Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Lawrence O’Toole (1128–1180)

Saint Lawrence O’Toole (1128–1180)

Patron saint of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland

Feast day: November 14

Saint Lawrence O’Toole (in Irish, Lorcan Ua Tuathail) was born in County Kildare, Ireland. At the age of ten, Lorcan was sent to a tribal king, King Dermot, as a hostage for his father. King Dermot treated Lorcan badly until the abbot of the monastery at Glendalough interceded between the two families and brought Lorcan to Glendalough. When Lorcan’s father arrived at Glendalough to bring Lorcan home, Lorcan expressed his wish to become a priest and was allowed to stay at Glendalough.

He became abbot of the community and eventually Archbishop of Dublin. As Archbishop, he began a program of building churches and helping those who were poor and neglected. He fed the poor every day in his home and established care centers for children who had lost their parents or who had been abandoned.

He laid the cornerstone for the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (now Christ Church Cathedral, in the Anglican Communion). He often returned to Glendalough for retreats in solitude and prayer, using the same cave that Saint Kevin, the founder of the monastery, had used.

Renowned throughout his lifetime for his honor, integrity, and diplomatic skills, Lorcan died on his way to the Third Council of the Lateran in Rome. He is buried at Eu, Normandy, in France. His heart was returned to Ireland and is preserved in a reliquary in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. The reliquary (an iron heart-shaped box) was stolen in 2012 and recovered by the Irish police (Garda) in 2018. It had been buried in a local park, wrapped in plastic, and was not harmed in any way. It was returned to the Cathedral by a senior Garda at a special Vespers service.

A note on the art: This stained glass window with the figure of Saint Lawrence O’Toole is in the baptistery of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

(Image by Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons)