The Four Courts

  • Free to visit
Building work on this Georgian building began in 1776 based on designs of architect Thomas Cooley. On the death of Cooley in 1784, work continued, to an enhanced design by the renowned architect James Gandon. Sadly, in 1922 during the Civil War much of the building was destroyed, and centuries of public records were lost. It reopened in 1932. Many courthouses are historic buildings and all are free for the public to visit where you can learn first-hand about the judicial process.

The Four Courts is the centre of legal life in Ireland. Located on Inns Quay in Dublin, the Four Courts houses the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court. The Criminal Courts of Justice on Parkgate St. officially opened in January 2010, replacing the Four Courts and other buildings as the location for most criminal matters.

The foundation stone for the Four Courts was laid by the Duke of Ruthland in 1786 and the first court session took place in 1796. This impressive building has a central block with an arched courtyard and end pavilion on either side. The portico is supported by six Corinthian columns and high above stand the statues of Moses, Justice, Mercy, Authority and Wisdom, with copper-domed colonnaded rotunda behind.

During the Civil War in 1922 bombardment destroyed the historic building. The west wing of the building was obliterated in a huge explosion, destroying the Irish Public Record Office at the rear of the building. Nearly a thousand years of archives were destroyed by this explosion, the ensuing fire, and the water poured onto the fire. In 1932, a restored and remodeled Four Courts was opened.

You can visit court buildings around the country when the courts are sitting. You are welcome to go into courtrooms and observe most cases.( You cannot go into courtrooms where the case is being heard in camera - this means that it is being heard in private.) Before you make a visit, look in the Legal Diary section of to find out what cases are listed for hearing.

Large groups should contact their local court office before visiting. School groups can visit the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) in Dublin on Parkgate St. and even carry out mock trials.

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