A HISTORY OF ST. NICHOLAS OF MYRA


This extract is taken from "St. Nicholas of Myra and its two Architects", An Historical and Architectural Survey, authored by Millie Lawler. It is reproduced here with kind permission of the author.

"The present Roman Catholic Church of the parish of St. Nicholas, without the walls of Dublin stands on the site of the ancient Monastery of the Franciscans, from which Francis Street derives its name". This extract from the Register of St. Nicholas of Myra's church tells of the continuation of the religious occupation of the site, an occupation which  has lasted since 1235. The entry in the Parish Register (dated 1834) further relates that the site for the Franciscan foundation was granted by Ralph le Porter, and King Henry 111, who encouraged the establishment of the Franciscans, issued a liberate on 8th October, 1236 authorising payment of 10 marks to "forward the building of their Convent, in the suburbs of Dublin".

At the time of the suppression of the monasteries by Henry V111 the original Franciscan establishment was destroyed. However, the Order bought back the site in the 17th century and began rebuilding their church. The persecution which followed the 'Titus Oates' plot made it impossible for them to use this new church. At this time, the Parish Chapel was a ramshackle building in Limerick Alley. To replace this run down building, Archbishop Patrick Russell (1683-1692) acquired this new Church (built by the Franciscans) and made it his Pro-Cathedral. Sometime in 1686 Bishop Russell's brother or probably step-brother, James Russell, was

 


appointed Dean of the Chapter. He had been ordained in 1682. It may have been that, to mark these altered times, and lend splendour to the ceremonies, his brother, the Dean, presented the Archbishop with the handsome thurible and incense boat which still did duty in St. Nicholas, Francis Street. (1906)

Archbishop Russell was one of a number of Archbishops of Dublin whose Pro-Cathedral was located in the former Franciscan church in Francis Street. Their fortunes varied with the political situation, sometimes they enjoyed relative freedom, sometimes not. For instance, Fr. Edmund Byrne, was appointed Archbishop in 1707 (until 1723). The fact that he was consecrated in Newgate Prison by two bishops, Dr. O'Donnelly and Dr. O'Rorke, who were also prisoners there is a telling commentary on the times.

The last Archbishop to use the Francis Street Chapel as his Pro-Cathedral was John Thomas Troy, O.P. (1787-1797). He was solemnly enthroned on the 15th February, 1788 with due pomp and ceremony. When Dr. Clarke of the parish of St. Mary, Liffey Street, died, Archbishop Troy petitioned the Holy See for St. Mary's as his mensal Parish. He moved from his residence at 50, Francis Street (now demolished) to North King Street. Thus ended the Pro-Cathedral status of the Francis Street Chapel. It is worth noting that during this period the Isle of Man was included within the Diocese of Dublin, a fact that is commemorated in the ceiling decoration of the present church of St. Nicholas of Myra.

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Office: 01-4530387 9.30am - 12noon, rita@francisstreetparish.ie
Outside Office hours: 01-5611390, franciss@francisstreetparish.ie