Photographer's Note

Pictured here is the Four Courts situated on Inns Quay overlooking the River Liffey in North Central Dublin. It would be one of Dublin's most iconic buildings with its unique drum and shallow dome a noticeable part of the city skyline from many places.

The building is Irelands main court house, being home to the Dublin circuit court, the high court and the Supreme court. It was also home to the central criminal court until 2010 when a new criminal court was built in nearby Parkgate street.

The original designs of this building were by Thomas Cooley who designed it as the Public Records office of Ireland. After his death, the work passed to James Gandon, and the four courts is considered one of Gandon's greatest projects in the city, along with the Customs House and the Kings Inns.

Constructed between 1776 and 1786, its Neoclassical design has long been a much loved architectural icon in Dublin's landscape. When built the complex contained the courts of Chancery, King's Bench, Exchequer and Common Pleas which gave rise to the name of the Four Courts, but even though the courts system in Ireland has changed a number of times since, the name has remained.

The most eye catching element of the building is the central drum and shallow dome which is visible from many areas of the city center and is very prominent from many angles as you look down the river Liffey. At 64 feet wide, it is easy to spot and even featured on the old Irish 20 punt note before the introduction of the euro.

Before the dome stands an impressive portico with Corinthian columns. Standing atop this are three sculptures. Moses in the center with Mercy and Wisdom standing on either side. These sculptures are by Edward Smyth.

Like many of Dublin's finest buildings, the Four Courts saw great destruction due to the ravages of war. In 1922 the Irish civil war struck after the signing of the Anglo Irish agreement in 1921. This caused a split in the Irish Nationalist movement and those that opposed it took the four courts as their military headquarters in April of the following year. It became the HQ for those known as the rebels.

The Irish army began the bombardment of the courts on June 28th, and this marked the onset of the Irish civil war. The ensuing fires and artillery attacks on the building all but destroyed Gandon's original structure and it was essentially demolished. The worst loss incurred was that of the Records office housed here, and it is said that during the devastation, irreplaceable records of Irish history rained down on surrounding streets, still smoldering from the fires.

The drum however did survive and a team of architects spent 10 years rebuilding the iconic building. The Corinthian columns surrounding the drum had been shattered in the onslaught. It was found that because they stood independent of the dome and had been carved on all sides that they could be removed and rotated so that the damaged parts faced inwards, exposing to street view the still finely carved details from what was the back of them. The dome was rebuilt using cast concrete.

Although what we see from the outside today is perfectly true to Gandon's original designs, the interior of the building is what suffered most. Numerous statues and carvings of judges and famous lawyers were lost forever, and the detailed stucco work inside the dome has never been replaced.

Despite its violent history, the building still stands today as one of the finest on the River Liffey and is one well loved by Dubliners and visitors alike.

Some features of the building are very specific to Gandons work, and feature in many of his great buildings. Like the Customs House and the Kings Inns, the building features a dome, and blind arch windows. All were originally built facing water too, although the canal lock facing the Kings Inn has since been filled in and become a park.

Thanks for looking!

Photo Information
Viewed: 1987
Points: 36
  • None
Additional Photos by Noel Byrne (Noel_Byrne) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4177 W: 26 N: 9240] (33774)
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