The Dominicans came to Dublin in 1224, only three years after the death of St. Dominic. The Archbishop of Dublin, Henry de Londres had been present at the Fourth Lateran Council in Rome in 1215, where he may have met St. Dominic and certainly met St. Dominic’s great sponsor, Pope Honorius iii; he likely invited the friars to Dublin where they were given a chapel on the north bank of the Liffey, for the price of one candle a year. For three centuries the Dominicans of St. Saviour’s flourished.
A mark of their popularity among the people is the fact that the feast of St. Dominic was one of only four days in the year when the streets of Dublin had to be cleared of all pigs, which probably means that the feast was marked by a festal market or a religious procession. The medieval Dominicans also took part in the attempted foundation of Dublin’s first university in 1312. The monastery was suppressed by Henry viii in 1539 and the building eventually became what is today The Four Courts.
The Dominicans went underground in Dublin, but imprisonment, slavery and martyrdom did not blunt their devotion in the following centuries until, in 1861, they could consecrate the present church of St. Saviour’s in Dominick Street. Ireland’s most prolific architect of the nineteenth century, J.J. McCarthy, graced them with a magnificent gothic church which, even following the loss of much of its artwork over time, still impresses and inspires. The magazine The Irish Quarterly of 1858 writes of the church, built “not for a fashionable congregation, but for the poor, devout, toil-hardened population. From the long line of pure stone pillars, arches spring aloft; and windows and vaulted roof are rich with intertwining traceries.”
In 1974 St. Saviour’s became the parish church for the surrounding area and in 2000 was made the Studium for the formation and training of priests for the Irish Dominicans. A further major step in these years was the establishment of the Dominican Polish Chaplaincy in St. Saviour’s which today sees large numbers of Polish faithful attending Mass and services every week, along with Irish, Slovak, and Spanish-language congregations, making St. Saviour’s a truly international church in the heart of Dublin.