It's not the oldest church building in Ireland, but perhaps it's the most significant, being the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. And it's where we got off the tour bus for our first close up look around after arriving in Ireland.
There is an old Irish poem that says a church was located at this site as early as 1121 A.D. St. Patrick's Cathedral officially dates its origins back to 1191. Tradition says St. Patrick himself baptized converts with water from a well at this very site about 600 years before any of that.
St. Patrick's Cathedral, today, isn't anything like what would have been here in the 1100s. But, it did begin to take on its current look in the 1200s. Much has changed since then with remodelings and reconstructions, first after a fire in 1362, and then after the bell tower collapsed in 1394.
The building was in various stages of repair through the middle ages with portions of it unable to be used at times. The last large scale restoration was undertaken by the man whose bronze statue is found on the lawn near the main entrance of St. Patrick's, Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, heir to the Guinness brewery. His effort was finished up by Guinness' son in the early years of the 20th century.
Since then, the only restoration allowed has been maintenance of what was already here. The building is a composite of reconstructions and restorations over the centuries, still retaining the look of its medieval origins.
There are statues and busts and shrines all over. The one that catches your eye immediately is the Boyle Monument on the west end of the nave. It is five stories tall and was placed in the cathedral in remembrance of the first Earle of Cork, Richard Boyle's wife. A lot of guilt there if you ask me.
The stop in St. Patrick's Cathedral was perfect to set the tone for what we would see the rest of our tour in Ireland, very old and significant places and architecture.
Our nation is a shade over 225 years old, and this church has already celebrated its 800th anniversary, to give you an idea of how old we're talking about. And the monastery we'd visit the next day was 500 years older than St. Patrick's Cathedral.
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