Saint Saviour's Church

The Dominican Order and History of St. Saviour’s Church

The Dominican Order & History of St. Saviour’s Church

This year, 2024, the Irish Dominican Province is marking the eight centenary of the Order of Preachers first arriving in Ireland. The Dominicans arrived in Dublin 1224 and have had a presence in the city over the eight centuries which followed. Please find below a short account of the history of the Dominican Order and the history of St. Saviour’s Church.

St. Dominic and the Foundation of the Dominican Order

The Dominican Order was founded in the early thirteenth centenary by Saint Dominic. Dominic de Guzman began his religious life as a cathedral cannon in the Northern Spanish town of Osma. As part of his role as cannon regular, he was asked to accompanying his bishop Diego on a diplomatic mission to Northern Europe. It was during this diplomatic mission that he encountered the Albigensian heresy. In encountering this heresy and seeing how its false teachings were adversely affecting those who believed them and endangering their salvation, Dominic was moved with compassion for these people and began preaching to bring people back to the truth. Dominic seen the need for friars who would live together lives of poverty, prayer, study and preaching in order to be able to counter this heresy and lead people to true knowledge of God and his love and goodness as revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ. It was against this backdrop and in the working of Divine Providence, that the Order of preachers received papal approval by Pope Innocent ⅠⅤ in 1216. Saint Dominic was canonised in 1234 by Pope Gregory the ⅠX.

To find out more about the Dominicans in Ireland, please check out our website: https://dominicans.ie

To find out more about the Order worldwide, please check out the website: https://www.op.org

The History of St. Saviour’s

Foundation and Early Years

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 the Third; 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.

Cromwellian Persecution

The monastery was suppressed by Henry the Eight in 1539 and the building eventually became what is today The Four Courts. The Dominicans went underground in Dublin, ministering in various locations around the city but imprisonment, slavery and martyrdom did not blunt their devotion in the following centuries.

Present Church Building

In 1861, the friars 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.”

Recent Decades

In 1974 St. Saviour’s became the parish church for the surrounding area and in the year 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 the Irish and Spanish-language congregations, making St. Saviour’s a truly international church in the heart of Dublin.

More Information

To find out more about the history of St. Saviours, please see the link below to the 1961 centenary booklet written about the history of St. Saviour’s church. It will be available on the Irish Dominicans website in the near future.