Dominicans in Waterford
The Dominican Order was founded in 1216, eight hundred years ago, to combat heresy which was rife in Europe at the time. St. Dominic gathered a small group of men around him to pray, to study and to preach the Gospel to the people. At that time this was most unusual as only Bishops were allowed to preach. Ordinary priests were not permitted to do so. When the people saw these first Dominicans preaching openly in public they were amazed. They became popularly known as Friars (Brothers) Preachers.
The Dominicans arrived in Ireland in 1214 making two foundations, one at Dublin and the other in Drogheda. The following year they opened a third house, the famous Black Abbey in Kilkenny. Then they pushed on southwards and came here to Waterford in 1226.
But for all the hurry with which they came to Waterford it took nine years before they found a permanent home. Then they were given permission and a site on which they built a church and priory at Blackfriars, just inside the old city walls.
The ruins of the chapel and tower can still be seen off Conduit Lane.
There followed centuries of persecution and suppression during which the Dominicans were driven out of Waterford many times, but they always returned.
At a large public meeting in 1873 one of the priests made an impassioned plea “that the people of Waterford in the 19th century would do what their forefathers did in the 13th century: build for the children of St. Dominic a church that will be worthy of Waterford and a suitable temple to Almighty God “. The generosity of the response was spectacular. Work on the new church began in 1874 and it was opened for public worship in late 1876. The following year the church was consecrated on 2nd, December 1877 by Bishop John Power assisted by Bishop Thomas Croke of Cashel ( who gave his name to Croke Park ) and William Fitzgerald, Bishop of Ross.
Further improvements and additions came later to give us the church we have today, the Dominicans, Bridge Street, Waterford.