John Ruskin, a great admirer of Pugin, described the Church of St John the Baptist and St Augustine (“John’s Lane”) as a "poem in stone".
Construction of the church began at Easter 1862 under the leadership of Fr. Martin Crane O.S.A., who was later appointed as the Bishop of Sandhurst in Victoria, Australia.
Construction took thirty-three years. One problem was that the foreman and many of the workmen were Fenians, who got in trouble with the authorities in 1865 and afterwards - for this reason the church was sometimes described as "The Fenian Church".
Although the church took from 1862 to 1895 to build, it was sufficiently completed to be used for worship from 1874 onwards, by which time the spire and the roof were completed.
The interior was completed in all its details by 1911. It is impressive, with its tall, profusely decorated French-style interior, its apsidal chancel (which took three decades to complete), its very beautiful stained glass windows (for example, the great windows over the entrance and the apse are both by Mayers of Munich) its rich mosaics and especially perhaps its wonderfully pinnacled reredos by Edmund Sharp.
A statue of Christ (see image on previous page) was placed over the main door of the church.
The church was blessed and formally dedicated in honour of Saints Augustine of Hippo and St John the Baptist in 1895.
A debt of ten thousand pounds sterling remained, out of an estimated total expenditure of 60,000 pounds, although permanent altars had not then been installed or the interior decoration completed. A magnificent main altar of white Carrara marble was later installed.
The church also features some magnificent leadlight windows, which come from the Harry Clarke studio and depict the life of St Augustine.
The additional portions of the church site itself cost over 3,000 pounds.
Money for the church building fund had been raised not only throughout Ireland, but from Irish emigrants overseas in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Sent to Australia for this purpose, Fr Edward Mooney O.S.A. collected 6,000 pounds in six years.
Fr Henry Allen O.S.A., an Irish Augustinians who had volunteered to minister in Australia for life, gathered another 3,000 pounds there.
Likewise funds were raised by visiting Irish Augustinians canvassing in the United States and Canada.
In Dublin itself, Brothers Stanislaus McCarthy O.S.A. and Nicholas O’Neill O.S.A. made regular door-to-door collections in Dublin, and raised 6,000 pounds.
(Continued on the next page.)
Picture 1: Entrance of John's Lane Church.
Picture 2: Steeple of John's Lane Church.
Picture 3: Rear aspect of John's Lane Church.
John's Lane: A History of the Augustinian friars in Dublin, 1280-1980. By Thomas Butler O.S.A. Published by St John's Priory, Dublin in 1983. 220 pages.
The Irish Augustinian Friaries in pre-Reformation Ireland. By F. X. Martin O.S.A. Augustiniana (6), April 1956: Augustinian Historical Institute of Louvain. pp 346-384.
A History of the Abbeys, Convents and Churches, and other Religious Houses of the Order… in Ireland. By W. J. Battersby. Dublin: G.P,