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Behind-the-scenes tour of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral

A place of spiritual significance for over 1,500 years, Saint Patrick's Cathedral is built on the site of an ancient well, used by the nation's patron saint when bringing Christianity to the first converts in the 5th century. There has been a church on the site ever since, but construction of the cathedral began between 1220 and 1260. Today it remains a magnificent example of Gothic architecture.

This private, behind-the-scenes tour is guided by a cathedral verger (caretaker) and gives an in-depth insight into the history and significance of the cathedral as well as offering access to areas not usually open to the public.

The tour begins at the cathedral entrance, you meet your guide and get an introduction to the history of the site and the building you see today. You then explore the cavernous but harmoniously proportioned interior with its spectacular decoration and learn about storm and fire damage over the years and how the cathedral was rebuilt on numerous occasions.

You also hear about the cathedral's changing fates, including how it was used for a time as a courthouse and, at one stage, as an elaborate stable for Oliver Cromwell's horses.You can see where the boys of the cathedral choir have been singing since 1432 and visit the exquisite Lady Chapel, which was used by French Huguenots who had fled persecution at home.

Among the cathedral's main funerary monuments is that of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, who was a dean here for over 30 years. There's also the Boyle Monument, erected by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in 1632. His five-year-old son Robert, who is mentioned on the inscription, went on to become one of the founders of modern chemistry.

Finally you climb a narrow, spiral staircase and your verger directs you through secret doorways above the nave, where you can get close enough to touch the elaborate stained-glass windows. You then explore the bell tower and venture out onto the roof of the cathedral for far-reaching views over the city. Below you, the immaculately laid out gardens sit on the spot of what was once one of the city's most notorious slums.

The tour lasts approximately one hour. Afterwards you're free to stay at the site and reflect on your tour or explore the public areas in more detail.

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Audley Travel Country Specialist Emily

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