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Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral (Dublin)

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Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral (Dublin)

Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral (Dublin)

© 2007 Bernd Biege licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

St. Mary's is Dublin's third cathedral after Christ Church and St. Patrick's (both Church of Ireland) and the metropolitan center of worship for Roman-Catholics. Central it certainly is, just a few steps away from O'Connell Street. But even though the grandiose building reflects the re-emerging Catholicism of its time, both location and ultimately unexciting appearance make this the one of the three Dublin cathedrals to miss if pressed for time - the old saying "two out of three ain't bad" fits. Unless you want to hear the excellent Palestrina Choir during Sunday mass


  • Center of Catholic Church in Dublin and a very lively cathedral.
  • Site and architectural style reflect re-emerging Catholicism after hard times.
  • Several interesting monuments.
  • Palestrina Choir usually sings at Sunday mass.


  • Tucked away in backstreets.
  • Architecture not too impressive overall.


  • Building started in 1815 in the "Classical Revival" style, then at the end of its tenure as leading style.
  • Interior is partly modeled on the basilica, a different style than the exterior suggests.
  • St. Mary's seems to have been planned without a dome, again breaking with the Classical (Grecian) style.
  • Correct and complete name is The Pro-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Guide Review - Saint Mary's Pro-Cathedral (Dublin)

St. Mary's ultimately is a stop-gap - even the appellation "Pro-Cathedral" reflects this. Built to have a great church for the Catholic bishop it never was intended as THE cathedral. Efforts were made to get one of the other cathedrals "back" (which led to bishop-less St. Patrick becoming a "National Cathedral"). Other plans involved building the real cathedral either in Merrion Square or on the North Quays. All these came to no fruition, so Dublin's bishops are still stuck with their pro-cathedral. A cathedral in all but name.

We do not even know who designed the building - the plans were accepted under a pseudonym. And the less than inspiring location (notice the pawnshops nearby) was chosen due to Protestant sensitivities ... the GPO was built on the original, far more prominent site on O'Connell Street.

Coming across like a copy of French churches and with a portal really too impressive, St. Mary's is architecturally unremarkable. Some late alterations of the plans (the cupola is an afterthought) and the re-vamping of the interior in line with liturgical changes did not really help.

So ... should one visit?

For most travelers the answer would probably be "Have a quick glimpse when you are in the vicinity anyway!" You won't miss much if you do not spend more than a passing glance. But if you are a music lover make a point to visit Sunday mass ... when the Palestrina Choir usually sings.

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