Lord Porlester's Chapel, Dublin

J. Stirling Coyne & N. P. Willis
c. 1841
Volume I, Chapter VI-6 | Start of chapter

We cannot attempt even a cursory description of the numerous other churches of every denomination with which Dublin abounds. Those who delight in antiquarian research will examine the interesting ruin called Lord Portlester's Chapel, which constitutes a portion of St. Audeon's Church, and contains, amongst many interesting monumental remains, the tomb of Roland Fitz-Eustace, Baron Portlester, erected in the year 1455, which is still remarkably perfect. The lovers of scientific inquiry will not fail to visit the vaults of St. Michan's Church, which are remarkable for a strong antiseptic quality, by which bodies deposited there some centuries since have been kept in such a state of preservation, that the features are still discernible, and the bones, cartilages, and skin astonishingly perfect. A minute description of these vaults was written by a professional gentleman of Dublin, about thirty years back, when their singular properties first attracted public attention. "The bodies," says he, "of those a long time deposited, appear in all their awful solitariness at full length, the coffins having mouldered to pieces; but from those, and even the more recently entombed, not the least cadaverous smell is discoverable; and all the bodies exhibit a similar appearance, dry, and of a dark colour.

The floor, walls, and atmosphere of the vaults of St. Michan's are perfectly dry, the flooring is even covered with dust, and the walls are composed of a stone peculiarly calculated to resist moisture. This combination of circumstances contributes to aid nature in rendering the atmosphere of those gloomy regions more dry than the atmosphere we enjoy. In one vault are shown the remains of a nun who died at the advanced age of one hundred and eleven; the body has now been thirty years in this mansion of death, and although there is scarcely a remnant of the coffin, the body is as completely preserved as if it had been embalmed, with the exception of the hair. In the same vault are to be seen the bodies of two Roman Catholic clergymen, which have been fifty years deposited here, even more perfect than the nun. In general, it was observed that the old were much better preserved than the young. A convincing proof of this was afforded in the instance of a lady who died in child-birth, and was laid in those vaults with her infant in her arms. Not long after, the infant putrified and dropped away, while the mother became like the other melancholy partners of this gloomy habitation." The headless trunks of the two ill-fated brothers, named Shears, who during the rebellion of 1798 were executed on the same day for high-treason, are amongst the ghastly relics of mortality preserved in these vaults.

Of the modern religious edifices St. George's Church is decidedly the handsomest in Dublin, although the union of the Grecian with the Gothic style of architecture which it exhibits has been much censured. The Roman Catholic church of the Conception, in Marlborough Street, is a splendid pile built in the Grecian style, with a portico of six Doric columns, in imitation of the façade of the Temple of Theseus at Athens. The grand aisle is inclosed by a double range of columns, so massive that they completely obstruct the view, and injure the fine effect which the simple grandeur of the interior would otherwise produce.