Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin
The Dublinia provides a very good exhibition portraying life in medieval Dublin from Anglo-Norman age in 1170 to the closure of the monasteries and the Reformation circa 1540. It functions somewhat as an interactive museum exploring Dublin and Ireland’s medieval heritage as well as entertaining and educating visitors.
The building was once the site of the Church of Ireland’s Synod Hall, the governmental seat for all church functions, from the years 1875 to 1983. The Synod Hall and bridge were built in the 1870's as part of the major restoration work on Christ Church Cathedral. That was work funded by the distiller Henry Roe at his own expense, at an approximate cost in today’s dollars of (if I remember correctly) £230,000 (£23m today!). Obviously, Henry Roe was one powerfully wealthy man in his time.
Another interesting bit of information about the building currently occupied by the Dublinia is that it stands on the site of the 12th century Church of St. Michael. The original tower of St. Michael is incorporated into the “new” building.
As you enter the grounds you will be directed for entry into the building to the area just at the intersection of the two building faces shown on the attached photo. For future reference, if you tour the Dublinia -which I will show later- you will exit that portion of the facility here as well.
This main entry leads you to the back of the Cathedral where you will be immediately welcomed at the visitor station. The Cathedral asks you here for a donation to help sustain the building. In my opinon, this is money very well spent, so donate what you can afford. These old gems require a LOT of repair, attention and maintenance, so our contributions are certainly being enlisted in a good and worthy cause.
Fondest memory: The information desk has several pamphlets and printed material handouts available to introduce you to the history services schedule, and current functions of this great building. I brought a few home with me and will try to scan them here later for inclusion in these pages. I hope I remember to come back and edit this text after I do that little chore!!
One of the handouts, a scavenger hunt of architectural elements throughout the building, is really fun and something you should certainly get. It's printed particularly in mind for children, but as an adult, I got a BIG charge out of it myself.
It includes about a dozen things to search for throughout the building, such as Strongbow's casket (simple to find), the Lord Mayor's seal, the mumified cat and mouse, and a lot of other neat things to discover, so do make sure you get this little pamphlet to help you along. I'll scan mine and include it here to give you an idea of what it looks like. The lady at the info desk when I was there was a new volunteer and didn't have the slightest idea what I was asking for until I later found one, took it back to her and showed her. She thought it was pretty cool after that. Be sure to include this in your investigation of this great building.
There is a fabulous story behind this artifact. Back in 1870 (+/-) -I'll look up the actual date tonight_ the pipe organ underwent some cleaning and repair. They probably had an off key pipe blasting out some ailing musical notes alerting them a bit of repair required in the chapel.
Once they disected the pipe however, they found the two mumified remains of a cat and mouse, one supposedly chasing the other!! They framed them up and have them on permanent exhibition somewhere here in the Cathedral.
It's brilliant!! see if you can find them!
Let's see what we can find in here:
This photo shows a beautiful medieval brass lectern. It is used as a stand for placing books, which in this case would be the Bible. It's on the scavenger hunt, so see if you can find it while here.
In the USA, it is often incorrectly called a "podium." I don't know if other countries have this problem, but here in the USA I hear it misnamed almost all the time. It is not a "podium".
Podium is a Latin word refering to a raised platform. When you speak before an audience, you sometimes step "onto" a podium and speak "behind" a lectern. You never (effectively) speak behind a podium!!
The photo shown demonstrates one of the better examples of a lectern that you will ever find.
Here is an excellent example of the structural component that allowed construction of our tall masonry buildings; the flying buttress.
The walls of tall masonry buildings have to be designed to handle the tremendous outward weight thrusting upon them from the roof. The first way people learned to resolve the structural problem was to design very thick walls.
As the desire to build higher and higher came to play however, they found through disastrous consequences that the walls either had to be extremely thick to carry the roof load, or they had to come up with an alternative design.
It took awhile, but finally someone discovered that the load from above was thrusting in an angled line and could be handled by extending several relief walls perpendicular to the main building, rather than thicken the entire wall. That saved space, material, construction time, and money, and that, no matter which age you live, is ALWAYS good.
Not long after this discovery , they then began to notice that only the outward portion of the abuttment actually carried the load. The portion in the middle of the wall wasn't carrying any load except itself. With the advent of the arch, they learned that portions of a vertical wall could also be removed.
These discoveries led to removing portions of the abuttment, which in turn led to the much more elegant and fanciful design we see today. This structural element is called the flying buttress and is shown here to the left.
The tile work at Christ Church is truly magnificient. Be sure to pay attention to this when visiting the cathedral.
There's a book available from the Church about the floor and wall tiles here at Christ Church Cathedral: describing how the medieval and nineteenth-century tiles in the cathedral were made, how the tiles were intended to look in the medieval cathedral, their discovery during the restoration [of the cathedral in the 1870s] and the creation of the nineteenth-century tiles.
A guide to the medieval and 19th century
floor tiles of Christ Church cathedral Dublin
by Joanna Wren
(Dublin: Christ Church Cathedral Publications, 2003)
24pp (pbk) ?4.95
As you approach the arch you will begin to see the entrance to the Dublinia, which in this photo is just abeam of the white car.
The photograph also shows the O'Donovan Rossa Bridge crossing the Liffey along Wood Quay. The red cars in the far middle of the photo are actually on the bridge, so this can give you a relative idea of how close the Liffey is to Christ Church. It's not far, although the walk between the Quays and Church along Winetavern Street is not very interesting these days, in my opinion.
Fondest memory: It probably was a very interesting place to be in the medieval ages though, when the street's namesake was alive with pubs and taverns serving a bustling crowd just inside the castle walls. This would have been THE place to be if you had time to kill and money to burn, knocking down the original brews of Dublin's early days.
Fishamble Street was across the other side of the Cathedral, which gives you a good idea of the type of merchants and locals you would find in this particular neighborhood. This would be the domain of the real, common Dubliner, the salt of the earth no matter where you're from.
The inhabitant clientele would probably have consisted of some merchants, soldiers serving the castle, local residents, farmers coming in to town selling whatever goods they could produce, and general passersby. Marc (Lochlainn) has some great information about the early history of Winetavern Street, so I'll see if I can find how to reference you to his writings describing the area.
Pretension of the upper classes would probably be on the eastern side of the castel, with this area along Wood Quay serving as the epicenter for everyone in middle ages Dublin. To me, this would be theplace to be, and I would dearly love to have been there slugging down those ales right in the middle of it. A nice medieval ages tankard and a pretty wench. Ah, that's the life!!!...................uhm,....except for the dentistry, of course.
I learned from Marc while there in Dublin, that back in the middle ages, brewing was the explicit domain of women. There's probably an entire history waiting to be uncovered discovering the origins and ultimate fate of scores of famous brews from these early brewmistresses, so I'll see what I can uncover and let you know.
Before we go further inside, I always LOVE building details, so you'll have to bear with me while I show some.
Always Look up when you're around a building to see what little surprises may be waiting up there above you. The Cathedral is rich in crosses at the peaks of its roof, so the next few photos will show you some of her prettiest.
The cross shown here is a styalized Celtic cross with Gothic influence. One of the more interesting things I noticed about this when blowing it up to large size is that the circle is actually two separate pieces connected by a dovetail rather than being carved as a whole piece. I don't know why the sculptor chose to build it in two pieces, but suppose it was easier to place half a piece at a time at high altitude.
Expand the photo to large size and take a close look at the side to see the connection lock (dovetail).
I loved this part; Lawrence O'Toole's heart. I suppose that once you're dead, there's no complaining about what happens to your body parts, eh? Well, Here's one of Lawrence's body parts, displayed apparently without complaint!!
Lawrence O'Toole was the arch bishop of the church beginning in the year 1162 A.D. His importance as a Dublin historical figure jumped into the stratosphere in 1170 during the invasion and capture of the city Anglo-Normans led by Strongbow (Richard de Clare) when he acted as an instrumental diplomat bewteen Dubliners and de Clare.
Fondest memory: Yes, it's possible and even preferred really, to visit the splendid Christchurch Cathedral...WITHOUT taking part in, or spending extra euros on, Dublinia. If there were real Vikings in Dublinia, fine, that'd be worth the added dough, but you can learn anything there from a book. I think so anyway.
Favorite thing: Remember the little info I mentioned about arches and flying buttresses? Well, as soon as you step inside this superb building, look down the nave and you'll see how our ancestors took the lessons learned from structure and mechanics and applied them to aesthetics. It's truly a magnificient achievement.
Official Seal of the City Of Dublin shown on The Lord Mayor's Pew.
When the Lord Mayor attends services at the Cathedral, his pew will be taken from its storage location at the side of the church and placed at the front of the nave. There is a similar pew opposite the Lord Mayor's stored on the other side of the Cathedral.
Fondest memory: For a good read, look through Lochlain's writings and see if you can find the answer as to how the symbol of burning towers came to represent the City Of Dublin!!
Remember how when we first entered the building we discussed the importnace of our donations? Here's a good example of why they are so important.
Strongbow was enclosed in a metal coffin in the 1180's (+/-) to lie safely and peacefully -he thought- within the protection of this marvelous cathedral whose construction he initiated.
Unfortunately for him though, through neglect of maintaining this magnificent building, some of its walls and nave roof collapsed right on top of his tomb in the year 1562, disturbing his perpetual sleep and completely destroying his tomb.
The reconstruction effort repairing the Cathedral's and destruction, lasted until the 1870s! The north nave wall has leaned out by 46cm / 18 inches since then, and is now known as "the leaning wall of Dublin".
This replica of his coffin, relocated from Drogheda, "possibly" contains maybe some of his remains, and is prominantly displayed in the Cathedral as shown here. There's a small portion of what is thought to be a part of the original tomb displayed alongside this replica .
Favorite thing: In terms of majestic and overwhelming architecture, Dublin is not in the same league as cities like Rome or Paris, but don't despair. There are plenty of striking architectural details beyond Georgian doors and dim, oak panelled pubs. Here's a close-up shot of a door at Christ Church Cathedral.
Favorite thing: Just to the west of the Cathedral across Winetavern Street is the Dublinia, linked to the Cathedral by this very elaborate and beautiful bridge. The entrance to Dublinia is approximately 10 meters north as you walk under the bridge, on the left hand side of the street facing the Liffey. This bridge is a magnificient piece of architecture in its own right, so be certain to take notice of it as you walk along the grounds and neighborhood surrounding Christ Church.