In a letter to his trusted cousin the Chief Governor of Ireland, King John of England wrote: “You have given us to understand that you have no safe place for the custody of our treasure and because for this reason and for many others, we are in need of a strong fortress in Dublin.”
Originally built in the 13th century, Dublin Castle lies in the city’s center between Trinity College and Christ Church Cathedral. In earlier years, this same site had been settled by the Vikings. Despite being reconstructed several times, some of the initial Viking and medieval structures are still available to the public today.
Of the castle’s original four corner towers, the Medieval Tower and the base of Bermingham Tower are the only ones remaining. They were built under the reign of King Henry the third, approximately 1204 to 1228. Medieval Tower, also called the Wardrobe Tower or Gunner’s Tower, has served as the king’s personal closet, a treasury, and at one point a prison. The tower was also used as an archive for state papers from 1811 to 1989. It is currently closed and being restored to its original glory.
After a disastrous fire in 1684, the severely damaged property was reconstructed, but instead of keeping the castle’s medieval style, it was almost fully transformed to look like a Georgian Palace.
New rooms called the State Apartments were added to accommodate the Viceroy. Throughout what became known as “the season”, the Viceroy (and occasionally the visiting British monarch) hosted a series of festivities. These included events such as state balls, banquets, and regal ceremonies for members of the aristocracy.
The Anglican Chapel of the Viceroy was designed by Francis Johnston in the early 19th century and was opened on Christmas Day 1814. The Medieval Tower was revamped to match its Gothic style, implementing a higher roof and new masonry battlements. Though there has always been some place of worship for government officials within the castle walls, this one was renamed the Chapel Royal after King George lV attended a service in 1821.
Just outside the gates to the central courtyard, Lady Justice stands with “her face to the castle, and arse to the nation”. If you notice, her scale is also a bit tilted. In contrast to other sculptures of Lady Justice, she is smiling at her sword rather than holding it towards the ground. Adjacent to the castle is the Dubh Linn Gardens, marked by a Celtic symbol inlaid with brick.
After the Easter Rising of 1916 in the Irish War for Independence, the British presence in Ireland had finally come to an end after 700 years. The Last Viceroy of Ireland handed the keys to the castle and ownership rights over to revolutionary Michael Collins. Following his death 6 months later, it was decided that the castle would remain under the authority of the newly formed Irish State.
Since 1938, all of Ireland’s presidents have been inaugurated at St. Patrick’s Hall, one of Dublin Castle’s State Apartments. It has continued to be used for state receptions, and on occasion can be closed to visitors for important government meetings.