During the Celtic/Danish period a church or shrine to St. Catherine existed in this area. Indeed devotion to St. Catherine of Alexandria was very strong throughout the country, and her feast day was observed as a holy day of obligation up until the 16th century. The first documentary evidence of the existence of a church of St. Catherine is found in the "credi mihi" in 13th century, where the church is mentioned as a chapel of ease of the monastery of St. Thomas which was founded in 1177.
In the early part of the 13th century the population of this part of the city was growing (remember that Meath street and James' street, etc were then the suburbs of the walled city of Dublin) and so for administration puproses, the churches of St. Catherine and St. James were made independent of the monastery of St. Thomas.
This arrangement seems to have continued right up until the Reformation, with the priests from the monastery of St. Thomas being repsonsible for the parishes of St. Catherine and St. James. The Reformation brought huge chages. Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of all the monasteries in England and Ireland and the monastery of St. Thomas did not escape. In 1539 the last Abbot Henry Duffy handed over all the property of the monastery to the Crown - the manor, lordship and cells of St. Catherine at Leixslip and Kilruddery, as well as the churches of St. Catherine and St. James. These lands and properties were given to William Brabozon and to his descendants, the Earls of Meath. For his trouble in handing ove the pporperty the Abbot received a pension of £42 a year (big money in those days). Now the parish of St. Catherine and St. James were united together again for administration purposes and remained so until 1724
Te early years of the Reformation seemed to have made little difference to the clergy of the Parishes. The same clergy continued in their roles. This situation changed in the early Elizabethah period with the coming of Thomas Williams who was intent on introducing the Reformation to the united parishes. For the next fifty years or so there is no record of catholic activity in the area. There can be little doubt that the faith continued to be practiced, but certainly not as openly as in the early years of the Reformation.
The beginning of the reign of King James is charachterised by the persecution of catholics. There are accounts of the Bishop of Dublin, Dr. Matthews, having to escape over the roofs from "priest hunter" and how the first parish priest of St. Catherine's since the suppressioin of the parish 1539, Fr. Donnagh, was arrested with many of his parishioners in 1617
For the next hundred years or so the fortunes of the clergy and people waxed and waned depending on the intensity of the persecution at any particular time. However the faith continued to be taught and mass said. In 1630 the Protestant Archbishop Buckley gives accounts of the existence of a "mass house" over a butchers shop in Thomas Street and also of the existence of a catholic school in Thomas Street and Pimlico. The changing polictical situation continued to have its effects on the parish, but documentary evidence would suggest that the faith was practiced.
In 1724 the parishes of James' Street and Meath street were divided for adninistration purposes. At that time the chapel of St. Catherine existed at Dirty Lane which is now the top of Bridgefoot Street. This chapel was extended in 1728
By the end of the eighteenth century the chapel was considered to small and a new octangonal chapel was built on Meath street on the site of the present church. A red bricked priests house stood in front of this chapel. In the 1820's a new school was built beside the church. That school was the building that is now referred to locally as the "Old Bingo Hall".
By the middle of the 198th century Catholicism was basking in the new found confidence of Catholic Emancipation and had embarked on a huge building programme throughout the country. In 1852 the foundation stone of the present church was laid. The Church was opened in 1858 by Dr. Whelan, the bishop of Bombay. Two near priests houses were added in the 1860's at a cost of £700 each. Various stained glass windows, a new porch and carvings in the nave were added. In 1958 the centenary of the opening of the church, the present church tower was completed.
In 1974 due to the expansion of the Diocese and the opening of many new parishes in the suburbs and already declining number of clergy, the Augustinian Orede were asked to take over the administration of the parish that continues to this day.
On the 2nd January 2012 an arson attack on the church which started in the crib caused over 5million euros damage to the interior. The restoration of the church is continuing and you can look at photos and updates elsewhere on this site.