While undoubtedly boasting the title of Dublin’s most beautiful landmark, the majestic Trinity College Dublin harbors many secrets.

Established in the early 1500s, The TCD campus has had enough time to develop some strange superstitions, secrets, and legends. We’ve put together six of TCD’s odd happenings, underground locations, or arcane rules that are still technically in effect today. These superstitions have been circling for decades, and are famously observed by even the most cynical of students. Have we left any out?

The Campanile

The Campanile in the main quad at Trinity College.

The Campanile in the main quad at Trinity College.

The superstition of the Campanile is perhaps the college’s most widely observed. The Campanile is the bell tower, an iconic landmark, in the center of Front Square. You can gawk at its masterful architecture all day long, but you won’t soon catch a TCD student walking underneath it. As the superstition goes, if the bell tolls as you’re walking through, you will fail all of your exams.

On graduation day you may find groups of TCD graduates congregating by the Campanile, fearlessly taking the shortcut through campus that they’d been avoiding for years.

According to students there, the superstition has caught hold of even the most cynical. Student Hannah Popham said: “I can honestly only say I ever knew one person who was silly enough to do this. And guess who failed Engineering Mathematics II that year?”  

Scholars can order alcohol while sitting final exams

The Scholars of TCD is an exclusive group of students who’ve been selected on merit after showing outstanding achievement in a set of non-compulsory exams. Scholar status comes with many benefits, including free room and board, the waiving of fees and registration charges, and a free carvery dinner with a pint of Guinness each night at the college’s Commons.

The main entrance to Trinity College, on College Green.

The main entrance to Trinity College, on College Green.

But there’s a slightly quirkier benefit to being a scholar: according to popular rumor, Scholars can order, or “demand,” a glass of brandy while sitting final exams. This little-known secret has a few variations, however - some say it’s wine, some say a half-pint of Guinness, and some say a glass of sherry.

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Fines for not wearing your sword

According to old and arcane rules from when TCD was first established, part of the student uniform included carrying a sword, and students would be fined if they were not carrying it on them. Apparently, this rule was never officially dropped, so TCD students can technically still to this day receive a fine for not carrying a sword.

Some say this rule was once used in retaliation by a proctor toward a Scholar who demanded a glass of brandy during an exam.

The holy well

Near the side entrance of the TCD campus, there is heard to be an ancient “holy well” that’s been protected and locked away for decades. On the “Nassau Street” sign that’s hung up on the side of Trinity, the Irish translation reads “Sráid Thobar Phádraig,” which means “Street of Saint Patrick’s Well.” According to popular rumor, this is the holy well by which Saint Patrick baptized his first converts.

It is said that the left pillar (facing the entrance) on the side entrance of TCD is situated directly on top of the well house.

The holy well apparently dried up during the time that Jonathan Swift was the Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral: he wrote a satirical poem about how the students, known for their revelry and fondness of alcohol, likely drank the well dry.

Access to the Museum Building roof

The Museum Building is famously one of TCD’s most beautiful structures, as its architecture recalls Venetian palazzi and the Byzantine style. But if the rumors of roof access are true, the building also awards one of the most beautiful and all-encompassing views of the city that Dublin has to offer. Many students have claimed to have snuck beers up onto the roof, though there has been much debate over the access codes for entry.

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The underground wine cellar

Legend has it there’s an underground wine cellar under TCD’s Front Square, with a supposed entrance beside the college’s food hall, The Buttery.

There’s a college-wide superstition that a select few students gain entry into the wine cellar each year on the night of Trinity Ball before the festivities begin.

The Buttery, is the center building here, in Trinity College Dublin's main square.

The Buttery, is the center building here, in Trinity College Dublin's main square.

“How many people are inexplicably missing for pre-drinks every year before Trinity Ball? And are AWOL and completely un-contactable before the headline act for that matter? Just saying,” said student Hannah Popham.

According to a TCD graduate, a group of Trinity students in the 1980s discovered it beneath “House 10” on campus and continued to regularly help themselves to bottles of aged wine before college authorities found them out and put a stop to it.

The wine cellar is thought to connect to the Royal College of Surgeons by a tunnel that was used during the Easter Rising to transport ammunition.

* Originally published in January 2017. Updated in June 2023.