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Postal address: Parish Office, St. Michan's Church,
Halston Street, Dublin 7

St. Michan's Parish
Halston Street

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Brief History

St. Michan's Church, Halston Street

A hostel, dedicated to St. Michan was setup at the Ath-Cliath or ford across the river (near present Stoneybatter) for the wayfarers between Tara and South Leinster, and so St. Michan became the Apostle of the Ath Cliath, instructing and giving hospitality to the men of the south and the north. St. Michan is mentioned in A Calendar of Irish Saints as “Michen of Cill-Michen in Atha Cliath,” and his feast is the 25th August.

The Parish of St. Michan may justly claim to be the oldest Parish in Dublin, for, although the Parochial system did not become general prior to the Norman invasion, this particular district had attained something like parochial autonomy a full century earlier.
The first Roman Catholic chapel in St. Michan' s Parish was the chapel within the Convent grounds, later known as the Richmond Hospital and more recently, the Metropolitan Courts. The next chapel, or “Mass House,” was erected by Father Nary about 1730. It was on the south side of Mary's Lane, north-west corner of Bull Lane. This lane has ceased to exist; but the site of Mary's Lane Chapel is still in existence, and is now looked after by the Office of Public Works.

After the death of Father Nary at his lodgings in Bull Lane in 1738, the chapel was served principally by members of the Jesuit Order, who, when their Order was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV., became secular priests and assisted in all parochial duties.

Before 1745 most churches in Dublin were makeshift affairs, usually converted stables, lofts and warehouses. As long as they were unobtrusive, such place of worship were tolerated and ignored. But an accident in 1745, while Mass was being said in a house in Cook Street, revealed their inadequacy. When the floor gave way under the weight of the packed congregation, several people, including the priest, were killed. The resulting shock and negative public opinion encouraged the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Chesterfield to give permission for proper chapels to be opened.

By 1770, the city had fourteen chapels, including six parochial chapels: St. James’s (Watling Street), St. Catherine’s (Dirty Lane), St. Andrew’s (Townsend Street), St. Paul’s (Arran Quay), St. Mary’s (Liffey Street) and St. Michan’s (Bull Lane).[1]

The last pastor of Mary's Lane Chapel, Father Wall, seeing it was fast becoming a congested area, called in the assistance of his parishioners to assist him in procuring a site for a new church and presbytery. Amongst those most prominent in their efforts to assist Father Wall was Captain Bryan, of Jenkinstown, who gave £300 and £200 yearly for himself and son until the church would be completed. As a favour to him his family arms were emblazoned in the porch at the entrance of the church, where they still remain.

This Church, which is situate in a backward street (off North King-street), known as North Anne-street, on the northern side of the River Liffey, although fast approaching the first centenary of its foundation, is better known to our general readers by the more familiar name, “Anne-street Chapel.” Since the Reformation down till the middle of the present century, all Roman Catholic places of worship were designated Chapels, to distinguish them from the Churches, a more lofty term which was applied solely to their Protestant rivals, as by law established. Even at the present day, Roman Catholics, in general, do not call their Chapel a Church. The name Chapel was not confined to Roman Catholic places of worship: it was also applied to the places of worship of those who differed with, or seceded from, the Protestant Church. Hence we find the word Chapel is also applied to the places of worship used by the Presbyterians, Independents, Methodists, &c. Now although this narrow use of the term is obsolete, since all places consecrated to Divine worship may properly be called Churches.[2]

The principle façade of St. Michan’s Church in North Anne Street was completed in 1817 and was built in a subdued but attractive Gothic style, very similar to the façade of SS Michael and John just across the river. The finely chiselled granite masonry, Gothic doors and windows and public clock is not easily seen since it is hidden by taller more modern buildings. While the North Anne Street entrance is used on a daily basis, the beautiful façade often goes unnoticed by motorists, pedestrians and churchgoers alike.

The more elaborate façade and tower on Halston Street were erected in 1891 by G.C. Ashlin. The contrast between the two façades was commented upon by Peter Costello ‘the contrast between these two faces [of the church] tells the whole story of the Catholic Church in Dublin during the nineteenth century, a movement of obscure plainness to a dominant extravagance.’[3] There are two entrances to the church from Halston Street

Next door to St. Michan’s Church in Halston Street is George's Hill Convent. This was the first Roman Catholic school permitted legally to be opened in Dublin, such “Papist” institutions being forbidden by the Foreign Education Bill. This provision was repealed in the reign of George III.

The convent was founded by a Mary Mulally, the daughter of a humble provision dealer at the corner of Beresford Street, in Mary's Lane. She commenced at first in a small outhouse opposite the old chapel in Mary's Lane, where on Sundays and holy days she taught as many of the poor children as she could collect around her.

God blessed her work, assistance coming to her from unexpected quarters. She went to Cork to consult with Miss Nano Nagle, who had just founded the Presentation Order in that city. On her return, with the zealous help of Father Mulhall, funds were collected, and the land for George's Hill purchased. In 1787 several houses were erected for schools, and in seven years after, 1794, the convent and chapel were formally opened.

Amongst the many members of the Jesuit Order attached to St. Michan's in its early days was Father Mulhall. He divided his time between the service of the altar and the education of youth. By his exertions the small and inadequate schools were enlarged, so that close upon 800 were daily educated therein. He was attached to St. Michan's Parish for a period of close upon 40 years. He died at his residence in George's Hill, next to the convent (of which he was the first chaplain) in December, 1801. His remains lie beneath the Convent Chapel, and, at his own request, without any inscription.[4]

For the past 120 years the good Sisters of this convent, “far from the madding crowd” of the busy city, brought solace and comfort to the poor in this district; let us in our individual capacity help them to carry on their good work.

[1] Dublin – The Fair City, Somerville-Large, Peter. p.140

[2] The Parish of Saint Michan (1948), Ronan, Very. Rev. Myles

[3] Dublin Churches:, Costello, Peter

[4] Life in Old Dublin, Collin, James (July 1913) Chapter 5

[5] Life in Old Dublin, Collin, James (July 1913) Chapter 5

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St. Paul's, Arran Quay

St Paul’s dates from 1835-37, was designed by Patrick Byrne, and is one of the most prominent buildings on the city quays. Patrick Byrne was a prominent church architect of the time and was also responsible for St Audoen’s on nearby High Street. A fine portico with four Ionic columns fronts the church to the river in a very prominent site, especially for a catholic church which were usually sited on quieter back streets. The tower was completed in 1843 and gives the church a visibility along the quays except from the east where it is blocked by the dome of the Four Courts. It is currently under the care of the Office of Evangelisation.

The strong design has three large doors, of which the centre and largest leads to the church proper, which the other two leading to fine toplit stairwells which go to the balcony level. Recently railings have been added between the columns to prevent vandalism, but our photograph predates their addition. The portico is topped by three statues.

Inside the main door is a large entrance hallway with a mosaic floor (above) and a further internal wooden porch under the balcony. This leads to the main body of the church.

For some time following the closure of the Church of the St. Paul, the Community of Sant'Egidio used the church as a base. The Community of Sant’Egidio began in Rome in 1968, in the period following the Second Vatican Council. Today it is a movement of lay people and has more than 50,000 members, dedicated to evangelisation and charity, in Rome, Italy and in more than 70 countries throughout the world. The Community of Sant’Egidio is a “Church public lay association”. The different communities, spread throughout the world, share the same spirituality and principles which characterise the way of Sant’Egidio:

Prayer, which is an essential part of the life of the community in Rome and communities throughout the world. Prayer is central to the overall direction of community life.

Communicating the Gospel, the heart of the life of the Community, which extends to all those who seek and ask for a meaning for their life.

Solidarity with the poor, lived as a voluntary and free service, in the evangelical spirit of a Church that is the “Church for all and particularly the poor” (Pope John XXIII)

Ecumenism, lived as a friendship, prayer and search for unity among Christians of the whole world.

Dialogue, recommended by Vatican II as a way of peace and co-operation among the religions, and also a way of life and as a means of resolving conflicts.

The Community has as its centre the Roman Church of Sant’Egidio, from which the Community takes its name. From its very beginnings, the Community has maintained, in the area of Trastevere and in Rome, a continuous presence of prayer and welcome for the poor and for pilgrims.


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St. Mary of the Angels, Church Street

There are three branches of the Order founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209; the Friars Minor, the Conventuals and the Capuchins. The Capuchin branch first appeared in 1525, and in 1618 Pope Paul V declared it to be a completely autonomous branch of the Order founded by St. Francis.

The Capuchin Order came to Ireland in 1615 and settled in Thomas Street, Dublin. In 1624 they moved to Bridge Street. They were expelled from here, and later, from a house at St. Audoen’s Arch. They came to Church Street shortly after the Battle of the Boyne (1689), settling first at the spot now occupied by The Tap Bar. Shortly afterwards they built a small “Mass House” where the present Church of St. Mary of the Angels stands. This was enlarged in 1796 and became “Church Street Chapel”. In 1881 the present church replaced the old chapel of the Penal days.

The present St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, in the revived Decorated Gothic style, is one of the most beautifully designed churches in Dublin. It consists of a long narrow nave without aisles, with a semicircular apse and a remarkable wooden ceiling. The outside view of the apse, from Friary Avenue, should not be missed.

The foundation stone for the present church was laid by Cardinal Cullen in 1868 on the site of the former church, and it was completed in 1881. The architect was James J. McCarthy, a distinguished Gothic Revival exponent, whose works include the cathedral at Monaghan, the noble chapel at Maynooth, St. Michael’s, Dun Laoghaire and St. John’s, Tralee.

James Pearse, father of Padraig and Willie Pearse, two of the Irish patriots who were executed in 1916, designed and built the high altar and reredos. Fittingly, he incorporated several angels in golden mosaic and marble into the sanctuary. There are four mosaics on the reredos depicting St. Louis of France, St. Laurence of Brindisi, St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Two statues, one of St. Clare and one of St. Felix of Cantalice, also adorn the reredos.

The altar front has a carving depicting the granting of the Portiuncula indulgence to Francis. Christ, Our Lady and Francis are surrounded by angels in this beautiful marble carving. The pulpit has depictions of St. Anthony and St. Clare, and the chair and baptismal font were added to commemorate the Jubilee Year 2000.

There are two side altars, one to Our Lady, decorated with depictions of the Annunciation and the Visitation: and the other to St. Francis of Assisi which has scenes from the life of St. Francis.

Over the sanctuary there are five very attractive paintings which deserve mention. These are St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Bonaventure, Our Lady of the Angels, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Margaret of Cortona. Again the painting of Our Lady is surrounded by a profusion of angels.

The oil paintings depicting the Stations of the Cross are unique in Dublin, if not in the country. They may well be the first to have Irish inscriptions or titles.

Franciscan saints grace the walls of the sanctuary and stand out from the side walls of the church. These include St. Laurence of Brindisi, St. Felix of Cantalice, with his beggar’s bag; St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Bernardine of Siena with the I.H.S. (because of his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus) and St. Bonaventure with the cardinal’s hat.

The church is narrow in proportion to its height and length. The reason for this is that the friars, at the time, possessed only this constricted site (62ft. x 164ft. x 61ft.) on which it stands. The roof was pitched so high because of the need for ventilation, and so the church got one of its most striking aspects, namely the very fine ceiling, which was stripped back to its natural state in 1975. There is a large attic above the high ceiling, which proved to be an occasional but effective hiding place for patriots during the war of independence.

There are shrines in honour of Padre Pio, St. Anne, The Infant of Prague, The Little Flower, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Divine Mercy, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and of course St. Anthony.

On the outside, the statues of St. Francis and St. Clare on either side of the statue of Our Lady on the façade of the church are by Leo Broe, head of a well known family of sculptors in Dublin. The cut stone used in the building of the church came from Carraig Quarry in Co. Kildare.

The Apostle of Temperance, Father Theobald Mathew often celebrated Mass here. Other well known names of Capuchins who worked at Church Street friary were Frs. Aloysius, Albert and Augustine who attended the 1916 leaders immediately prior to their executions. Frs. Columbus and Canice as well as Br. Brendan were also well known.

The apostolates of the community of Capuchin Franciscans living in Church Street include Capuchin Foreign Mission support, Chaplaincy to the Legal Profession and the Day Centre for the Homeless.

This church was chosen as one of the pilgrim churches during the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress as recognition of the work undertaken in the Day Centre for the Homeless – a centre where the Eucharistic is witnessed on a daily through the practical nourishment of the poorest of the poor.

The Centre was founded by Br Kevin Crowley in the early 1970’s as a Capuchin response to the problem of homelessness with the simple objective ‘to relieve the hardship endured by homeless people’

For over thirty years the Capuchin Day Centre, has been providing hot meals, food parcels, clothing and day care facilities for homeless and needy people, six days a week, completely free of charge. More recently, medical and counselling services have become available. The Centre operates from the rear of the Capuchin Friary in Church Street

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