Dúnán, the first bishop of Dublin and Sitriuc, the Norse king of Dublin, founded the original 11th century, wooden Viking church. In 1163, Christ Church was converted to an Augustinian priory by the 2nd Archbishop of London, Laurence O’Toole (later made a saint).
Archbishop O’Toole was an important actor in Dublin’s history, and even acted as a diplomat in negotiations between the Dubliners and the Anglo-Normans invaders including Strongbow (Richard de Clare) following the capture of the city of Dublin in 1170.
An old tale says that the small tomb beside him is that of his son. It is said that he believed his son a coward and cut him in half in a rage, and that is why the tomb sculpture appears to show only the top half of the body. Great story but who knows if it’s really true!
During the Reformation In 1539, King Henry VIII converted the priory cathedral to his new “Church of England” and ensured Christ Church adhered to his new church structure.
In 1562 most of the cathedral collapsed, leaving only one nave wall standing, and immediately had to be repaired. Strongbow’s tomb effigy was destroyed and a new medieval replacement was supplied from Drogheda. Nobody knows if he is really in the tomb or not.
Interestingly, during the 16th and 17th centuries, Christ Church’s crypts were used as a market, a meeting place for business, and at one stage even a pub! I tried to imagine busy market and pub patrons bustling between vendor stalls which would have vied for space with elaborate tombs.