When someone says St. Patricks’s Cathedral to me, the New Yorker in me automatically thinks of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. On our visit to Ireland last year, we discovered the original St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, an unabashedly Gothic Revival building, which is the National Cathedral of Ireland.
The History of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin
Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was said to have baptised the local Celts in a well that stood in the park next to the Cathedral. Thanks to its association with St. Patrick, a church has stood on this location since the 5th century. The church got upgraded to Cathedral status in 1191. The Cathedral has been rebuilt and extended many times over the years.
A lone minister heads out after services.
The Archbishop of Dublin has his seat at the other Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin, Christ Church. Since 1870, St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been designated the National Cathedral because, after all, how many Anglican cathedrals does one predominantly Catholic city need.
A fairly simple altar, you know the Catholic version would have been much more ornate.
The cathedral is the largest church in Ireland. The spire, an addition from the 18th century, soars 140 feet into the sky and is a local landmark.
I absolutely loved the stained glass and the mosaic floors. There are a lot of Anglo-British paraphernalia around which attests to the time that Ireland was controlled by the British.
Beautiful tile work
The stained glass is mostly Victorian.
Famous People Associated with St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Jonathan Swift, who became famous for writing Gulliver’s Travels, was a Dean of the cathedral from 1713-45. Along with over 500 other people, Jonathan Swift and his ‘special friend’ Stella are buried in the Cathedral.
The famous oratorio by Handel, Messiah, was first sung at St. Patrick’s Cathedral by its famous choir. It took about a year for Messiah to have its London debut.
The beautiful nave
Oliver Cromwell on a visit to check out the Irish part of his protectorate in 1649 stabled his army’s horses in the Cathedral. He had no patience for the Church of Ireland which he would have thought was as bad as the Church of England (and a mere papal breadth away from the horror that was Catholicism the horror that was Catholicism).
A bell commemorating the arrival of the French Huguenots.
The Cathedral has a lot of burial plaques which are cool to read and to examine. Lots of these families went to town decorating their tombs because it was considered quite prestigious to be buried in the Cathedral.
Even the statues are dressed to the nines.
This is a detail of a plaque to the Boyle family the rest of which extends to nearly the ceiling. Ostentatious moi?
Visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is open 7 days a week and there’s a small admission fee for tourists. You can just attend a service and skip the fee. There are no photos allowed, though, during services or when the choir is singing.
There’s a gift shop right by the entrance with all the religious paraphernalia that you may ever wish to buy. The Cathedral is set in a grassy parkland and there is a small children’s play area as well. It’s one of the top visitor attractions in Dublin and definitely worth a short stroll around to understand the turbulent history of this capital city.
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Isn’t it great when you accidentally discover something that makes your trip memorable? We had that experience at Dublinia, a Viking and medieval heritage museum next door to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. When we got to Christ Church Cathedral, there was a Mass being conducted and so we had time to wander around. Dublinia is located next door to the Cathedral and so, of course, we wandered in for a look.
There are 3 main exhibits in Dublinia which looks at the Viking and medieval history of the city of Dublin. The whole museum is very interactive and a lot of fun for kids.
Viking History at Dublinia
The Viking section has recreations of a long ship and a home. There are Viking outfits to try on as well as lots of cool information that’s presented in a fun way.
Did you know that the Vikings took lots of Irish women as captives to Iceland? Studies have shown that at least of 50% of Icelandic women are of Irish descent. The running joke in Iceland is that the Vikings took all the pretty Irish women with them.
Did you know that Viking helmets did not actually have horns? The myth that Viking helmets had horns comes from the 19th century when a costume designer put horns on the helmet for the Wagner opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelung based on the ancient Norse stories.
Medieval History at Dublinia
The second exhibition is looks at medieval Dublin up to the 16th century with sets showing a rich merchant’s house, a medieval street and a medieval faire. Coincidentally our kids were studying the Black Death at school and seeing reconstructions of what they were reading about was interesting.
My children loved the medieval faire reconstruction because they were so many interactive exhibits. For example, they got to play medieval games, wear medieval outfits and try their hand at writing like a monk.
A knight could not see much wearing this shield and it was very heavy. My kids decided that they would prefer wearing a Norse helmet.
The cures for random diseases was fascinating as well as the diseases themselves. Thank goodness for modern-day antibiotics.
Learning Archaeology at Dublinia
The third part of Dublinia looks at how archaeology works and dovetails with history and science. We can say the kids had never really thought about the mechanics of archaeology before. You could also listen to what Dubliners sounded like through the ages. We could hear how the language sounded similar and yet so different.
We loved the Viking & medieval history of Dublin displayed at Dublinia so much we stayed for a couple of hours. By the time that we left Dublinia, Christ Church Cathedral had closed. We’ll have to see it on another trip to Dublin. I have heard that Dublin does a great Halloween festival based on the traditional pagan festival of Samhain!
Details for Visiting Dublinia:
Dublinia is located at St. Michaels Hill in Dublin and open every day. You can buy discounted tickets to both Christ Church Cathedral and Dublinia together. Single tickets for adults cost €8.50 for adults, €5.50 for children or €24 for a family of four. When we went the museum wasn’t crowded but its site says that it gets about 125,000 visitors a year.