In Ireland being an old Christian country you have many churches here and there. In the Republic there is a mix of Protestant and Catholic Churches. In Dublin the Capital, the most ancient Churches are Protestant and more recent churches built after 1840 are Catholic. Now that is something that puzzled me and made me wonder how that could be, it was just not something I had thought about and again shows how historical events shape the world we live in.
In Dublin, two of the three Cathedrals are Protestant but were Catholic when they were first built until the Reformation under Henry VIII and then everything changed. It got uglier under the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, he stabled his horses in the nave of the cathedral. This was intended to demonstrate Cromwell’s disrespect for the Anglican religion, which he associated with Roman Catholicism and political Royalism.
Because we assume that St-Patrick, c. 435 AD, went to preach the Christian Gospel to the Island then everyone has to be Catholic. Not so, there was a long period of conversion from the old Celtic religion to Christianity, St-Patrick was also not the first Christian missionary just the most famous to come from Britain. Then the Protestant Reformation decimated the Catholic Church, confiscation of property and persecution ensued. Catholic churches were banned and no new churches could be built for many centuries. It was only in 1840 that the British authorities relented and allowed Catholics to have their own churches.
The Cathedral of St-Patrick in Dublin known as The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, Dublin, or in the Irish language as Ard-Eaglais Naomh Pádraig, belongs to the Church of Ireland, it is surrounded by a large park with a water well, it has been established that St-Patrick used the water of the well to baptize early Christian converts.
John Comyn,(1150-1212) first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin, elevated one of the four Dublin Celtic parish churches, the one dedicated to St. Patrick, beside a holy well of the same name and on an island between two branches of the River Poddle, to the status of a collegiate church, i.e., a church with a body of clergy devoted to both worship and learning. The new collegiate church fell outside the City boundaries, and this move created two new civic territories, one under the Archbishop’s temporal jurisdiction. The church was dedicated to “God, our Blessed Lady Mary and St. Patrick” on 17 March 1191. The area is much changed nowadays the Poddle river is now 2.5 meters under the Cathedral and the island setting has disappeared.
Originally a Catholic Church it is currently or has been since the Reformation in 1537 an Anglican Church. It should be noted that Dublin is predominantly Protestant, another surprise for me, this is something that does not come up in conversation.
The inside of the Church is decorated with military banner of various British Regiments based in Ireland prior to 1922 and whose members where all Irish. The British army had until Irish independence a very large component of Irish soldiers. After the Easter uprising of 1916 many Irish soldiers who were active on the Western Front in Europe or elsewhere in the world expressed their dissatisfaction with British rule and many refused to serve, in some case entire regiments quit, a consequence of the heavy British repression in Ireland. It never occured to the Brits that the Irish component of their army would rebel against repression of their own back home, not a wise move during the First World War at a point where Britain needed all the help it could get.
The banners are allowed to stand and decay, old with age many are well over 100 years old. The rest of the church is full of funeral monuments and one is of interest that to Jonathan Swift, the author, who was Dean of St-Patrick from 1713 to 1745. Many of his famous sermons and “Irish tracts” (such as the Drapier’s Letters) were given during his stay as Dean. He is buried here with his spouse? Ms Esther (Stella) Johnson. Some 500 people are buried in the floor of the Cathedral.
There are many other interesting things to see in the church, it is part museum of living history. The cathedral is the location for a number of public national ceremonies. 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 (the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols), celebrated twice in December, including every 24 December, is a colourful feature of Dublin life.
We did attend the Evensong Service with the Men and Boys Choir, it was quite nice to take part in a service. The Choir School was founded in 1432, supplied many of its members to take part in the very first performance of Handel’s Messiah in 1742.
The other great church is Christ Church Cathedral built in 1030, it too was a Catholic Church until the Reformation. Needless to say it is always impressive to enter a building more than 1000 years old and still functioning.
Christ Church Cathedral is the cathedral of the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough and the cathedral of the Ecclesiastical province of the United Provinces of Dublin and Cashel in the Church of Ireland.
The Church is rich in history and many important events and figures attended service over the course of its history. I will do a separate blog entry on Christ Church.
Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, C.1030