St. Doulough's Church, County of Dublin

From The Dublin Penny Journal, Volume 1, Number 34, February 16, 1833


Sir,--The pursuit of architectural antiquities, which many of my cold, calculating prudential friends have stigmatised as idle and foolish, has had, at least one good effect,--it has, (if I may so speak) lifted me above my lot, and by giving full rational employment to my mind, has, I trust, in some degree saved me from temptations to which many of my class are exposed, and in the indulgence of which so many fall victims. It has also created a desire for useful knowledge, the gratification of which has opened up new sources of pleasure, has assisted mental improvement, and contributed materially to my peace of mind, and consequently my happiness; to this I could have recourse at any time, and often when the horizon of life has darkened around me, (for I too have had my difficulties) I have retreated to the study of antiquity as to a strong hold, and, by sketching a view, or inditing a description, have calmed my mind, invigorated my spirits, and given care his quietus.

But for you, Sir, it is probable these sketches and descriptions would never have seen the light; they, with their author, would in a short time have sunk into oblivion, and been forgotten; but you have kindly given a few of them publicity, and by your generous patronage and remarks, brought me before the public in a manner the most flattering, and which I am not at all conscious of having deserved, and the result is, as you remark in your 32d No., "the house painter of Ranelagh is now transformed into the schoolmaster of Raheny."

I hope it will not be conceived that these remarks are dictated by a spirit of egotism; far from it. I wish, in the first place, to express my gratitude in as public a manner as the obligation was conferred; and secondly, I am anxious to stimulate, by my example, many of the members of the profession to which I have belonged, to some exertion, and to duly appreciate their own value. There are numbers of house painters possessed of more talent than I ever could lay claim to, but unfortunately, they too often prefer talking to acting, or sketching on a tap-room table, to copying from nature; and by insensibly giving way to habits of dissipation, they undermine their constitutions, debase their minds, and ultimately destroy every glimmering of talent they may have possessed.

To these, particularly to the younger members, I would especially address myself, and endeavour to point out a source of rational amusement, which besides fitting them peculiarly for their business, may eventually become a substantial benefit.

We cannot in Ireland boast of many such religious edifices as are the pride and ornament of Britain. The state of insecurity in which our ancestors dwelt, exposed alike to domestic strife and foreign invasion, sufficiently accounts for this. Yet we possess religious remains such as no other country can shew, and which may be called indigenous.

The most prominent of these are the round towers, the original uses of which have occupied the attention of every successive generation of antiquarians from Giraldus Cambrensis to the present day. The next in order are the stone-roofed chapels and churches, the most remarkable or at least the most extensive of which is Cormack's Chapel, on the rock of Cashel, supposed to have been erected before the year 901. There are several others of this description in the kingdom; and having lately visited one, viz. St. Doulough's, in this neighbourhood, I take the liberty of sending you a drawing of it.[1]

Doctor Ledwich, in his antiquities, gives a view and description of this singular edifice, the latter of which I will take the liberty of transcribing.

"The Church of Saint Doulogh's, situated about four miles east of Dublin, on the road to Malahide, is a curious structure; it is 48 feet long by 18 wide. There is a double stone roof; the external which covers the building, and that which divides the lower from the upper story. You enter this crypt through a small door to the south. Just as you enter, the tomb of St. Doulough presents itself; the tomb projects so far into the room, that together with the stairs of the tower and the legs of the arches, it can contain but few people, it seems designed for no other purpose but the separate admission of those who came to make their prayers and offerings to the Saint. From this room, by stooping, you pass a narrow way, and enter the chapel. This is 22 feet by 12, and lighted by three windows, one to the east and two to the south; the arches pointed and decorations gothic; these, with the tower, are later additions. The roof is of stone, and carried up like a wedge; the stones which cover it are not large, but so well bedded in mortar, that after many centuries this roof admits neither light nor water."

Thus far Dr. Ledwich:--His description, it must be confessed, is meagre; but the fact is, to know St. Doulough's it must be seen, and as the distance is but trifling from Dublin, the gratification to be derived from its inspection will amply repay the trouble. There is also a beautiful octagonal well at the rere of the Church, which was formerly the baptistery, and which may probably form the subject of a future communication.

Some are of opinion this building is coeval with Cormack's Chapel mentioned above--namely, A. D. 901. while Doctor Ledwich contends it is not older than the beginning of the eleventh century, and that it is the work of the Ostmen or Danes, and dedicated by them to their favourite Saint Olave, of which name he says Julloch or Doulogh is a corruption. In my opinion both may be right. The western division is evidently much older than the tower or eastern end, which were probably added by the Danes in the age mentioned by Dr. Ledwich, to an original cell or crypt. The style of architecture is different, and each apartment has a separate stair, the windows, too, of the porch and eastern division are all different in design, and will be found on examination to consist in their ornamental parts and casings of disjointed parts and different mouldings. I have often thought, from seeing freestone chiefly employed in the ornamental parts of the churches and castles, in situations where it could not be obtained in the vicinity, that these parts ready prepared, formerly made an article of commerce, and were imported from England, Normandy, &c. These becoming the spoils of the piratical Danes, were here used promiscuously, and helped to form the extraordinary church of St. Doulough's.

ROBERT ARMSTRONG. Raheny, Feb. 1833.


The age of this very unique and remarkable building has occupied much antiquarian attention, and is still involved in great obscurity: but we cannot in justice to ourselves or to our readers enter into the subject in our present number, without exceeding the limits of an editorial note. We intend, however, very shortly to return to it, with other illustrations, necessarily connected with the investigation, and have no doubt but we shall be able to prove that antiquarians have strangely mistaken the period of its erection, which is accurately defined by its own architectural peculiarities.


[1] The view of St. Doulough's, at the head of this communication is not taken from Mr. Armstrong's drawing, which will be given in a subsequent number, along with others, as stated in the note at the end of this article. --EDIT