In 1974 due to a falling population, the Parish of St Audoen’s was dissolved and the school handed over to the patronage of the Franciscans of Merchant’s Quay. They maintained their association with the school until 2005. St Audoen’s NS is now in the parish of St Catherine of Alexandria, Meath Street, Dublin 8.
The following text is excerpted from the “St. Audoen’s Church Visitors’ Guide,” © OPW, the Office of Public Works.
St Audoen’s Church is sited in the heart of the walled medieval city, St. Audoen’s has the distinction of being the only medieval parish church, retaining any original features, still in use within the city of Dublin. Situated on the north side of High Street, the principal street of medieval Dublin, the church is dedicated to St. Audoen or, in the French version, Ouen, the 7th-century bishop of Rouen and patron saint of Normandy.
On his death on 24th August 684, Ouen was buried in Rouen, and a great church was built on the site in the succeeding centuries. The Dublin church of St. Audoen’s was built between 1181-1212 while John Comyn was the first Norman Archbishop of Dublin. However, a 9th-century grave slab, now housed in the church porch, suggests that there may have been an even older church structure on the site.
St. Audoen’s, located in the commercial and industrial heart of medieval Dublin, was to become an institution very much in the mainstream of the civil and ecclesiastical life of the city. Early recognition of its status came in 1218 when Henry de Londres, Archbishop of Dublin, conferred responsibility for St. Audoen’s on the treasurer of the newly-established cathedral of St. Patrick, an association between parish and cathedral which continues to this day.
By the 14th century the parish of St. Audoen’s had become established as a settled and prosperous entity and the church was extended in the 15th century.
In the medieval church, private piety and the desire to ensure the safe arrival of the soul in Heaven after death led to the foundation of chantries (endowments for the maintenance of priests) and the endowment of altars. Against this background, the Guild of St. Anne was established in 1430 in St. Audoen’s.
One of the leading politicians of the time, Sir Roland FitzEustace, Lord Portlester, also founded a private chapel in St. Audoen’s dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A cenotaph, erected in 1482 by Sir Roland commemorating both himself and his wife Margaret, shows their recumbent effigies. The Portlester Tomb, now housed in the tower, would have been a focal point of his chapel.
In 1773, because of the declining congregation, the decision was made to remove the roof from the complete eastern end of the church. Fifty years later, the roof of St. Anne’s Chapel was also removed. In the mid-19th century, the church was further restricted in size when the present east wall and window were built; the parishioners gaining access through the tower.
The roofless section of the building was later vested in the State to be protected as a National Monument, now under the care of Heritage Services, OPW. Following a programme of restoration work, St. Anne’s Chapel was re-roofed and now houses an exhibition on St. Audoen’s.