St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837


John Comyn, archbishop of Dublin, having erected a collegiate church for 13 prebendaries, in the southern suburbs of the city, on the site of an ancient parochial church, said to have been founded by St. Patrick in 448, dedicated it to God, the Blessed Virgin, and St. Patrick, and endowed it amply. Henry de Loundres, his successor, raised it to the dignity of a cathedral, consisting of a dean, precentor, chancellor, and treasurer, with thirteen prebendaries, increased its temporalities, and authorised the members to hear all pleas of their parishioners in their prebendal and economy churches.

From a taxation in 1227 the number of prebendaries appears to have been increased to 22, three of whom were added by Bishop Ferings. The controversy which arose between this cathedral and that of Christ-Church, as to the right of electing the archbishop, has been noticed in the account of the latter cathedral.

Among other privileges granted to the canons of this church by Henry VIII., was a dispensation from parochial residence on any other benefice, on condition of maintaining hospitality in the cathedral, but the establishment was soon after dissolved by the same monarch in 1546, together with the monastic institutions. Edward VI. disposed of the church and its appendages for a parish church, a seat for the courts of justice, a grammar school or literary college, and an hospital; the deanery was assigned for the archbishop's residence, and the lord-deputy took possession of the archiepiscopal palace; but this arrangement was revoked by Queen Mary, who at the beginning of her reign restored the cathedral to all its former privileges and possessions, by a charter commonly called the Charter of Restitution.

At present the chapter consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, the archdeacons of Dublin and Glendalough, and the prebendaries of Cullen, Swords, Kilmactalway, Yago, St. Audeon's, Clonmethan, Wicklow, Timothan, Mallahidart, Castleknock, Tipper, Tassagard, Dunlavan, Maynooth, Howth, Rathmichael, Monmohenock, Stagonil, Tipperkevin, and Donoughmore in Omaile. The dignity of dean has always been elective in the chapter, on the conge d'elire of the archbishop, except in cases of the promotion of the former dean to a bishoprick, the vacancy of the archiepiscopal see, or the neglect of the chapter, in which cases the appointment belongs of right to the Crown. The powers of the chapter in this regard were twice infringed upon, but they have been restored by their perseverance.

By the original charter and the statute of the 14th of Edward IV., the dean was constituted the immediate ordinary and prelate of the church of St. Patrick, and exercises episcopal jurisdiction throughout the liberties and economy thereof: he has a spiritual court in which his official or commissary, and a temporal court in which his seneschal general presides; and grants marriage licences, probate of wills, &c. The gross yearly revenue of the deanery, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, amounted to £1997. 8. 1. By the Church Temporalities Act the dean of St. Patrick's is to be dean of Christ-Church also; on the next avoidance of that deanery, he will be dean of Christ-Church without installation or induction.

The dean and chapter have the right of presentation, to the parishes of St. Bridget, St. Nicholas Within, and St. Nicholas Without. The dean, in right of his dignity, presents to the vicarage of Kilberry, and to the curacies of Malahide and Crumlin; the precentor and treasurer have the alternate presentation of the vicarage of Lusk, and the archdeacon of Dublin that of the perpetual cure of Booterstown, and three turns out of four of the united cures of Kilternan and Kilgobbin. The gross amount of the Economy fund, on an average of three years ending the 29th of Sept., 1831, was £3076. 2. 11. The archdeacon of Dublin had a stall in the chapter of the cathedral of Christ-Church, and a voice in the election of the archbishop, previously to his possessing the same in that of St. Patrick; but the archdeacon of Glendalough had neither of these rights until about the year 1267, when a new prebend was erected and annexed to the office.

An additional corporation of six minor canons (since reduced to four) and six choristers was established in 1431 by Archbishop Talbot, on account of the devastations of the lands of the prebends having rendered them insufficient for the service of the church: the first in rank he styled sub-dean, and the second succentor: he endowed the entire body with the tithes of Swords, except such portions as were especially allotted to the prebendary and perpetual vicar; and vested the appointment and dismissal of the minor canons in the dean and chapter, and of the choristers in the precentor. This arrangement was sanctioned by Henry VI. and Pope Eugenius IV., who fixed the rank of the minor canons between that of prebendaries and vicars choral.

In 1520 the minor canons and choristers were made a body corporate by charter. Archbishop Henry de Loundres, at the time he established the four dignitaries, instituted also the college of vicars choral, for whose common support he granted the church of Keneth (now Kinneagh), to which various endowments were subsequently added. The head of this college, styled sub-dean, or dean's vicar, enjoyed very considerable authority, possessing even a seat in the chapter, as also did the next vicar, called the sub-chanter, or chanter's vicar. They were incorporated by Richard II., and received their last charter from Charles I., who fixed their number at twelve, of whom five at least were to be priests, and the dean's vicar was to have a superior salary, and extensive power over the rest: the salary of the twelve vicars is directed by this charter to he apportioned by the dean and chapter, of whom the former enjoys the nomination to all vacancies; but out of the body thus appointed, the chanter, chancellor, and treasurer choose their respective vicars, as also does the Archdeacon of Dublin. The charter likewise secures to the Archbishop his ancient visitorial power; forms the college into a body corporate; confirms their ancient possessions; and binds them to pay a master of the choristers, and two singing boys in addition to the four choristers.

The Cathedral of St. Patrick is a venerable cruciform pile, 300 feet in length, of which the nave occupies 130 feet, the choir 90, and St. Mary's chapel 55: the transept extends 157 feet in length. The nave, the entrance to which is by a beautifully arched and deeply receding doorway, is 30 feet in width, with two aisles, each 14 feet wide, separated from it by octagonal pillars supporting plain Gothic arches of dissimilar arrangement but imposing appearance: it is lofty, and is lighted by a magnificent window at the western end, over the main entrance. In the south end of the transept is the chapter-house; the entire northern end is occupied by the parish church of St. Nicholas.

The monuments in this cathedral are numerous: among the most remarkable in the nave are those of Archbishops Smith and Marsh, and that of the Earl of Cavan, who died in 1778; and on two pillars on the south side are tablets to the memory of Dean Swift and of Mrs. Johnson, the celebrated Stella. The oldest monument is a mutilated gravestone to the memory of Archbishop Tregury, who died in 1471. In the choir are many monuments: that of the first Earl of Cork, and several members of his family, which is placed on the right side of the altar, is an unsightly pile of black stone of antiquated sculpture, with ornaments of wood, painted and gilt, exhibiting sixteen unconnected figures, representing as many individuals of the family. Similar in style are the smaller monuments, on the opposite side, of Thomas Jones, Archbishop of Dublin, and Roger Jones, Viscount Ranelagh, near which is a plain slab to the memory of Duke Schomberg, with a very caustic inscription from the pen of Swift.

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