Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

 One of our first places to visit in Dublin was Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Built around 1220, it is now the National Cathedral of Ireland, but oddly enough in this Catholic country, it is an Irish Anglican church. It is one of two cathedrals in Dublin, the other being Christchurch which we did not get to visit.

Th body of this statue is an original, ancient piece of work dating to about 1300 AD. The head was later crafted by a sculpture and mounted on it to form a complete statue in the 17th century. I wonder how close the artist got to the original? It's certainly intriguing to have a likeness of Patrick dating from a very early time. My thanks to Mario, a blog reader, for providing the link in his comment below with correct information on this piece. because I had it as the head being older than the body!

Close by is the well that Cathedral guides say was used by Patrick to baptize people when he visited the city. (But early historians wrote that the well is at Trinity College, on the street once know as Patrick's Well Lane, now Nassau Street). Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels and once Dean of St. Patrick's, even wrote a satirical poem about the students of Trinity drinking the well dry.)  This carved stone was found near the supposed well site on the Cathedral grounds. Which location is true? Perhaps the Saint used both.

Stained glass in the cathedral is wondrous to see.

This row of helmets and flags denote the places of the Order of the Knights of St. Patrick in the Cathedral. According to Wikipedia, "The Chapel of the Order was originally in St Patrick's Cathedral in central Dublin. Each member of the Order, including the Sovereign, was allotted a stall in the choir of the Chapel, above which his (or her, in the case of Queen Victoria) heraldic devices were displayed. Perched on the pinnacle of a knight's stall was a helm, decorated with mantling and topped by his crest. Above the crest, the knight's heraldic banner was hung, emblazoned with hiscoat of arms. At a considerably smaller scale, to the back of the stall was affixed a piece of brass (a "stall plate") displaying its occupant's name, arms and date of admission into the Order. Upon the death of a Knight, the banner and crest were taken down and replaced with those of his successor. After the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871, the Chapel ceased to be used; the heraldic devices of the knights at the time were left in place at the request of Queen Victoria.
See the full Wikipedia article here.

Our guide gave us some interesting background on Jonathan Swift. Apparently while he was Dean of the Cathedral, he had two woman friends, both named Esther, but whom he nicknamed as Stella and Vanessa (a name he created from part of her last name and adding "Essa," a nickname for Esther. The name continues to be popular today). Esther Johnson, or Stella, was his first love. Swift met her when she was 8 and he was 23. They later became lovers and he moved her to a cottage near him, maintaining the relationship until her death in 1728. Although it was rumored that they were married, there is no documentation of the union. Swift is buried beside her in the cathedral. There is a bust of Swift on the wall to the right of the guide. His epitaph is also on the wall, and reads:
'Here is laid the body of
Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity,
Dean of this cathedral Church,
Where fierce indignation can no longer
Rend his heart.
Go, traveller, and imitate if you can
This earnest and dedicated
Champion of Liberty'

Swift's epitaph:

You can read more about Swift's interesting and complex life at

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


JJM said...

Would this be the one? Clicking on the "download" link brings up a larger version of the thumbnail.

Mario R.

Granny Sue said...

Yes, that's it! And the guide had it backwards--he said the head was found and the body recreated, but it's the other way around. Or else I got it crossed up, more likely, lol!

Michelle said...

I am enjoying your travel posts immensely!

Granny Sue said...

Thanks Mario--duly noted and corrected!

And Michelle, I am so glad you are enjoying. I will have lots more to post. What a trip. I want to go back already.

annie said...

Wonderful post, I loved your photos!

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