St Mary's, Dublin (chapel of ease)

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St. Marys Chapel of Ease
St. Marys Chapel of Ease, Dublin
St. Marys Chapel of Ease, Dublin.JPG
Coordinates: 53°21′17″N 6°16′06″W / 53.354726°N 6.268267°W / 53.354726; -6.268267
Location St. Mary's Place
Country Republic of Ireland
Founded 1830
Consecrated 1830
Architect(s) John Semple
Architectural type Church
Style Gothic Revival
Closed 1962
Capacity 1000[1]

St Mary's Chapel of Ease, also known as "The Black Church", is a former chapel in Dublin, Ireland. Now deconsecrated, it was a church of the Church of Ireland located on St Mary's Place, Broadstone, Dublin. It is constructed from local calp limestone which takes on a dark hue when wet.[2] This is the origin of the building's nickname. A chapel of ease is a church building, other than a parish church, that is located within the bounds of a parish for the convenience of those who cannot conveniently reach the main church. The parish's main church, now also deconsecrated, was St Mary's on Mary Street.


The ground for the church was donated by the Viscount Mountjoy.[1] The church was built in 1830 to designs by John Semple of the Board of First Fruits. He was given many contracts by patron Archbishop McGee, during an intense building period when both denominations vied for control of the population.

Amongst the striking features of the church is how the interior is constructed. There are no interior walls but instead the exterior walls are arched towards the ceiling to create an interior of a large parabolic vault.[2] It was the culmination of a series of designs which Semple constructed around Dublin and countrywide over a 12-year period. As you view his work in year-on-year progression, the ideas develop and become more refined. For example, what began as a simple cross type motif over the main door, eventually became the fully expanded Semple 'Rose' window. The main door-way itself became one of his 'trademark' features, a tall, ovoidal gothic multi-leaved entrance.

There is much symbolism incorporated into his designs, the interpretation of which he left to our imaginations. There are no records of his thoughts.

Today, surrounded by paved streets, the striking building still sinisterly looms upon onlookers. Although it has a rather more innocuous aspect, perhaps helped by the fact that it is no longer a house of worship. The church was deconsecrated in 1962. After extensive modern refurbishment, is now occupied as offices.


Local lore says that you will summon the devil if you run around the church anticlockwise three times at midnight.[3]

Literary references[edit]

The Black Church is mentioned briefly in the novel Ulysses by Irish author James Joyce, in the chapter entitled 'Oxen of the Sun', as the location of one of Bello's many sins: He went through a form of clandestine marriage with at least one woman in the shadow of the Black Church. Joyce lived for a few months only yards from the Church in Broadstone, at 44 Fontenoy Street, one of the Joyce family's many temporary homes around Dublin. He stayed there with his son Giorgio from July to September 1909 and again alone from October 1909 to June 1910 while trying to set up the first cinema in Dublin.

It was the favourite Church of infamous English Poet Sir John Betjeman and the Dubliner Austin Clarke. Clarke mentions the local legend of ‘Old Nick’ appearing in his 1962 autobiography titled Twice Round the Black Church.[4]



  1. ^ a b Curry, William (1835). The picture of Dublin: or, Stranger's guide to the Irish metropolis. W. Curry Jun. and Co. p. 167. 
  2. ^ a b Costello, Peter (1989). Dublin Churches", Gill and Macmillan. p. 214. ISBN 0-7171-1700-6. 
  3. ^ "Local Legend on Archiseek". 
  4. ^ Twice Round the Black Church. 

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