Disestablishment 150: A Virtual Tour

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By Caoimhe Leppard

Heritage Week 2021’s theme is Open the Door to Heritage. Disestablishment 150: A Virtual Tour opens the door to some of the Church of Ireland’s most iconic built heritage.

150 years ago, on 1st January 1871, the Church of Ireland was officially disestablished, meaning it was no longer tied to the Church of England or to the state. Disestablishment was a time of religious, political, and social changes – in which a formerly established church became a voluntary one – and walking through these buildings associated with that period can really help us flesh out this story and bring it to life in our times.

This virtual walking tour looks at the Cathedral of Christ Church Cathedral as a monument restored post-Disestablishment, a powerful symbol saying: “We are still here.” Dr Stuart Kinsella, Christ Church Cathedral’s Research Advisor, expertly provides the finer details of this elaborate restoration and the contribution provided by the distiller and patron Henry Roe and architect George Edmund Street.

We are also taken inside of the former Synod Hall purposely built after Disestablishment for the new democratic representation of clergy and lay, now home to Dublina. A visit to St Audeon’s provides us with an example of and insight into an Irish parish church during the time of Disestablishment. The final stop of the tour takes us to St Patrick’s Cathedral rebuilt and elaborately restored, due to the generosity of Benjamin Lee Guinness of the famous Guinness family, before Disestablishment as a bulwark to Disestablishment.

Restoration and preservation are a constant concern for the guardians of the Cathedral. We also speak to Cathedral Administrator, Gavan Woods, who shares with us the scale of the most recent restoration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest scale restoration the Cathedral has seen since the Guinness Restoration.

Many thanks to all those involved with the filming in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia, St Audeon’s, and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Caoimhe Leppard is Co-ordinator, D150 National Programme