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Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church

Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church

The Church run by the Carmelite order on Whitefriar street is a popular choice for couples, because it holds the remains of Saint Valentine.

Despite its drab external appearance, this 19th-century Byzantine building is worth visiting for its relaxing, peaceful atmosphere, and beautiful interior.

The church is cathedral like, with tall ceilings, impressive arches and decorative stain-glass windows. What makes the church most worth visiting, however, are its unique shrines.

Shrine of Saint Valentine

Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church

Valentine’s relics – bones and a small vessel tinged with his blood — were gifted to an Irish Carmelite named John Spratt in 1836 by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836. The remains are kept in a pretty shrine on the right hand side of the church. On 14th February each year, they are placed on the main altar.

Read more about the Shrine of Saint Valentine.

Shrine of Our Lady of Dublin with the Christ Child

The church also holds a life-sized black oak woodcarving of the Virgin, dating from the 16th century. The statue would have originally been brightly painted, but was later whitewashed over for, presumably for concealment. The removal of the whitewash in 1914 also unfortunately removed the underlying colours.

  • The statue was originally located in St Mary’s Cistercian Abbey, across Dublin’s River Liffey, in Mary Street.
  • When St. Mary’s Abbey was surrendered in 1539 due to the Dissolution of the Monasterie by Henry VIII.
  • Local legend says the statue was hidden and preserved, by being used, face down, as a shallow trough for pigs in an nearby yard, though there is no evidence to support this.
  • Hollowing the backs of wooden statues was a common method of concealment in an era of suppression, since it helped both to reduce their weight and prevent the wood from splitting.
  • The statue was eventually discovered by Carmelite John Spratt in a Dublin pawn shop in 1824. The original metal crown had been melted down and sold for the value of the metal.
  • The child’s outstretched arm was added as part of a restoration.

Shrine of St Albert of Sicily

In the main entrance off Aungier Street there is a  Shrine of St Albert of Sicily, the patron saint of Trapani.

On August 7th, Saint Albert’s feats day, a relic of the saint is dipped into the water of St. Albert’s Well.  The water is left in the Shrine, and visitors are free to take ‘Saint Albert’s Water’, which some believe to have healing properties.

Visitor Tips

  • Valentine’s Day is the one day when Whitefriar Street Church is crowded with tourists. If you want a less touristy experience, choose another date.
  • Be aware that this is still a functioning church. Be respectful.
  • If a mass has started, wait until it’s over to browse around so you won’t disrupt the service or feel awkward. A mass usually lasts no more than an hour maximum.

About Michael Heraghty

Michael Heraghty is a user experience designer who grew up in the beautiful county of Sligo in the West of Ireland. He now lives in Dublin, with his wife and three daughters.