Christ Church Cathedral In Dublin: History, Tour + Handy Info

Christ Church Cathedral dublin
Photo left: Lauren Orr. Photo right: Kevin George (Shutterstock)

A visit to the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most popular things to do in Dublin.

Almost 1000 years old and founded by a Viking king, Christ Church Cathedral is virtually as old as Dublin itself!

It’s fair to say Christ Church has seen plenty of changes around town over the years and plenty of changes in itself too.

In the guide below, you’ll find info on its history, the tour and where to grab the skip-the-line  Christ Church Cathedral tickets.

Some quick need-to-knows about Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral tour
Photo by littlenySTOC (Shutterstock)

Although a visit to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Christ Church Cathedral can be found on Christchurch Place, just south of the Liffey in central Dublin. Its handsome Gothic nave is easy to spot and lies next door to another famous Dublin attraction, Dublinia.

2. When it all began

Christ Church Cathedral was founded in the early 11th century under the Viking king Sitruic Silkenbeard (amazingly, that is his real name!). Originally built as a wooden structure in 1030 with the help of an Irish priest, it was rebuilt in stone in 1172. 

3. Opening hours

The Christ Church Cathedral opening hours are: 10:00 to 18:00, Monday to Saturday and 13:00 to 15:00 on Sundays. Get the most up-to-date opening hours here.

4. Admission

You can buy a self-guided skip-the-line Christ Church Cathedral tickets from €7.70 here (note: if you book the tour here, we may make a tiny commission. You won’t pay extra, but we greatly appreciate it).

The history of Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral dublin
Photo left: Lauren Orr. Photo right: Kevin George (Shutterstock)

Founded by Dúnán, the first bishop of Dublin and Sitriuc, Norse king of Dublin, the earliest manuscript dates Christ Church Cathedral to its present location at around 1030.

Built on high ground overlooking the Viking settlement at Wood Quay, the original edifice would have been a wooden structure and Christ Church was one of just two churches for the whole city.

Future saint Laurence O’Toole took over as Archbishop of Dublin in 1162 and began a reform of the cathedral’s constitution along European lines (and laid the foundation stone for the next cathedral).

Life under the Normans

In 1172, the cathedral was rebuilt as a stone structure, largely under the impetus of Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (better known as Strongbow), the Anglo-Norman noble who invaded Ireland in 1170. Now resembling the structure we see today, Christ Church competed for supremacy with nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral

An agreement was arranged between the two cathedrals in 1300 by Richard de Ferings, Archbishop of Dublin. The Pacis Compostio acknowledged both as cathedrals and made some provisions to accommodate their shared status. In 1493 the famous choir school was founded (more on that later!)

Reformation

Changes came in the 16th-century when Henry VIII famously broke from Rome and chartered his own path. He dissolved the Augustinian priory of the Holy Trinity and established a reformed foundation of secular canons, as well as converting the priory to a cathedral with a dean and chapter.

The break from Rome was made ever clearer when in 1551, divine service was sung for the first time in Ireland in English instead of Latin. And then later in 1560, the Bible was first read in English.

19th and 20th centuries

By the 19th-century, Christ Church and its sister cathedral St Patricks were both in very poor condition and almost derelict. Thankfully the cathedral was extensively renovated and rebuilt between 1871 and 1878 by George Edmund Street, with the sponsorship of the distiller Henry Roe of Mount Anville.

A two-year renovation of the cathedral roof and stonework took place in 1982, further restoring Christ Church’s grandeur and helping form its lasting appeal today. 

Things to do at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin

One of the reasons that you’ll often hear Christ Church Cathedral described as one of the best places to visit in Dublin is due to the sheer number of things there is to see and do.

Below, you’ll hear all about The Crypt and the World Record Bells (yes, ‘World Record’!) to the architecture and much more.

1. See The Crypt and Treasures of Christ Church exhibition

At 63 metres long, Christ Church’s medieval crypt is the largest of its kind in Ireland or Britain and houses some stunning historic artefacts that are well worth checking out!

Of particular note is a beautiful royal plate given by King William III in 1697 as a thanksgiving for his victory at the battle of the Boyne. The Treasury also displays a rare 14th-century copy of the Magna Carta Hiberniae. 

One of the more bizarre ‘treasures’ features a glass display case housing a mummified cat in the act of chasing a mummified rat, frozen mid-pursuit inside an organ pipe from the 1860s.

2. The World Record Bells

dublinia
Photo via Google Maps

How much do you love the sound of bells? Well, if there’s one thing Christ Church isn’t short on, it’s bells. While bell ringing has been a part of life at the cathedral since its inception, it’s unlikely anyone back then would have thought Christ Church would be setting any records for its bells.

With the addition of seven new bells in 1999 in preparation for the Millenium celebrations, Christ Church brought its total number of swinging bells to 19 – the world’s highest number of change-ringing bells. Don’t let anyone tell you Christ Church doesn’t know how to make an entrance!

3. Outstanding architecture

Christ Church Cathedral bells
Photo by WayneDuguay (Shutterstock)

From vulnerable wooden beginnings, Christ Church turned into a far more formidable (and handsome) stone structure in 1172. Though it must be admitted that thanks to the cathedral’s descent in disrepair, what you see today is mostly the result of George Street’s Victorian restorations. 

For a glimpse into the distant past, however, check out the Romanesque doorway on the gable of the southern transept that dates all the way back to the 12th-century. The crypt is the cathedral’s oldest surviving part, while the eye-catching flying buttresses are probably its most impressive external feature.

4. Ireland’s finest choir

Tracing its origins to 1493 with the founding of the choir school, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral is arguably the finest in Ireland. With the largest repertoire of any cathedral choir in the country (covering five centuries!), the present choir is a mixed ensemble of around eighteen adult singers who sing at five cathedral services each week. 

As well as being in demand for various TV and radio broadcasts in Ireland and the UK, the choir has also toured extensively and has performed in concerts and at services in New Zealand, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia and the United States.

5. The guided tour

Christ Church Cathedral tour

The cathedral isn’t running guided tours at the present time, however information guides are available in several languages and of course you’re free to bring along your own guides. 

You find info on the skip-the-line Christ Church Cathedral tickets from €7.70 here (this is the self-guided tour).

Things to do near Christ Church Cathedral

One of the beauties of the Christ Church Cathedral tour is that, when you’ve finished, you’re a short walk away from many of the best things to do in Dublin.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from the Cathedral (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Dublinia (2-minute walk)

Christ Church Cathedral history
Photo left by Lukas Fendek (Shutterstock). Photo right via Dublinia on Facebook

Want to really see what Dublin was like back then? Practically next door to Christ Church lies Dublinia, an interactive museum where you’ll be able to travel back in time to experience Dublin’s violent Viking past and its bustling medieval life. You’ll also be able to climb the 96 steps of the old tower of St. Michaels Church and get some cracking views across the city.  

2. Dublin Castle (5-minute walk)

dublin castle tours
Photo by Mike Drosos (Shutterstock)

If Dublin Castle doesn’t really look like a traditional castle like you might see in a movie, that’s because the cylindrical Record Tower is the only remaining remnant of the old Medieval castle. It’s a fascinating place though and was the seat of British power in Ireland until it was handed over to Michael Collins and the Provisional Government of Ireland in 1922.

3. The Brazen Head (10-minute walk)

oldest dublin pub
Photos via the Brazen Head on Facebook

There are probably very few cities in the world with a pub that can rival the age of a near 1000-year-old cathedral! Claiming to date back to 1198, the Brazen Head on Lower Bridge Street is a seriously old watering hole that’s unsurprisingly one of Dublin’s most popular pubs and only 10 minutes from Christ Church. 

4. Endless other attractions

st patricks cathedral dublin
Photo by Sean Pavone (Shutterstock)

Thanks to its handy central location, there’s a ton of other spots you can visit when you’re finished at Christ Church. A short walk down Castle Street and Cork Hill will find you within spitting distance of Temple Bar’s bright lights. If you fancy a slightly longer walk then the Guinness Storehouse is around 15 minutes away, while the Jameson Distillery on Bow St is also 15 minutes but you’ll need to head north over the Liffey. 

FAQs about Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What religion is Christ Church Cathedral Dublin?’ (Roman Catholic) to ‘Why is Christ Church Cathedral important?’ (it’s one of Dublin’s oldest buildings).

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Christ Church Cathedral worth visiting?

Yes. This is a stunning building inside and out and it has a nice bit of history attached to it. Both the guided and self-guided tours are worth doing.

What are the Christ Church Cathedral opening hours?

The Christ Church Cathedral opening hours are: 10:00 to 18:00, Monday to Saturday and 13:00 to 15:00 on Sundays.

Where do you get the Christ Church Cathedral tickets?

In our guide above, you’ll find a link for buying the self-guided Christ Church Cathedral tickets online.

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