Saint Catherine’s Church (CofI)
Image by Fergal of Claddagh
St. Catherine’s Church, on Thomas Street, in Dublin, Ireland, was originally built in 1185. It is located on what was once termed the "Slí Mór" (Irish: Great Way) – a key route that ran westwards across Ireland from Dublin. The church was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by John Smyth (or Smith).
The adjoining churchyard was closed to burials in 1894, and the church itself closed in 1966 due to a decrease in the local population. The church was de-consecrated the following year, and for a period was used by Dublin Corporation for exhibitions and concerts. After a period of decline, and later of refurbishment, St. Catherine’s was re-consecrated and has been the place of worship for the Anglican "CORE" church (City Outreach for Renewal and Evangelism) since then.
A church has existed on the current site since 1177. Originally a Catholic church, St. Catherine’s became a Protestant place of worship after the reformation, and another St. Catherine’s was founded in Meath Street to cater for the Catholic population – the last Catholic priest of the parish was a man named Ledwidge.
For a period the parish was shared with that of St. James, but these were separated in 1710.
The building that stands now was originally built between 1760 and 1769 to the designs of the architect John Smyth (who was also responsible for other works in Dublin at the time).
In 1803 the church was the site of Robert Emmet’s execution – and a plaque commemorating this remains today.
Into the 20th century, the Protestant population of the Liberties area of the city declined, and the church closed in September 1966. It was de-consecrated the following year.
St. Catherine’s was transferred for a number of years to Dublin Corporation, and was used for exhibitions and concerts – hosting artists such as Christy Moore and The Chieftains. It fell disused in the 1980s however, and the interior was vandalised.
In 1990 Dublin Corporation offered the church for sale as part of an inner city development plan. An Anglican group (City Outreach for Renewal and Evangelism – CORE) took on the refurbishment of the church in 1993, and the interior was largely restored by the end of 1998. In early November 1998 St. Catherine’s was reconsecrated and has been an active place of worship since then.
A noted authority on Dublin architecture, Maurice Craig, wrote that St. Catherine’s has "the finest façade of any church in Dublin". Its façade is built of mountain granite and has in the centre four Doric semi-columns supporting a pediment, and at the extremities coupled pilasters. Originally a spire was intended, but this was not completed – due to lack of funds.
Internally, St. Catherine’s is a galleried church (a type common in Dublin from the late 17th century) Architects Curdy and Mitchell restored the church in 1877 and during the following decade an interior reordering was undertaken during which the old box pews were replaced with open ones.
The crypt contains the remains of several Earls of Meath.
The churchyard and cemetery lies to the rear of St. Catherine’s. Originally dating to 1552, burials ceased in 1894. The cemetery is now a small public park.