St Doulagh's Church

St Doulagh's Church probably dates from the twelfth century. St Doulagh was an anchorite which means a type of hermit. A hermit would have hardly any contact with the outside world, eat only basic meals and spend the day praying.

This video is designed as a resource for primary and post-primary students up to Junior Certificate.

St Doulagh’s Church

On the way to Malahide, just off the Malahide Road and past Balgriffin Cemetery, stands a very old church. It  looks a bit like a medieval castle with its short and broad battlement tower, its steep stone roof and thick walls. The battlement was a low wall with openings for shooting the enemy.

The church probably dates from the twelfth century and was named after St Doulagh. St Doulagh was thought to have lived around 600 AD. He was an anchorite which means a type of hermit . A hermit would have had hardly any contact with the outside world, eat only basic meals and spend the day praying.

St Doulagh lived on his own in a cell either in the church or attached to it.

There were many anchorites and hermits. These would have lived on their own in the wilderness in the first few centuries of the Christian church. Later on they formed groups with other hermits and this is how monasteries came about. In Ireland, however, the tradition of hermits lasted longer than in other western countries.

It is quite likely that St Doulagh’s later on became a small monastic settlement. In fact, there are several rooms in the church which could have served as rooms for the monks to come together. This is what is unusual about St Doulagh’s. It doesn’t have just one room used for service like most other churches. It has several rooms on different floors, connected by stone steps. The stone roof is a double roof, the outer roof covering the building and the inner roof dividing the lower from the upper floors.

St Doulagh’s also has a leper’s window where people who had infectious diseases such as leprosy could be given communion through the bars. Leprosy is a disease of the skin and nerves which was common in the Middle Ages. Leprosy is mentioned in the Bible as well. 

Outside of the church grounds stands a low eight-sided building covering a well within a round stone basin. This building was used for baptisms. It is the only building left in Ireland where people were baptised outside of the church building.

Nearby is an open-air pool with stone seating which might have been used for baptising adults.

An extension was added to the church in 1864 but it manages to blend in well with the old church. St Doulagh’s is the oldest stone-roofed church still in use. It is used for services of the Church of Ireland.

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