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St Michael's church
© St Michael's church

Rev. Thady Lynch P.P. built a church on this site between 1779 (when the foundation stone was laid) and 1781 when the church was opened on 29 September 1781. There is a stone in memory of Fr. Lynch in the south transept. The Arthur family owned the land on which the church was built and would not allow any houses to be built on the site. In 1881 this church was rebuilt under the supervision of Mr M. Morris and cost £7,400. During the building of this new church human remains were found, which are believed to have belonged to the defenders of the city in 1690 during the siege of Limerick. The remains were re-interred under the altar to the Sacred Heart in 1881. While the church was being built, mass was said in the Town Hall from the summer of 1881 until Christmas Day 1882.

Plaque erected at Denmark Street to commemorate the rebuilding of the church in 1881
© Plaque erected at Denmark Street to
commemorate the rebuilding of the church in 1881

When the church was built, the landscape of the city was vastly different to the present day as open fields surrounded St. Michael's church. The church is situated at the bottom of Chapel Lane but the entrance to the church is from Denmark St. The church was further enlarged in 1805. It is an Italianate church with Romanesque features.

Archangel Michael water font  St Christopher water font
© Holy water fonts of St Christopher and Archangel Michael

A church bell was acquired and was first used in the church on January 1st 1815. One of the two Holy Water fonts at the side entrance shows the Archangel Michael slaying the Dragon while the other shows St. Christopher fording the river whilst holding the infant Jesus. The bell tower is capped by a very striking gilt representation of Satan being vanquished by the Archangel, St. Michael.

Crucifixion scene  Pieta
© Crucifixion scene and Pieta

As you walk into the church, there is a monument to the Crucifixion of Our Lord while to the left of this monument there is another statue of the Pieta. On the far wall on the church there is a small statue of Mary teaching Jesus to read. The stained glass windows in the church are plain.

As you walk up the left-hand aisle of the church, there is a scaled model of St Michael's church.

Model of St Michael's church  Plaque to Patrick Arthur
© Model of St Michael's church and Plaque to Patrick Arthur

There are two large plaques in the church and both are situated in the left transept. The first plaque, which cost £300, is to the memory of Fr. Patrick Hogan. It was commissioned after his death in 1838. In Fr Hogan's will he left £2,000 to the Park College, which was used to build St. Munchin's College.

The second monument is to Patrick Arthur, and was erected after his death in 1779. Prior to the church renovations in 1881, the flagstone was over his grave in the centre of the church. The people of the parish erected the monument at a cost of £300.

Monument to Fr Hogan  Altar in St Michael's church
© Monument to Fr Hogan and Altar in St Michael's church

On the left of the main altar there is a shrine to Pope Pius X. The baptismal font is also on this side of the altar. Over the main altar there is a large crucifix. To the right of the main altar is the tabernacle, which is on an altar donated by Mary O'Donovan and her late husband Anthony. This altar depicts a scene from the Last Supper. On the right hand side of the church, there is a print of the portrait of Blessed Oliver Plunkett and a picture of the Mother of Perpetual Succour.

Side Altars in St Michael's church  Side Altars in St Michael's church
© Side Altars in St Michael's church

Fr. Hogan asked John Gubbins to paint the Crucifixion over the Virgin Altar in the church. The inscription over the North transept door dates from 1805 while the inscription over the south transept door dates from 1779. The north transept was added in 1805.

Font stones in St Michael's sacristy  Font stones in St Michael's sacristy  Font stones in St Michael's sacristy
© Font stones in St Michael's sacristy

Many of the features in the original St. Michael's church were sent to Raheen and Donaghmore chapels in 1881. The two side altars in the church, the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin Mary were both removed. The High Altar, the altar rails and the church bell were sent to Raheen chapel around this time too. In 1881 the three old font stones were removed into the sacristy where they can be still seen to this day. The three stones represent scenes from the Crucifixion and the Last Supper along with a stone commemorating Fr. Patrick Hogan.

Holy water font of St Patrick  Holy water font of Madonna and child
© Holy water fonts of the Madonna and Child
and of St Patrick

In the mortuary chapel there are two Holy Water fonts: one of the Madonna and Child, the other of St. Patrick.

The tabernacle shows the Archangel Michael.

Statues in St Michael's church  Statues in St Michael's church
© Statues in St Michael's church

The interior of the church is today plain and simple but in the past the church was referred to as the 'chapel of statues' due to its large numbers of statues. Further renovations took place in St. Michael's during 1967/68. Nearly all the statues have been removed in the last 30 years. The high altar was similar to the altar in St. Joseph's parish church and its present whereabouts is unknown. The high altar stands on the site of the old sacristy from 1779. A side altar shows a scene from the Last Supper and may have once been part of the old high altar.

The chalices and ciboria of St Michael's
© The chalices and ciboria of St Michael's

Extensive records dating back to the establishment of the church are kept in the sacristy of the church. There also exists in the sacristy an extensive collection of chalices and ciboria, which were donated by parishioners over the centuries.

Record Books in St Michael's
© Record Books in St Michael's
Record Books in St Michael's  Only surviving feature from original church
© Record Books in St Michael's and only surviving feature from original church

This feature of the main altar is the only believed link from the original church in 1779 through the renovations in 1805, 1881 and 1967/68 right through to the present day.

Before that, there was a church to St. Michael the Archangel was built on an island where the Abbey River spread out above Baal's Bridge. From old maps and drawings of Limerick City, this island was situated between Englishtown and Irishtown. This area was outside the city gate called West Watergate.

The church was probably originally built by the Normans as they had a great devotion to St Michael. It was likely to have been in the grounds of the graveyard that is now across the street from the Granary building in Michael St.. This church was in ruins by early in the seventeenth century and was totally dismantled prior to Cromwell's siege of 1651.

old photograph of St Michael's  old photograph of St Michael's of the altar prior to restoration
old photograph of St Michael's  old photograph of St Michael's
© A number of old photographs of St Michael's,
including one of the altar prior to restoration
Photographs courtesy of St Michael's Parish

The earliest mention of St. Michael's is in the Black Book of Limerick in 1205. It was originally a prebandal but this ended during the 13th century when it became part of the Archdeaconry of St. Mary's Cathedral in 1418.

In 1735, Dr. Pierce Creagh arrived from Rome with a papal bull for the Catholic Archdeaconship of the parish. However, as the parish and its parishioners were so poor and could not support a priest, Dr. Creagh did not take the parish.

From 1781 to around 1816, the priests lived in Robert Street, which was next to the sacristy. The priests of the parish also lived in Sexton Street House. Each house was home for two priests. Edward Thomas O'Dwyer was a curate in the parish from c.1875 to 1886 and later became the Bishop of the diocese from 1886 until his death in 1917.

Buried within the church are:

  Patrick Arthur (died 1779), Died 1779
  Dean Thady O'Flynn, Died 1813
  Fr. Pat Hogan, Died 1839

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