Europe, Ireland

Dublin’s 13th Century Romanesque cathedrals

No Comments 15 May 2011

Dublin’s 13th Century Romanesque cathedrals

The Monkey visits a pair of spectacular cathedrals in Dublin, Ireland and learns a bit about the country’s history.


Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
The Monkey stops for a look at Dublin’s Christchurch Cathedral. The current church stands on the site of an earlier wooden cathedral, built around 1038. The stone church was constructed from 1172 onward (just two decades before work on nearby St. Patrick’s began). As it fell into neglect in the 16th century, one of its walls and part of its roof collapsed. Centuries of emergency stop-gap repairs came to an end in the 1870s when Henry Roe, a Dublin distiller, provided funds for a restoration, which some accuse of being overly Victorian.

At any rate, Christchurch Cathedral is an important site in that it relates to various influential periods in Irish history. The original wooden church was commissioned by the Danish Viking ruler of Dublin, Sitric Silkenbeard, in the early 11th Century. Norsemen had been raiding the coastal settlements of Ireland since the 8th Century, and in 837 they set up permanent bases, one of which became Dublin (Dubh Linn meant Black Pool in their language). Their influence waned as they assimilated with the native population and the Irish king Brian Boru defeated them decisively near Dublin in 1014.

The cathedral also contains the tomb of Strongbow, the first Norman warrior to arrive in Ireland (1169). Though Strongbow came at the invitation of an Irish chief who had been denied the throne of Leinster, Strongbow’s arrival paved the way for further incursions by the new Norman rulers of Britain. Norman lords came in great numbers at the end of the 12th Century, importing their feudal system and eradicating the Irish clan-based system. It was the beginning of British colonial foray into Ireland.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
The Monkey visits Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Built from 1191, St. Patrick’s became Dublin’s second cathedral just a few hundred meters from its contemporary, Christchurch Cathedral (above). It is not clear why two cathedrals were constructed so close to each other in time and distance, though St. Patrick’s did lie outside the city walls at the time and thus could have skirted around taxes or other issues confronting Christchurch, which was within the walls.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral began as a Roman Catholic institution. When Henry VIII’s Reformation created the Anglican Church, he quickly sought to extend the power of that church throughout his kingdom. Rather than ruling Ireland via the earlier-transplanted feudal Norman lords (who had become mostly assimilated with the native population), Henry centralized rule through the royal Viceroy, seated at Dublin Castle. At the same time, many of Ireland’s great churches were “anglicized” into the Church of Ireland, the provincial version of Henry’s Church of England. Today, St. Patrick’s and Christchurch are both cathedrals of the Church of Ireland, though this confession is a minority one in the heavily Roman Catholic Republic of Ireland.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
On one of his return visits to Ireland in 2009, the Monkey dropped by St. Patrick’s Cathedral for a second visit. He posed for a long overdue wide angle shot that shows the building’s dimensions much better than his 2003 photo (above) did.



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Ireland

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Population:

4,156,119 (2008)

Land area:

68,890 sq. km.

Capital:

Dublin (pop: 495,781; 2005)

Economy:

In 2006, Ireland ranked 8th in the UNDP Human Development Index and 29th in total GDP, with a per capita GDP of $52,892.89. Public debt accounts for 24.9 percent of total GDP, while 7 percent of Irish are beneath the poverty line.

Main language(s):

English, Gaelic

Monkey's name:

The Monkey, Ap (Ah-p)

Fun fact:

Ireland’s 1845-1850 potato famine is an infamous historical tragedy that resulted in some one million deaths and mass emigration. But it is also a travesty. While a blight did wipe out potato crops, a staple food of the Irish peasant, Ireland’s farms still produced sufficient food to feed the population. Unfortunately, much of that food was exported to Britain by colonial landlords. Thus the suffering caused by a natural disaster was augmented by profit-oriented human decisions—an unfortunate trend that continues around the world today.



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