Monday, 11 February 2013
A book launch in an inner city mediaeval church
I was in the Visitor Centre in Saint Audoen’s Church, Cornmarket, in inner city Dublin this evening when Professor Raymond Gillespie of the National University of Ireland Maynooth launched The Vestry Records of the Parish of St Audoen, Dublin, 1636–1702.
This new publication is edited by Dr Maighréad Ní Mhurchadha and this is the sixth volume in the RCB Library’s Texts and Calendars series published by Four Courts Press.
Professor Gillespie reminded us this evening that the story of Saint Audoen’s Parish is the story of late mediaeval Dublin.
Saint Audoen’s Church stands in the heart of the walled mediaeval city and claims to be the only remaining medieval parish church in Dublin.
The church is dedicated to Saint Ouen, the seventh century Bishop of Rouen and patron saint of Normandy. Most of the building is maintained by the Office of Public Works, whose Visitor Centre is open in the warmer months.
Even in the century after the Reformation, Professor Gillespie told us, the Guild of Saint Anne continued its links with of Saint Audoen’s Church.
This evening’s launch was a gathering of the great and the good among church historians and in church life. We talked about the dead and the living beneath the 17th century memorials to the Sparke and Seagrave families, which survived an order in 1673 to remove the tombs and tombstones from the church “to preserve the living from being injured by the dead.”
Saint Audoen’s was once the wealthiest parish in the city and for hundreds of years the church was frequented on state occasions by the Lord Mayor and Corporation. The chantry chapel of Saint Anne dates to 1430 and a grant from King Henry VI, and the monuments in the church include the 15th century tomb and effigies of Lord and Lady Portlester, who made generous grants to the church in prayerful thanks after he survived a shipwreck.
The tower and bells were restored in the1980s, and Saint Anne’s Chapel was later re-roofed and turned into a visitor reception centre, with included an exhibition on the history of the church.
The church continues to serve as a Church of Ireland parish church in the inner city, and we were welcomed there tonight by the Rector, Canon Mark Gardner, and the curate, the Revd Martha Waller.