Church Hopping: St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

In light of St. Patrick's Day having been this week, let's take a hop, skip, and a jump across the pond to Ireland to visit St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Location: Dublin, Ireland
Website: www.stpatrickscathedral.ie
Architect: Various, due to reconstruction
Built: 1191

[photo of me outside St. Patrick's in 2001]

History: While traveling through Ireland, St. Patrick baptized Christian converts at a well, and so a small church was built there. On March 17, 1192, this church was dedicated to "God, our Blessed Lady Mary and St. Patrick." Sometime between 1200 and 1270, the building that currently stands was erected, and St. Patrick's Cathedral remains the largest church in the country.

The church became Anglican Church of Ireland Cathedral after the Reformation. Because of political and religious upheaval, St. Patrick's status often shifted from collegiate church to cathedral to parish church. Since 1870, St. Patrick's has been the National Cathedral of Ireland.

Exterior Design: Built during the Medieval period, the church is early Gothic in architectural style, with its heavy buttressing and pointed windows. However, because the cathedral had to be reconstructed during the Victorian era, and the architectural records were lost, it is unknown how much of the current structure is true to its original Gothic design.

St. Patrick's Steeple, erected in 1560, hosts one of Dublin's first public clocks.

Minot's Tower, which had to be rebuilt from 1362 to 1370 due to damage from a fire, is 120 feet. The spire, which is 101 feet, was added in 1769 and has gone on to be one of the most distinguishable features of the church.

[image of the exterior that shows the tower and spires.]

Butresses were added to support a new roof that was put up in 1671 to prevent the church from collapsing.

Interior Design: A fire caused the west nave to have to be rebuilt from 1362 to 1370. The nave had to be rebuilt again in 1544, after destruction from the Reformation. When Cromwell reigned, he'd stationed his horses in the nave to show his defiance against Anglicanism. By 1805 the nave once again was in major need of repair, with its roof held up only by scaffolding.

[image of the nave]

Also due to the Reformation, images were defaced by Cromwell's soldiers. The walls were repainted and Bible verses added to them around this time, in 1549.

[Image of the interior that shows the vaulted ceiling.]

The Lady Chapel was not added until 1270 but by the 1600s it was in shambles. In 1665, the Huguenots, French Calvinists who had escaped to Ireland, signed a lease to use it and, after being repaired, it became known as L'Eglise Fran├žaise de St. Patrick.

[Image of floor plan shows the cross-shaped interior and points out the different sections of the cathedral.]

There is no crypt here because of the church's close proximity to the River Poddle, which often floods the area.

Interesting Fact: The expression "chance your arm," which means to take a risk, comes from an incident which took place here in 1492 when Gerald Fitzgerald, eighth Earl of Kildare, cut a hole in the door of the chapter house to offer his hand in peace to Black James during a feud. Today the Door of Reconciliation still stands.

Drink to This: Benjamin Guinness, part of the Guinness Brewery legacy (yes, the brewery in Dublin offers tours of its facilities so you can go after you visit the Cathedral), funded the urgent reconstruction that was needed in 1860-65. One of his more tongue-in-cheek contributions was the stained-glass window he donated, which depicts Rebecca at the well with the motto, "I was thirsty and ye gave me drink."

[image of statue of Guinness outside the Cathedral]

Get Lit: Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels) was a dean at St. Patrick's Cathedral and is buried here. He wrote his own epitaph, which W. B. Yeats translated from the Latin as:

    Swift has sailed into his rest.
    Savage indignation there
    cannot lacerate his breast.
    Imitate him if you dare,
    world-besotted traveller.
    He served human liberty.

[image of bust of Swift in the Cathedral]

Music to Your Ears: The cathedral choir took part in the premiere performance of Handle's Messiah at the New Music Hall in Fish-amble Street on April 13, 1742.

1 comment:

  1. I spent a weekend in Dublin in 1995...but I don't think I went to this Cathedral. Clearly, I must go back.