On a recent excursion around north Dublin I stopped of in Raheny to check out the ruins of an old chapel known locally as St. Assam’s. Well wasn’t I surprised to find that some bloody genius had built two of them side by side. The older of the two and the one in which I was interested in, lies smack bang in the center of the village. The newer one sits directly across the road. Both are no longer in use as another more modern church had been built.The Old Church was built in 1712AD and was later replaced in 1859AD.
There was settlement in the Raheny area dating back to Ancient, and it is believed a Christian establishment back to early Christian times in Ireland. The Parish of Raheny was erected in the 12th century, not later than 1152, more than likely under the Archdiocese of Glendalough. The church and graveyard rest on what looks to be a raised mound. With the fact that Raheny takes its name from ‘Rath Enna’ an ancient fort ruled by a chieftain known as Enna. I would strongly believe that the church was built directly on the site of this ancient fortification. The only mention of a church prior to 1712, was one from 1609AD, so it would be safe to assume that their was an earlier perhaps wooden church in the Area.
St Assam after which the church is named, was believed to have been a disciple of St Patrick.All that remain of the old church are the Gable end and some low wall remnants. The graveyard which surrounds the chapel has a number of interesting stones, most of which look to date back centuries and are unreadable. The church, graveyard and the mound on which they are situated are surrounded by a wall which is approx eight feet in height and comes level to the mound. On my visit here I was quite disappointed to find that the only way into the site was up some steps and sure enough there were a big set of wrought iron gates that were padlocked. No to be deterred I walked around the mound in search of a stile or some other form of access. Now I would not normally do this but as I was taking a shot over the wall my camera fell and I had to use my ninja training to scale the wall and retrieve it, honestly :-). Whilst I was picking up my camera a few shots must have fired off. But seriously, whenever possible it is always best to ask for permission especially when entering privately owned lands.
It has been said that Raheny was an important post in the battle of Clontarf and in 1040, Sitric, Danish King of Dublin, whom was known to have converted to Christianity, gave a gift of his lands at Portrane, Rathenny and Baldoyle to Donat, the first Bishop of Dublin. After the Norman invasion, the lands of Rathenny as they were then known were allocated by Strongbow to another well known Norman Knight named John de Courcey, who set out from Rathenny in 1177 to conquer Ulster. Later, after de Courcey had been put down, the de Lacy Family were Lords of Rathenny for a time. In 1189 the lands at Rahenny were part of the vast properties owned by the great religious house of St. Mary’s Abbey There is evidence of a small Chapel in Raheny in the 12th and 13th centuries and this probably fell into ruins after the suppression of the religious houses by King Henry V111. In 1781, a curious incident took place in this graveyard. A man named John Lonergan had been sentenced to death for poisoning his employer with arsenic but Lonergan bribed his executioner to help fake his death. His coffin was secretly filled with stones and buried in the graveyard while the man himself fled to America.