Newman University Church

The Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, also known as Newman University Church or Catholic University Church, is a Catholic church in Dublin, Ireland.[1][2]

Newman University Church
Church of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom
Newman University Church Interior, Dublin, Ireland - Diliff.jpg
View of the interior. Its bright colours and marble arches on the wall make Newman University Church very unusual for an Irish church.
Newman University Church is located in Central Dublin
Newman University Church
Newman University Church
53°20′13″N 6°15′38″W / 53.336852°N 6.260539°W / 53.336852; -6.260539Coordinates: 53°20′13″N 6°15′38″W / 53.336852°N 6.260539°W / 53.336852; -6.260539
Location87A St Stephen's Green South, Dublin
DenominationRoman Catholic
DedicationMary, mother of Jesus (as Our Lady Seat of Wisdom)
Consecrated1 May 1856
Functional statusActive
Architect(s)John Hungerford Pollen (senior)
Architectural typeChurch
StyleByzantine Revival, Romanesque
GroundbreakingMay 1855
Construction cost£5,600
Length61 m (200 ft)
Width12 m (39 ft)
Materialsbrick, slate, marble, serpentine, alabaster, wood, copper
ParishUniversity Church
DeanerySouth City Centre
SacristanPat O'Kelly


Groundbreaking took place on the site of the gardens of 87 St Stephen's Green in May 1855. It was founded by John Henry Newman for the newly-founded Catholic University of Ireland, and designed by John Hungerford Pollen (senior) in a Byzantine Revival style, due to Newman's dislike of Gothic architecture.[3] It was consecrated on Ascension Day (1 May) 1856.[4] On May 4 (Saint Monica's Day), Newman preached in his sermon the essential place of the church in his plans for the university: "I wish in the same spots and the same individuals to be at once oracles of philosophy and shrines of devotion. [...] Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap."[5][6]

The Lady Chapel was added to the church in 1875.[7]

In 1907 it was the site of the funeral of the Fenian James Bermingham.

During the 1916 Easter Rising British soldiers established a machine-gun post on the roof of the church.[8]

Future Taoiseach John A. Costello married Ida Mary O'Malley in the church in 1919.[9]

Since 2016, the church has been stewarded by the University of Notre Dame, which uses the church as a base for the Notre Dame–Newman Center for Faith and Reason;[10] regular masses are still held there.[11]


Altar with an altar ledge occupying the only space between it and the wall

The church is accessed by a Romanesque porch in polychromatic brick, with a belfry suspended over it. There is then an atrium leading into the ante-church, nave and sanctuary.[12][13]

The interior is richly decorated with a baldacchino over the altar. The semi-dome above the sanctuary was inspired by the apse of the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano, Rome. There is also an arcaded gallery with screens and an elaborate pulpit. The walls are decorated with marble and serpentine from many parts of Ireland.[14] The empty undercroft represents the empty tomb, just as at Westminster Cathedral.[15]

Panorama of the interior


  1. ^ "University Church - Archdiocese of Dublin".
  2. ^ McCartney, Donal (1 November 1999). UCD: a national idea : the history of University College, Dublin. Gill & Macmillan. ISBN 9780717123360 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Martin, Brian (30 November 2000). John Henry Newman: His Life and Work. A&C Black. ISBN 9781441146410 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "POLLEN, JOHN HUNGERFORD # - Dictionary of Irish Architects".
  5. ^ Newman, John Henry (2012). John Henry Newman: Spiritual Writings. Orbis Books. p. 160. ISBN 9781608331413. Retrieved 22 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Bottone, Angelo (2010). Philosophical Habit of Mind: Rhetoric and Person in John Henry Newman's Dublin Writings. Zeta Books. p. 53. ISBN 9789731997629. Retrieved 22 January 2018 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ "I Woke Up And Heard The Machine Gun Fire".
  9. ^[bare URL]
  10. ^ Brown, Dennis (20 June 2016). "Notre Dame to steward Newman University Church in Dublin". Notre Dame News. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  11. ^ "University Church". Notre Dame–Newman Centre for Faith and Reason. 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Capitals, University Church (Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom), 87a St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2 - Built Dublin".
  13. ^ Dargan, Pat (15 November 2017). Dublin in 50 Buildings. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445677743 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "University Church - St Stephen's Green -".
  15. ^ McCarthy, Daniel; Leachman, James (20 July 2016). Come Into the Light: Church Interiors for the Celebration of Liturgy. Canterbury Press. ISBN 9781848257573 – via Google Books.

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