Photo by Conal Thomas

His face was pained even before he lost his limbs, but still, time hasn’t been kind to St Andrew. The arms are long gone. His cloak is blackened.

He has stood alone in the grounds of the former church off Dame Street that bears his name for, it seems, more than 150 years.

There are different stories, though, as to how the old statue ended up there, in the state it is in.

Three Churches Later

“It’s a lovely building indeed, it’s fantastic,” says Maurice Heelan.

His architecture firm, Ashlin Coleman Heelan, worked on the redesign of St Andrew’s Church that was done before the Central Tourist Office moved in from 1996 until 2014.

“The fitting was done in such a way that it can be removed so the church can go back to its original state,” he said.

Heelan says that not much was known about the statue of St Andrew when they were working on the building. There was more documentation about the church, or rather, the churches.

The original St Andrew’s was located on Dame Street, 400 yards east of its current location, according to George Newenham Wright’s A Historical Guide to the City of Dublin.

That church eventually fell into disrepair, and, in 1793, construction began on the new St Andrew’s, according to Wright.

This incarnation of the church was the work of Irish architect Francis Johnson, who is best known for the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, according to Christine Casey, a lecturer in architectural history at Trinity College Dublin.

Today’s structure, known to many as “the tourist office”, wasn’t what that church looked like upon completion. The St Andrew’s that was designed by Johnson caught fire in 1860.

The Sculptor

So, take three.

After the blaze, St Andrew’s was remodelled and rebuilt in 1862 by Belfast-based architectural firm Lanyon, Lynn, and Lanyon. The new church cost £12,735, according to the Irish Georgian Society.

This third structure – the current one – was an active Church of Ireland parish until November 1993.

The statue of St Andrew seems to have made an appearance during the period when the second church was being built.

The Dictionary of Irish Architects (DIA) notes that on 6 June 1803, sculptor Edward Smyth estimated the cost of his materials and labour at £113 15s for a Portland-stone statue of St Andrew.

Smyth, a Dublin-based sculptor, was the go-to craftsman of his day.

Employed by Irish architects James Gandon and the aforementioned Johnson, Smyth is best known for his sculptures of Hibernia, Commerce, and Fidelity, which sit atop the Bank of Ireland on College Green.

What happened to his St Andrew has become the stuff of Dublin myth.

The DIA entry relating to 1803 notes that the statue of Saint Andrew was placed over the doorway of the church on 16 June 1804, but was “removed to the corner of the yard” after the church was rebuilt in 1862 following the fire.

The online Topographical Dictionary of Ireland notes, in an entry from 1837, that “at the extremity of the lesser axis of the ellipsis … is a statue of St. Andrew bearing his cross”.

So, along with his arms, he’s also lost his crucifix. (In the Bible, St Andrew was one of Christ’s twelve disciples, brother of Peter, and was crucified on an X-shaped cross.)

It seems the 213-year-old saint has been in what’s now a parking lot for around 150 years. But it is unclear whether it was the fire that damaged him, or contemporary toffs.

Divine Potshots 

In 2012, Dublin historian Donal Fallon wrote an entry on his Come Here to Me blog that detailed the doings of Daly’s Club, a private-members club based on Dame Street where politicians and aristocrats would carouse.

Fallon says that, according to Dublin historian Frank Hopkins, the statue of St Andrew was used as target practice by the members of Daly’s Club.

Whether the pistol fire of the landed gentry damaged St Andrew is unknown, but it’s become part of the mythos surrounding the club. It is also the version that the Tourism Board peddled when it was based there.

Frank Magee, who was in charge of what was then Dublin Tourism, says the statue was in a delicate state when he moved into St Andrew’s in 1996.

“At the time, we were quite conscious of it,” he says. “We were very conscious that it wasn’t something that could be messed about with. The fact that it actually had been damaged raised issues about the security and safety of [the statue].”

Magee says the bullet holes inflicted by Daly’s Club members are often mentioned in tandem with the battered St Andrew statue, but he can’t say for sure whether the statue was really shot.

In 2014, the Central Tourist Office moved out of the former St Andrew’s church and around the corner to Suffolk Street. The building is currently on the market to let.

Fáilte Ireland owns the former church, its fittings and the weathered statue of saint Andrew. It has a covenant with the Church of Ireland to retain the statue.

But what they, or any new occupants of the building, intend for the saint’s future remains to be seen.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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