With its rich, religious history, it’s unsurprising that the Irish capital is home to some fine churches. Walking tours are also becoming a popular way for visitors to experience the city’s impressive religious architecture.
Of Dublin’s veritable array of churches, the most famous and thus most visited are the landmarks of Christchurch Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The former, just a 10-minute stroll from the renowned Trinity College, holds the title of Dublin’s oldest building dating back to the 11th century. Its standing as the central church for the British empire (King Edward VI was crowned here) meant it was once a site of pilgrimage during the medieval period, when it was purported to contain a piece from the crib of Jesus. Today, its stunning location on a hilltop overlooking the quay, fascinating medieval crypt with its bizarre mummified rat and cat and Cathedral Café make it a popular stop on the sightseeing trail.
The late 12th century building of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is equally iconic, it was built in honor of Ireland’s patron Saint and holds the title of the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. An impressive feat of Gothic-style architecture and the burial sight of many notable Irish clergymen, it’s another worthy addition to the sightseeing list. There are plenty of other churches that make an impact. The gothic St. Mary of the Angels (St. Mary’s), dating back to 1095, showcases some fine mosaics and a 164-foot-high pine wood ceiling, and the nearby St. Michan’s depicts the seven sacraments in its glorious stained glass windows as well as holding the mummified remains of a crusades soldier in its vault. The 18th-century Anglican St. Ann’s Church showcases an eclectic mix of architectural styles and maintains its history of providing loaves of bread for the poor by continuing to keep a stock of bread for those in need. The 13th-century Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Dublin’s largest churches, containing relics of St. Valentine and a 16th-century oak statue of St. Mary and the Greek portico, the elaborate altar and neoclassical façade at the St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral are equally impressive.
If you can’t help but mix your sightseeing with some Guinness guzzling, make sure to pay a visit to the 19th-century St. James’ Church, standing by the site of St. James’s Gate (the departure point of Irish pilgrims heading to France and Spain in the middle ages), now home to none other than the Guinness Brewery (or the St James’s Gate Brewery).