St Patrick's Cathedral is one of Ireland's best-known and largest cathedrals. Saint Patrick is said to have baptised people here at a well beside the River Poddle. The river still runs under St Patrick Street near the Cathedral.
This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of Ireland’s best-known and largest cathedrals. Saint Patrick is said to have baptised people here at a well beside the River Poddle. The river stills runs under St Patrick Street near the Cathedral.
The stone which had marked the well was found in 1901 and is now kept inside the cathedral.
A small wooden church has stood here since around 450 AD. Later on in the thirteenth-century the cathedral was built in its place but it was renovated so many times since that very little of the original building is left.
In the 1860s the Guinnesses paid for an extensive restoration of the cathedral. Some people did not like what they did and St Patrick’s became known as ‘the brewer’s church’ but without the money from the Guinness family St Patrick’s would not have survived until today.
Around 1220 St Patrick’s was made a cathedral, which meant it became the main church of the area with a Dean. Dublin now had two cathedrals belonging to Church of Ireland, Christ Church being the other one. There was much rivalry between the two. The dispute was settled in 1872 when St Patrick’s was made a national cathedral, representing all the dioceses of Ireland, and Christ Church became the cathedral for Dublin alone.
The most famous person associated with St Patrick’s is Dean Jonathan Swift (1667–1745). He wrote many books, but his best-known work is ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. It is said that he liked to be fit and that he ran up and down the stairs several times each day. Swift was greatly loved by ordinary Dubliners and when he died it took two days for them to file past his coffin.
Another famous Dean of St Patrick’s, Dean Pakenham, paid his gambling debts by selling off the fireplaces.
When you visit St Patrick’s Cathedral, you will see a door inside with a hole cut into it. This is how the hole came about: In 1492 two rival lords, the Earl of Ormonde and the Earl of Kildare, had a quarrel inside St Patrick’s. The Earl of Ormonde was followed by the Earl of Kildare, and locked himself in the chapterhouse (this is where the cathedral staff lived) but they soon made peace. To seal the agreement they had to shake hands but the Earl of Ormonde would not come out as he did not trust the Earl of Kildare, so a large hole had to be cut into the door to allow them to make up. The Earl of Ormonde put his arm through the hole, hoping his enemy would not cut it off, but he need not have worried: the Earl of Kildare grabbed his enemy’s hand and shook it warmly. This is where the phrase ‘to chance your arm’ comes from.