Dublin – Merchants Quay – Medieval Friary

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The site of the medieval friary was that of the Catholic Church in Francis Street.  There are no remains and all later sites were in the Cook Street area.

It would seem that a group of friars travelled to Dublin fairly soon after their initial landing at Youghal.  The early history of Dublin friars is obscure.  Some authorities suggest that the friars tried a number of sites before settling in Francis Street.  Henry III was a notable benefactor, if not the actual founder.  At least twenty three friars died there during the Black Death.  An Anglo-Irish foundation, Dublin friary did not accept the Observant reform of 1521.  It was an early target for suppression, but the community were able to continue in existence until 1543.

While individual friars may have continued in the city, it was not until 1615 that a community returned and took up residence in Cook Street.  Following a raid on the 26th December 1629, they had to find another house in the same area.  Expelled by the Cromwellians, the friars returned after the Restoration and tried to resume residence at their old site in Francis Street.  The little chapel they erected there served as the pro-Cathedral of Dublin until it was replaced by the present church of St. Nicholas in 1834.

In the meantime the friars returned to Cook Street where their church was in such a bad state of repair that it literally collapsed.  A new chapel was opened in 1749, almost back to back with the parish church of St. Michael.  In 1766 there were nine friars in the community, with another three on parish work in other parts of the city.  By this time the friars had obtained a small house on Merchants Quay.  To disguise the chapel, the entrance was through the Adam and Eve Inn, thus the popular name of the present church and friary.

The old church of St. Michael was purchased in 1815.  The foundation stone of the new church and friary was laid on the 16th April 1834.  The architect was Patrick Byrne.  Given the limited resources of the times, the original plan took over a century to complete and the church was not consecrated until 29th April 1939, by which time apse, dome, aisles, façade and shrines had been added to the original building.  As part of the re-organisation of the central Dublin parishes, the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Merchant’s Quay, to use the official title, became parish church of a new parish in 1974.

From 1975 some friars who were teaching in the technical schools lived in Millmount and Mountjoy SquareBroc House in Nutley Lane served as a student residence for former Gormanston pupils from 1967 until 1995 when it was used as a residence for Irish friars until it was sold in 2000.  Ballywaltrim, near Bray, became a Franciscan parish from 1976 to 2000. 

Dublin Merchants Quay Present Friary