11 December: St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Every day throughout Advent, we'll be introducing a different cathedral from around the UK and occasionally beyond

St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Denomination Anglican (Church of Ireland)

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Building began 1220

About the cathedral St Patrick's Cathedral is built on the site of an ancient well thought to have been used by Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint. Construction of the medieval cathedral – probably modelled on Old Sarum Cathedral near Salisbury – began in 1220.  Since then the building has weathered storms and fires, and undergone plenty of rebuilding and repairs with a major restoration taking place in the 19th century. Demoted to a parish church under Edward VI, it was promoted back to cathedral status in 1555.

Apart from being Ireland's largest cathedral, St Patrick's has several other claims to fame. In 1560 one of Dublin's first public clocks was added to the tower, while in the 1700s the Dean was Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. And on 13 April 1742, the choir (established in the 13th century) joined with that of Christ Church Cathedral to give the premiere of Handel's Messiah.

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Did you know?  The phrase 'to chance your arm' may find its roots in an event that took place at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1429. During a violent feud between two Irish families, the Butlers of Ormonde took refuge in the cathedral's Chapter House. Their opponents, the FitzGeralds of Kildare, followed them to make peace. The Butlers were afraid of what might happen if they came outside, so the story goes that Gerald FitzGerald had a hole cut through the door, stuck his arm through and offered his hand in peace. The two families reconciled, and today visitors to the cathedral can see the 'Door of Reconciliation'.