Whether you’re religious or not, one of life’s little pleasures in The Liberties is to pop into one of its beautiful churches on a sunny morning to admire the surroundings and get a little bit of peace and quiet.
St Nicholas de Myra is possibly one of the city’s finest Classical churches. Built on the site of the original Friary of St Francis – which gave the street it’s name – this present building was constructed between 1829 and 1834, in that great wave of church building that followed Catholic Emancipation.
The church is full of visual treats: its gorgeous ceiling and dramatic colour scheme, wonderful stained glass windows and monuments, most particularly its striking Pieta and altar pieces, the work of renowned Irish sculptor John Hogan. Hogan later went on to become a sculptor of repute in Rome. Among the stained glasses is a work by Harry Clarke, probably the best-known glass artist of the 20thC.
Now a project by Dublin City Council and Francis Street Parish has restored the impressive main entrance to the churchyard from Francis Street. The four massive granite pillars now sparkle after an extensive programme to clean and repair the stonework and install elegant new lighting. Overseen by CORA Consulting Engineers and with the expertise of specialist contractors from The Nolans Group, the repairs included stone grafts to replace lost pieces, mortar repairs and sensitive cleaning to return the pillars to prime condition and safeguard these important features of the street. The ornate metal lamp mounts have been cleaned and now support two heritage lanterns, adding a touch of grandeur. The final finishes, including cleaning and repainting the original gates and connecting the lighting to the mains will be undertaken shortly.
The project was completed as part of the Francis Street Environmental Improvement Scheme which is set to transform the public realm of Francis Street over the coming year with widened pavements, street trees and planted areas, new lighting and street furniture and a more elegant and leisurely vibe. Two ‘threshold spaces’ will be created by stone paving and planting to the front of the Iveagh Market and the entrance to St Nicholas de Myra and the newly cleaned church gates add to the sense of a street under renewal.