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So we conclude our tour of Dublin by visiting Christ Church Cathedral, an Anglo-Normand building built in 1028 or 988 years old.

Christ Church is officially claimed as the seat (cathedra) of both the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic archbishops of Dublin. In law, and in fact it has been the cathedral of only the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin, since the English Reformation. Though nominally claimed as his cathedral, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin uses St Mary’s in Marlborough Street in Dublin as his pro-cathedral (acting cathedral)

Christ Church Cathedral is located in the former heart of medieval Dublin, next to Wood Quay at the end of Lord Edward Street. However a major dual carriage-way building scheme around it separated it from the original medieval street pattern which once surrounded it, with its original architectural context (at the centre of a maze of small buildings and streets) lost due to road-building and the demolition of the older residential quarter at Wood Quay. As a result, the cathedral now appears dominant in isolation behind new civil offices along the quays, out of its original medieval context.

The cathedral was founded probably sometime after 1028 when King Sitric Silkenbeard, the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin made a pilgrimage to Rome. The first bishop of this new Dublin diocese was Dúnán or Donat, and the diocese was at that time a small island of land surrounded by the much larger Diocese of Glendalough.

Henry II attended the Christmas service at the cathedral in 1171. According to the cathedral guidebook this was the first time Henry received Holy Communion following the murder of Thomas Beckett by Henry’s knights in Canterbury.

In the 1180s, Strongbow and other Norman magnates helped to fund a complete rebuilding of Christ Church, initially a wooden building, in stone, comprising the construction of a choir, choir aisles and transepts, the crypt and chapels to St. Edmund and St. Mary and St. Lô.

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The crypt has many interesting things to look at, a mummified cat and rat found in a wall during renovations. A tabernacle given by the Catholic King of England James II when he attended mass at Christ Church prior to the Battle of the Boyne. He had sought refuge in Ireland and tried to save his throne in England but lost to his son-in-law the very protestant Prince William of Orange-Nassau, the future King William III (1650-1702) and his wife Mary Stuart who was none other than the daughter of James II. King William gave Christ church magnificent gold objects on display.  William III did not speak English and did not like the English much but heck a crown is a crown and he could add it to the Dutch Crown he already had. James II died in 1701 in exile in France, a guest of the Sun King Louis XIV. Talk of a dysfunctional family.

Before arriving in Dublin I had heard on the CBC Radio an interview with Canadian artist Tim Schmalz who is the sculptor who created the Homeless Jesus sculpture. This sculpture can now be found in 40 churches around the world including the Vatican in Rome. Though St-Patrick Cathedral in NYC rejected the sculpture for spurious reasons.

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Homeless Jesus by Canadian Artist Tim Schmalz. A life size statue, only the feet give away that this is Jesus. It certainly forces reflection on poverty, homelessness, vulnerable people in our society. This is not the image of Jesus most people would associate with and it is disturbing to many.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3 – KJV  

Christ Church Dublin has one in it’s garden, it attracts attention and I found it fascinating to see people’s reaction to it. Many are repulsed or shocked and move on quickly, it is a difficult message from the teachings of Jesus that most in our consumer society would prefer to ignore. Please see the full post of Will on this topic, he did a very good writing job.

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Gifts of King William III to Christ Church upon his victory at the Battle of the Boyne on 1 July 1690.

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