(c) @ DUBLINTIMEMACHINE
Holy magic stones don’t just reside on Father Ted’s Craggy Island. We’ve got one here in Dublin! There has been a place of worship on the site of Old St. Audoen’s church since medieval times.
That even more ancient chapel was for St. Columba. Audoen’s is the oldest surviving medieval church in Dublin with parts of it dating from about 1190 CE. The 17th-century tower contains six bells. Three of these are the oldest in Ireland and date from 1423 CE.
And with centuries of history comes more than a few mysteries. A 9th-century grave marker called ‘The Lucky Stone’ (an chloch ádh) was practically worshipped by the citizens of The Liberties. The granite slab is engraved with a Greek cross within a double circle. Believers claimed touching or kissing it cured illness and brought good luck.
In 1309 the Lord Mayor, John Le Decer, took the sacred stone from its resting place and reinstalled it up the road in the Cornmarket. He had just built a marble cistern there. It was the first public water fountain in the city and merchants and peasants alike felt the magic rock might enhance the popularity and health effects of Le Decer’s project.
But yet again this rolling stone gathered no moss. It vanished one night from the Cornmarket, only to reappear in Glasnevin Cemetery. It must’ve gotten bored again because its next new home was the historic Whitefriar Street Church. In 1826 it was stolen, possibly by visitors to the city, and was lost for years. The thieves who returned it claimed the object was cursed and became heavier the further from Dublin it was taken.
In the 1840s the Lucky Stone was discovered by a night watchman on a building site in Kilmainham. He claimed it began to glow in the dark and then gradually change into a human shape! When news began to spread, and members of the public began to flock to the site, workers began to tell tales of the stone speaking and screaming and moving of its own accord.
In 1888 the Rev. Dr. Alexander Leeper finally brought it home to Old St. Audoen’s. This time, to hamper any future escape bids, the Lucky Stone was held safely behind iron bars. Leeper was the Rector of the ancient church from 1859-94 and his ghost is said to patrol St. Audoen’s at night to protect the precious stone.
The site has played a role in Irish political life too. Oliver Bond of the United Irishman was elected Churchwarden of the church in 1787. James Napper Tandy, another United Irishman had strong ties to the place. He was born nearby in number 5 Cornmarket and baptised there in 1739. He was also a Churchwarden.
While nobody knows the true origin of the Lucky Stone, the church itself has a definite French Anglo-Norman connection that’s clear in the name. Audoen is the Gaelic spelling of “Ouen”. This ancient place is named after the 7th-century Bishop of R’Ouen, France, who is also the patron saint of Normandy.