Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Reproduced with the kind permission of the Faculty of History of Art and Design and Complementary Studies, National College of Art and Design, Dublin.


This thesis examines the architecture of Dublin’s 19th century neo-classical Catholic churches. The period under examination starts in 1803 with the campaign to build a new church in the Archbishop’s parish for the Catholic inhabitants of the city. This church, which later became known as the Pro-Cathedral, was opened for worship in 1825, and completed 1841 with the building of its Greek Doric temple front. During this period work started on several more neo-classical churches.The first, after the Pro-Cathedral, was the Church of the Carmelite friary, Whitefriar Street, started in 1825. The series continued with Saint Nicholas of Myra, Francis Street (1829); Saint Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street (1829); Saint Andrew’s, Westland Row (1832); Adam and Eve’s, Merchants’ Quay (1834); Saint Paul’s, Arran Quay (1835); Saint Audoen’s, High Street (1841); and Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines (1850). The Three Patrons of Ireland, Rathgar, which was completed in 1862, looks back for some of its inspiration to the Pro-Cathedral. It was also the last completed work of Patrick Byrne and his patron the Very Reverend Dr William Meagher, thus bringing to a close this phase of neo-classical architecture in Dublin. The architectural language used for the churches was determined by the patrons and architects and the thesis examines the influences which determined this language. The influences include international neo-classicism, Roman classicism, the Greek revival, and traditional building methods. Important influences on the Dublin churches from Paris are the late 18th century basilican plan and temple fronted churches. Patrick Byrne was pre-eminent among architects in sustaining the neo-classical tradition in Catholic church architecture in Dublin from the 1830s until his death in 1864, and an important part of the thesis is an assessment of his contribution. Among the clerical patrons Dr Meagher made a significant contribution to the style and form of his two churches. The thesis examines the nature of his considerable influence, and that of other patrons. To match the architectural ambitions of the patrons, sufficient money had to be provided. The thesis explains how the money was collected and the essential part the Catholic laity played in providing voluntary work and the funds to build the churches.


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