppressio veri. Joycelin was a bad historian; he was unreliable and

    he did write nonsense, but we have no reason to trouble much about

    him, because one of the four books he used as an authority for his " Life

    n still exists?the Book of Rights, which contains all the facts

    without the foolishness or the contradiction and, so far as I am aware,

    nobody yet has suggested that the book is inaccurate, or that it has

    noticeable inventions in it. We can, I believe, depend on it as an

    authority and therefore we have reason to believe that St. Patrick

    came here and cured the son of the king. Eolathach MacAlpin was

    King of Dublin at that time, and it was his son, Eochy, whom Patrick

    healed. When Patrick was leaving Dublin the king ordered that


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    in future there would be a special cess payable from every ship

    visiting the Port of Dublin, to the See of Armagh in gratitude for

    Patrick's kindness. That cess was paid even 200 years after the

    Norman invasion of Ireland. If people had not believed in St.

    Patrick's visit, do you think they would have paid the tax?

    The next church which is of interest to us in this context is "


    Aud n's ". Aud n's is always recognised as a Norman foundation

    and rightly, for it was built by them and named after their great

    patron, St. Ouen, whose name is found in the name of the City of

    Rouen. But the policy with the Normans always was suppression and supersession. They were always anxious to seem to have roots

    sunk deep into our land and the result was they always built on our

    foundations when they could. You have seen that in the case of

    St. Patrick's and Christ Church and others. They did it, too, in the

    case of St. Aud n's. I am indebted to Rev. Professor Aubrey

    Gwynn, S.J., for the following information, because it was he who

    discovered it, and it is of first rate importance?that on that site

    where now stands St. Aud n's, was the Church dedicated to St.

    Colm Cille. He found the evidence in two documents which went

    to Rome in the period of St. Laurence O'Toole. They were simply

    ordinary diocesan business documents in which certain facts were

    attested by the parish priests of Dublin. There were only a couple of years between the two MSS. The first list gives all the parish names, with a church called St. Colm Cille in it . . . but no St.

    Aud n's. The second list gives them all again, but this time St.

    Aud n's and no St. Colm Cille's. That in convincing, even if we

    did not have (as we have), a cross-inscribed slab at St. Aud n's

    which certainly dates back as far as the 8th century and possibly even a century earlier.

    Now, we also had Gill Duileach's in Fishamble Street (the same St.

    Duileach as he to whom the church on the Malahide Road is dedicated

    ?of him we know nothing except that he was an Irish saint. And

    I need not remind you that the Norsemen, even when they became

    Christians, did not name their churches after Irishmen.

    The last church on our list is St. Catherine's, of Meath Street?that

    church puzzles me, because there is a tremendously strong tradition

    that St. Catherine's had been an Irish foundation?a pre-Scandinavian foundation. I can find no reason for believing that, but it is well to

    listen to tradition. It is usually correct, or but little incorrect.


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    However. I could find no facts to substantiate tradition, but in my

    seeking I found record


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