Once a place of marriage, christenings and funerals, this church is now a restaurant and bar.
The Parish of St Mary was the second parish to be established on the north side of the Liffey. Founded in 1697, it boasts connections with many of Dublin’s most famous citizens – and some musical superstars too. Theobald Wolfe Tone and Seán O’Casey were both baptised here. Arthur Guinness was married here – he’d be happy to know they serve a good pint of plain on the premises now. The church lay vacant for years before it was purchased by John Keating, restored and reopened as a bar. It changed hands again in 2007 and was named ‘The Church Bar’.
The basement once had six crypts; 32 skeletons were removed when it was excavated. Now, the only bodies down there are very much alive and kicking – well, dancing…
Even though it’s a bar and restaurant, you can still feel a certain churchly atmosphere about the place. It was one of the first galleried churches in Dublin – the surrounding balconies are known as galleries. This is where the choir would sit and the organ is up here too, where it would have overlooked the congregation. It was designed by Renatus Harris – he was about as famous in those days as an organ maker can be. The instrument was often played by Handel: the great composer was a regular visitor. It still has the original keys, the ivory worn down over time. The balconies are now filled with the dining tables of the ‘Gallery Restaurant’. Yep, you can still go to The Church for your bread and wine.
Sunlight from the intricate stained-glass window pours into the church during the day. Memorial plaques line the sides of the room, in memory of people buried on the grounds. You can take a wander around with a self-guided tour, found on the website.
Buried on the grounds are Mary Mercer, founder of Mercer’s Hospital and Lord Norbury, “The Hanging Judge” who ordered the execution of Robert Emmet in 1803. The graveyard to the southside of the side of the church had become so overcrowded by the mid-nineteenth-century that bodies were removed in order to make more room – to the outrage of the locals, of course. Eventually the Church of Ireland sold the graveyard to Dublin Corporation who later developed the site into Wolfe Tone Memorial Park. The gravestones are now stacked at the end of the park.
The bar runs through the centre of the church, a peculiar sight. It’s not often you can sit on a high stool with a pint, in the centre of a church. Interestingly, the Jervis shopping centre – which is just across the road – was built on the site of an old hospital. In fact the whole area was completely different to the shopping district we are now familiar with. It makes you think: a few decades from now, what else will have changed?
For more information visit thechurch.ie