Medieval Dublin differed from many other European urban centres of the same period in that there were far fewer parish churches and monasteries within its walls than in its hinterlands and even further afield. This is perhaps explained by the city’s Viking origins, but there are still a number of notable and significant churches that survive from early Dublin, including St. Audoen’s.
Constructed at the western side of medieval Dublin, St Audoen’s Church dates to the late 12th century. A 9th century graveslab was found on the site, indicating that St. Audoen’s may stand on the site of an earlier church. The church was dedicated to St Ouen (or St. Audoen) of Rouen, the Patron Saint of Normandy. The medieval parish churches of Dublin reflected the diversity of the population – as well as St Audoen’s for the Anglo-Norman inhabitants, there was also St Olave’s for the Hiberno-Norse, and St Werburgh’s for the English.
St Audoen’s Church was extended and modified many times over its history, though its nave is the only surviving remnant of a medieval parish church still in use in Dublin. The first phase was completed by around 1200, and was a relatively simple two-celled design, with a nave and a narrower chancel. The congregation entered the building through the decorative moulded doorway which was carved in a typical late-romanesque style. In the early years of the 13th century, a second phase of development at the church saw the chancel and nave combined to create one large room.
The next phase in the early 14th century saw major modifications at St. Audoen’s, with the development of an elaborate four bay arcade creating a new nave that nearly doubled the size of the church. Following this, a fifth bay was constructed in the arcade and a new chancel was added. The original Romanesque doorway was moved to a recess in the western end of the church, where it can still be seen today. In the 15th century a four storey bell tower was constructed at the western side of the church. This tower houses large bronze bells, one cast in 1423, making them the oldest church bells still in use in Ireland.
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