Mostly Churches, and the Long Journey Home

I had planned to write this yesterday, but circumstances conspired to prevent that. So, that’s the first thing to get done this morning1.

On my last day in Dublin, I was dragging my feet a little in the morning, and didn’t make it down to breakfast before 9:30, when they stopped serving. I’ve only had breakfast at Kilronan House twice in my week’s stay here, and once was very rushed so I just had cereal. The day I took my time, it was very nice, but the scheduling has just not worked out very well.

But I headed down to St. Stephen’s Green, planning to start the day with a ride on the Hop On Hop Off bus, seeing as my ticket from the day before was still good. I stopped at the Marks & Spencer’s on Grafton street to have a bacon roll and some juice, and then went and rode the bus tour right around the circuit.

The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water - they just sound like Phoenix.
The ride went through Phoenix Park. This is the phoenix monument in the middle of the park. The name of the park, though, comes from the Irish words for Clear Water – they just sound like Phoenix.
The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon's captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington's victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.
The band dark plaques set in the base of the obelisk are made of Napoleon’s captured canons, melted down to celebrate Wellington’s victories. I thought I would spend some time in Phoenix Park, but it would take me the entire day to do the park justice. I decided I had other things I preferred to do.

Again, Dublin Castle had no tours running, due to the official suites being occupied. I could have gone on to the grounds, but I had done that last trip, and it was the interior I really wanted to see. So I waited until Christchurch Cathedral before getting off.

There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.
There was some sort of fair going on at Christchurch. I got a really tasty bratwurst and an ice cream cone for lunch and some very nice fudge to take home.
I didn't get inside Christchurch last visit. It's beautiful and impressive.
I didn’t get inside Christchurch last visit. It’s beautiful and impressive.
This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.
This is the resting place of Strongbow, who is an interesting figure in Irish history. He was an Anglo-Norman knight who came to help the king of Leinster regain his kingdom. Some see him as the beginning of English rule, while others see him as a liberator. He was a popular figure in Kilkenny; less so in other parts of the country.
The altar of the Christchurch.
The altar of the Christchurch.
The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.
The engraved stone pulpits and the eagle lecterns are traditional.

So, for an extra four euros, in addition to admission to Christchurch, you could get a tour of the bell tower and a chance to ring the bells. It meant more stairs2, but I really couldn’t pass up the chance. The stairs were narrow, low, irregular spirals, as usual.

Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.
Climbing up the stairs in the transept, you then have to cross the roof of Christchurch to the bell tower. The view is stunning.
The Ringer's Room. No bells here; they're in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.
The Ringer’s Room. No bells here; they’re in another room up above. The man on the left is the Ringing Master. He was wonderfully mad about bells and the ringing, and gave us a great lesson on the history and technique of bell ringing.
We didn't get to ring the main bells - they're set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method. I wasn't able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.
We didn’t get to ring the main bells – they’re set upside down and have a good chance to drag a novice ringer up to the ceiling if you over-pull. We rang bells that were hanging mouth-down, using a technique called chiming, which is a sort of weird counterintuitive method.
I wasn’t able to get a picture of me ringing the bells, but here are some others in the group.
The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.
The crypts below Christchurch are extensive. A lot of the treasures of the cathedral are on display down there.
One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.
One of the things on display is a case with a cat and a rat. One chased the other into the pipe organ, and they were mummified there.

Now, a little more than a year ago, the heart of the patron saint of Dublin, St. Laurence O’Toole, was stolen from the cathedral. I wanted to find out what had happened with that, so I asked at the information desk. The heart has not been recovered at this time, and the police haven’t made any progress on locating the thieves. Very unfortunate.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is just a few blocks down the hill from Christchurch, so I walked down there next.

One of the main sections of St. Patrick's Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.
One of the main sections of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the hall where the colours of the Irish regiments hang. By tradition, when an Irish regiment is disbanded or retired, its colours are hung in this hall until they rot away.
All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick's has more than any other church I've seen.
All the cathedrals and churches have monuments, paid for by wealthy parish members for their loved ones. St. Patrick’s has more than any other church I’ve seen.

I don’t have a good picture of the whole interior; the place was just too full of people for that.

This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn't find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone - they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.
This statue was said to be St. Patrick, but really it was cobbled together from older statues of other people that were found lying around the city. They couldn’t find any good feet, so a labourer just hacked them out of stone – they look terribly out of place compared to the detailed carving on the rest of the pieces.
Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick's. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was - some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift's childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).
Jonathan Swift is a big deal at St. Patrick’s. He was Dean for a fair long while, very active in the city politics, and was buried here. Beside him is buried his companion, Esther Johnson. No one is certain what the relationship between the two was – some say friends, some say lovers, some say they were secretly married, some say they were half-brother and half-sister (Swift’s childhood is kind of strange, so the records are not clear).
In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there's a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift's, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.
In among the monuments for wealthy, important folks, there’s a plaque on the wall to one Alexander McGee. This was a long-time servant of Swift’s, and Swift had him interred in the walls of the cathedral both as thanks for his loyal service and to point out the equal value the church should place on the souls of the rich and the poor.
"Here is laid the Body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce Indignation can no longer injure the Heart. Go forth, Voyager, and copy, if you can, this vigorous (to the best of his ability) Champion of Liberty. He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October, A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age." Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.
“Here is laid the Body
of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Sacred Theology,
Dean of this Cathedral Church,
where fierce Indignation
can no longer
injure the Heart.
Go forth, Voyager,
and copy, if you can,
this vigorous (to the best of his ability)
Champion of Liberty.
He died on the 19th Day of the Month of October,
A.D. 1745, in the 78th Year of his Age.”
Yeah, Swift wrote his own epitaph. He was like that.
Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick's. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today. Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.
Okay, remember last trip, I got a picture of these strange sculptures in front of St. Patrick’s. They are apparently representative of needles and pins, to honour the Royal School of Needlecraft, who produced eight beautiful altar cloths for the cathedral that are still in use today.
Look carefully at the hole at the top of the tall one.
Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It's tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.
Yes, some clever person has put a small stuffed camel in the eye of the needle. It’s tied in there with a fine golden chain. Street commentary.

After St. Patrick’s, I walked back up to Christchurch, took a left, and came to St. Audoen’s in a couple of blocks. I’d seen St. Audoen’s before, at night, on the Ghost Bus tour last trip. It’s the oldest continuously operating parish church in Dublin.

It doesn't look nearly as sinister in the day time.
It doesn’t look nearly as sinister in the day time.
The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.
The roof was removed from about two-thirds of the church as the parish shrank and grew poorer. Part of the roofless church is left open to the elements.
Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It's a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable. What's that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.
Another part of the roofless church has been roofed over and turned into a bit of a museum. It’s a small museum, but really quite beautiful, and with some great folks working there. John took this picture, and we talked for quite some time about the history of the church, of Ireland, of Canada, and lots of other stuff. Very friendly, very knowledgable.
What’s that on the wall behind me? The seal of St. Anne, which was used to seal legal documents and contracts. Not this big one, of course. This one was symbolic, and used to swear oaths and such.
Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen's is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.
Quite a contrast to the cathedrals. St. Audoen’s is tiny, beautiful, and perfect.
The lucky stone of St. Audoen's. There's a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.
The lucky stone of St. Audoen’s. There’s a long write-up on the history of the stone, and all the strange things and miracles attributed to it. John told me to be sure and touch it, as it would grant me luck for a year.

It was getting late in the afternoon by that point, so I made my way along the Liffey to the Brazen Head, where I was going to be attending a dinner with some storytelling and music. I got there early, so I had a drink in the oldest part of the oldest tavern in Dublin, drinking where Vikings drank in the 12th century. And, of course, my picture of that part didn’t turn out at all.

The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.
The Brazen Head exterior. The interior has an open courtyard, surround by little rooms, each with a little bar. Upstairs are some nice private dining rooms.
The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world - Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.
The dinner was great. Johnny was the host, and gave us a lot of good and entertaining information about the lives and beliefs of common folk in Ireland. One of my favourite bits was his talk about the fairy world – Johnny did an excellent job of explaining the magical thinking that led to the development of the fairy faiths.

And then it was ten o’clock, and I made my way back to the B&B. Next morning, I wanted to get to the airport in good time, and spend an hour or so in the Aer Lingus business class lounge, doing up this post.

Well, it didn’t work out. After security, which was very busy and rather slow, I had to go through US Customs preclearance, which was even slower and busier. I made it through that, eventually, and then had to go through a second security screening – again, very busy and slow. At that point, I was nowhere near the business lounge, and there was only about forty minutes before my plane; this out of the three hours I had budgeted.

On the flight back, I sat beside a lovely woman named Joanne, who just happened to have written a paper on an important 16th century play┬áback in 1975 or so. It was being staged for the first time in 450 years, and she had been invited by the university to attend, as her paper has for years been the definitive work on the subject. We had a great conversation covering history and politics and the women’s movement in the 60s and 70s and lots of other things. It was absolutely delightful.

And then I was in Chicago, and got sent to the wrong gate, and almost missed my plane back to Winnipeg. I was tired and frustrated and grumpy, having been up for about 22 hours straight, and I was very glad to make it home.

And that’s it for this trip. I’m already starting to think about the next one.

  1. It’s not really first. I’ve already put laundry on, dealt with some e-mail, and gone out to busy some bread. But still. []
  2. 86, they told me this time. I really don’t know what this obsession is with counting them. It only makes things worse. []

Dublin Walking Tour

I’m taking a bit of a breather between my walking tour this morning and the Ghost Bus tour tonight. I didn’t really take any downtime yesterday1, and it was quite late by the time I finished the post and got to bed, only to get up even earlier today for my walking tour.

So, rather than waste time, I figured I’d do a little work on the blog. Hey, it counts as rest: I’m not walking anywhere or carrying anything.

First, for those who saw the blog yesterday, I have fixed the pictures in yesterday’s post, and added a couple to previous posts. If you’re interested, make sure you go back and check those out.

So the walking tour this morning was to take in Viking and Medieval Dublin, with a finish at St. Michan’s Church to see the mummies in the crypts. Somehow, I got myself to the wrong tourist office for the start of the trip, but the nice folks there got me sorted out, and the tour guide came over to collect me at the start of the tour, which was great.

I’m pretty sure the tour covered about 600 miles2, and wove all through Dublin. There’s no way I can cover everything we saw, so I’m just going to put in some pictures of highlights:

This is the old House of Lords, preserved in the old Parliament building, which is now owned by the Bank of Ireland.
One of the narrow cobbled streets in Temple Bar.
One of the gates into Dublin Castle.
Clock Tower in the main square of Dublin Castle.
The Dublin Castle green. The brick paths make a celtic knot design inspired by swimming river eels. The building is the Coach House, a fake wall and house erected so that Queen Victoria would not have to look out on the city itself.
This tower is the only surviving part of the original castle, built by King John.
The organ loft in the Chapel Royal of Dublin Castle.
Statue of Daniel O’Connell and historical friezes in Dublin City Hall.
Christchurch Cathedral

 

The Brazen Head, said to be the oldest pub in Dublin. We didn’t stop to look at it, but when I saw it, I needed to take a picture, because of the legend of how it got its name.
A section of the original city wall, with one of the original gates. Opened onto Cook Street, where cooking was done, because of laws against open fires within the city walls.

When we got to St. Michan’s Church, I found out that I couldn’t take any pictures of the crypts or the mummies. This is perfectly understandable; these are the remains of real people, with real families, and this is a functioning church in an active parish. So, I can’t show you the inside of the crypts. Here are the entrances to the two we went in, though.

The entrance to the crypt with the mummies. It is even more difficult to get through and down the stairs than it looks.
A look down into the other crypt. Notice how you can’t see the stairs – that’s because they are too steep and treacherous, and the tunnel is too low. Fun!

I did get to shake the hand3 of the Crusader4, one of the mummies, which is supposed to bring a year’s worth of good luck, so that’s something.

Then, it was a long walk back to O’Connell Street, where I found a fast-food place to have some lunch. I walked down O’Connell Street to find where I need to go tonight to catch the Ghost Bus Tour, and I also found Claddagh Records, a shop recommended by the guys on the Musical Pub Crawl. I went in to see what I could find, and the shopkeeper was very helpful. I picked up five CDs of traditional music that he says will probably never make it to North American distribution. So, win!

And then back to the hotel for the blog and a bit of a rest. I’m heading out to the Ghost Bus in about an hour. I’ll post about that when I get back.

  1. Aside from my slow start, that is. []
  2. This is a filthy lie. Still, I figure we walked about three miles, with another two or so at the end to get back to where I needed to be. []
  3. This is an exaggeration. They don’t let you shake his hand anymore, not after one of the fingers came off. But you can touch his hand, and I did. Felt like old, polished wood. The other two folks on the tour did not do so. I say that gives me their dose of luck, too. []
  4. As with the other mummies, the Nuns and the Thief, this is just the name they give the body, based on a little bit of detective work and some romantic wild-ass guessing. This was a big guy, buried nine hundred years ago, with his legs crossed, which marks him as a soldier. What big battles went on in the 11th and 12th centuries? The Crusades! So, he’s the Crusader, even though there is no evidence one way or the other to indicate he’d ever been to the holy land. []