It is the official seat of the Archbishop of Dublin from the Church of Ireland, although interestingly has also been officially claimed by the Roman Catholic Archbishop since the English reformation. Located in Dublin’s medieval heart it would have originally stood tall above a maze of small buildings and random streets, although now it is surrounded by modernity and a far cry from its original medieval context.
With close to a thousand years as being the centre of religious life in Dublin, the Cathedral has a long and fascinating history. King Sitric Silkenbeard, a king of Norse origin who ruled over the region at the time, originally founded it some time in the early 11th Century. Ireland in this era was comprised of several different kingdoms ruled over by warring kings, with constantly shifting borders over which armies marched regularly. King Sitric was a powerful king, and decreed that the Cathedral be erected after he returned from a pilgrimage to Rome. Over the next century, the cathedral passed between various orders and administrations, growing in stature and prestige. In 1171 King Henry ll attended the Christmas service in the Cathedral, the first time he received communion since his knights murdered Thomas Beckett after misinterpreting his ambiguous commands.Christchurch Cathedral
Like many European cathedrals of such age and eminence, Christ Church is an eclectic mix of architectural styles such as Gothic and Romanesque, representing the various repairs and improvements through the ages. As well as the impressive exterior, it is famous for its spectacular floor tiles and 12thCentury crypt that is one of the oldest and largest in Europe.
The crypt is open to visitors after renovation in the early 21st Century and contains a range of eerie monuments and treasures. Those venturing underground will be treated to the oldest set of secular carvings in Ireland that formerly stood outside the medieval city hall before its destruction in the 18thCentury. You can also see candlesticks used by the Roman Catholic King James ll after he fled across the sea to Ireland following the glorious revolution. Also in the crypt are a mummified cat and rat, as well as various historic books and altar goods.
The bells of Christ Church are also highly interesting, and have been a feature of the Cathedral since its foundation. An impressive nineteen bells are housed in the belfry. Be prepared for a steep hike up some 96 steps – it’s worth it though and you may even get the chance to ring the bells yourself!
The Cathedral has been associated with numerous films, documentaries and TV series which you can learn about during your visit, and your guide will provide you with all kinds of amusing anecdotes and tales. After you’ve finished touring this unique building, spend some time winding down in the museum and coffee shop downstairs.
Whatever you do during your visit to the Emerald Else, make sure you don’t miss this spectacular piece of history!
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