St. Patrick's Cathedral was founded in 1191, though a previous church stood on the same grounds as far back as the 5th century. It is the largest cathedral in Ireland and well worth visiting on any Dublin trip.
According to legend, the cathedral is built on the same site as a well where Saint Patrick baptized religious converts. Much of the cathedral's décor is an homage to the patron saint. Not much is known about Saint Patrick, but grave slabs from the 10th century were found near the church, one of which appeared to be covering the ruins of an old well. Many believe this may be Saint Patrick's well.
Through the years the cathedral had sections and structures added or removed, usually due to storms or fires. The current version of the tower dates back to 1394. In later years changes were made due to the English Reformation. Much of the cathedral fell into disrepair. Cathedral status was restored in 1555 and repairs began once again. By the early 19th century, St. Patrick's Cathedral was again neglected. From 1860 to 1865 there was a large restoration project. Now, collections from visitors are put toward maintaining the cathedral in order to prevent it from falling into disrepair again. This way, visitors for years to come can learn about the storied history of this church.
What to see
St. Patrick's Cathedral is an impressive structure both inside and out. Take your time to explore the building and the adjacent park. While no original windows are left in the cathedral, there are still intricate stained-glass windows to see, each telling a story. You might be able to catch the choir singing Matins or Evensong.
Visit the "Door of Reconciliation" on display in the church. This is a door with a hole cut in it, created by one family who was feuding with another. The head of one of the families wanted to place his arm through and shake hands to offer peace. This gesture let the other family know it was safe to end the feud. There are many significant monuments to view throughout the cathedral, including the oldest monument—a stone effigy of Fulk de Saundford, the first archbishop buried in the cathedral.
Entering the cathedral
You can visit the cathedral on your own to take in the decorative beauty and impressive history of the structure. There is a fee to enter which helps maintain the building. Guided tours and audio tours are available, if you'd like to learn more about what you see in the church. Worshipers can join the services for free.