What could be more Irish than St Paddy? While the site has contained a church since the 5th century, where its namesake St Patrick reputedly baptised new Christian converts at an onsite well, the current St Patrick’s Cathedral dates from around 1220 to 1259. Crafted from local limestone and Bristol stone, the Gothic cathedral is in the shape of a cruciform and has evolved greatly over the years.
Surviving numerous storms and fire during the 13th and 14th centuries, after the English Reformation the cathedral became an Anglican church and was modified to suit. By the 19th century, St Patrick’s was in a state of dire disrepair and underwent restorations between 1860 to 1865, which included the addition of flying buttresses. Ireland’s largest cathedral undergoes regular restorative work to ensure the ancient church survives and the sacred and historic stories live on. In 1901, six 10-century Celtic grave slabs were found including one covering what looked like the remains of that ancient well. St Patrick’s Park, near the cathedral, was a crowded slum until its residents were evicted and the land cleared in the early 12th century.
The interior of the cathedral contains the 19th-century St Patrick’s stained glass window, which tells the saint’s life in 39 different images. Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745 and author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, Jonathan Swift’s grave lies within the cathedral with his self-written epitaph along with several other mementos including his death mask and a copy of his skull. Set to reopen in April 2013, the beautifully decorated Lady Chapel has undergone a year-long renovation. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the chapel was built in 1270 and includes a chair said to have been used by King William III as well as geometric floor tiles, monuments and stained glass windows.
Entry to St Patrick’s Cathedral is €5.5 for adults and free for children. Free guided tours of the site are available from Monday to Saturday between 10:30am and 15:30pm.To visit the cathedral, buses 27, 49, 54A, 56A, 77A, 150 and 151 service nearby Patrick and Dean Streets.