Unusually, Dublin has two cathedrals belonging to the Church of Ireland, which act effectively as co-cathedrals. The Archbishop of Dublin has his official seat in the other one, which is Christ Church Cathedral.
The site of St. Patrick's Cathedral is said to be the earliest Christian site in Ireland, where St. Patrick baptized converts.
A wooden St. Patrick's Church stood on the site from the 5th century to about 1191, when the church was raised to the status of cathedral. The present building was built between 1191 and 1270.
After the English Reformation about 1537, St. Patrick's became an Anglican Church of Ireland Cathedral. During the confiscation process, some images within the cathedral were defaced by soldiers under Thomas Cromwell, and neglect led to collapse of the nave in 1544.
However, because of a major rebuilding in the 1860's by the Guinness family, that was prompted by the belief that the cathedral was in imminent danger of collapse, much of the current building and decoration dates from the Victorian era.
From 1783 until 1871 the cathedral served as the Chapel of the Most Illustrious Order Saint Patrick, for the members of the Knights of St. Patrick. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871, the installation ceremony moved to St. Patrick's Hall, Dublin Castle, but the heraldic banners of the knights, at the time of the move, still hang over the choir stalls to this day.
In 1666, the Cathedral Chapter offered the Lady Chapel for the use of French-speaking Huguenots who had fled to Ireland, and after some repair and preparation works, it became known as L'Eglise Française de St. Patrick. A lease was signed on the 23rd December 1665 and was renewed from time to time until the special services ceased in 1816, when the Huguenots had been fully absorbed into the city population.
A view of the pulpit:
A stain glass window that is dedicated to the King Of Cashel whom legend says St.Patrick baptized upon his conversion to Christianity.
These stain glass windows depict the 39 episodes in the life of Saint Patrick, from being captured and sold into slavery as a youth by Irish marauders, to his escape back to Britain, and his return to Ireland to convert the pagans to Christianity, his works in Ireland and his death in old age.
This old chapeter house door is famous because it brought about the reconciliation of two Earls, the Earl of Ormonde, and the Earl of Kildare, within the walls of the cathedral. In 1492, the Earl of Ormonde and the Earl of Kildare were locked in a bloody feud. Kildare chased Ormonde into St. Patrick's. Suddenly, Kildare decided to call off the feud. With his sword, he cut a slit in the wooden door of St. Patrick's and stuck his hand through for a handshake. Ormonde had a decision to make: cut off his rival's hand, or shake it and declare peace. Ormonde put down his sword and shook Kildare's hand. From that day on, this simple wooden door had been known as the "Door of Reconciliation."
An early period statue of Saint Patrick found buried on the grounds during the 1860's restoration of the cathedral.
The monument below commemorates Thomas Jones, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland (d. 1619) and his son Roger Viscount Ranelagh.
Saint Patrick's is headed by a Dean, an office which has existed since 1219, the most famous holder being Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. He was Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745. Swift's grave and epitaph can be seen in the cathedral, along with those of his friend Stella. Swift took a great interest in the Cathedral, its services and music, and funded an almshouse for poor women and Saint Patrick's Hospital. Each year he gave away a third of his income to help the poor.
Swift's epitaph in translation reads:
"Here is laid the body of Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, Dean of this Cathedral Church, where fierce indignation can no longer rend the heart. Go, traveller, and imitate if you can this earnest and dedicated champion of liberty. He died on the 19th day of October 1745 AD. Aged 78 years."
Today the cathedral is the location for a number of public national ceremonies. Every year in October, the Cathedral hosts a symposium on Jonathan Swift, and a special commemorative Evensong. Ireland's "Remembrance Day" ceremonies, hosted by the Royal British Legion and attended by the President of Ireland, take place there every November. Its carol service, called the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, is celebrated twice in December, including every 24th December. It receives over 300,000 visitors each year and we found it to be a fascinating and enlightening place to visit during our stay in Dublin.
This concludes my week of reflection about some of the special places and events we enjoyed during our May 2008 visit to Dublin, Ireland. Thank you for your interest, and I hope I've enticed you to want to visit yourself one day to see this beautiful and historical country!
If you'd like to read more about our trip, and see some of the wonderful sights we saw while in Ireland, please scroll through my entire "Ireland" labeled posts on my sidebar.