The Walls of Dublin
A speculative view of Dublin, its city walls and gates by Leonard Strangeways, 1904

Uncovering Medieval Dublin

Dublin is an old city, with a settlement established on the banks of River Liffey over 1,000 years ago. The area we know today as The Liberties is one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, its fascinating history intricately connected to that of the wider city.

Dublin grew from two small settlements in the 9th century (Ath Cliath – or ‘the ford of hurdles’ and Dubhlinn – the ‘black pool’).  The settlement really gained strength and prominence under the Norsemen or Vikings who arrived from about 840. The Vikings built a port here in the estuary of the River Liffey and it became their most important trading post in Ireland. In time Norse Dublin gave way to new invaders – the Anglo-Normans – and Dublin became a small city, surrounded by a large wall and included a castle, a cathedral, parish churches and a complex system of local government run by a Corporation and guilds. Today, the modern city has far outgrown its medieval origins, but there are still vestiges of the past there to uncover.

Heritage Hunting

St Thomas Abbey image
St Thomas Abbey

Rediscovering the Abbey of St Thomas

Did you know that the origins of the area we now call The Liberties was an abbey, established to the west of the city of Dublin in 1170 on the orders of King Henry II of England. The Abbey St Thomas the Martyr was endowed by the king with lands and privileges for what became known as the Liberty of St Thomas Court & Donore. The abbey continued until the 1530s, when another King Henry dissolved religious houses across England and Ireland as part of his religious Reformation. Find out more about the Abbey, why it was founded and the recent events to uncover its story.

Imagining the City of the Past

Its fascinating to compare the city of today with that of the past. This excellent animation gives a good indication of how Viking and later Medieval Dublin might have looked.

Credit: Medieval Dublin Online – The City Walls by Noho on Vimeo.

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