Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

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Bust of Jonathan Swift, the cathedral's most well-known dean.
Cathedral memorial to 16th century dean, Thomas Jones.

The Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral is the head of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, elected by the Chapter of the cathedral. The office was created in 1219 or 1220, by one of several charters granted to the cathedral by Archbishop Henry de Loundres between 1218 and 1220.

For centuries, the Dean of St. Patrick's was the only Dean in Dublin, and documents of those years often refer to him as the Dean of Dublin - but from around 1539, there was also the office of Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, which had been a Priory, headed by a Prior and Canons.

Election[edit]

The right to elect the Dean of St. Patrick's is vested exclusively in the Chapter of the Cathedral (though pre-1870, there could be an exception where a vacancy occurred due to promotion of the Dean to the office of a Bishop), and has been defended against monarchs and even the Pope. The Archbishop of Dublin has one of the 28 seats (the Dean plus 3 other dignities plus 24 canons), used only at the time of election, but no other special authority.

Holders of the office of Dean[edit]

The following have served as deans (where they are known to have previously held office at the cathedral, this is noted):

Pre-Reformation[edit]

In this period, the Pope attempted to assume the power to appoint the Dean, nominating one Landulph, Cardinal of St. Nicholas. The King of England resisted this, and it was eventually conceded that the Chapter alone could choose the Dean - but see the 1401 appointment.

Post-Reformation to Disestablishment[edit]

The Reformation took effect in Ireland following a hiatus in the office of Archbishop of Dublin after the death of Archbishop Alen in 1534, and the election of George Browne to that office by the Chapters of both Cathedrals under pressure from King Henry VIII.

  • 1537-1547 - Edward Bassenet, a sitting prebendary, for whose election pressure was exerted by the State, Archbishop George Browne writing to the King that the Chapter had elected him "only in respect of your Grace's desire"

From 1547 to 1555, St. Patrick's was suppressed as a Foundation, reduced to the status of a parish church, without its Chapter or Dean - the Dean and other senior officials being pensioned off by the King. It was restored in 1555.

1649-1660 - office vacant during period of Parliamentary governance; a Robert Chambers was appointed "Reader at St. Patrick's" following Dean Culme's retirement

Note that from 1846 to 1872, the office of Dean of Christ Church was united to that of Dean of St. Patrick's.

  • 1864-1889 - John West, Archdeacon of Dublin

Post-Disestablishment[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • London, G. Bell and Sons, 1924: St. Patrick's Cathedral Dublin; Bernard, J.H., former Dean of St. Patrick's, later Provost of Trinity College Dublin and Archbishop of Dublin

References[edit]