Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, my favourite place in the world.

As an architecture and history obsessive, I often discuss with my students their favorite Dublin visits and “sights”.   The great medieval Cathedral of Saint Patrick’s came up in class conversation the other day.         I was a little mystified, not to say horrified,  when one of my students shrugged her shoulders, and said it was “so-so” !    I blinked a few times and drew breath.  Then calmly,  invited her comments and reservations.

As she spoke,  I found I had to conceal my feelings.    I realized, thinking about it afterwards especially,  that I was secretly furious.  Yes, livid.   The way you are when somebody criticizes a good friend or member of your family.  Yes; your family and old friends may drive you mad.  But you’ll be dammed if you’re going to tolerate some upstart, blow-in make their caual asides and ill-informed, half-witted observations.    As I smiled calmly and professionally, (and I had better point out I genuinely like and respect this student)  rage and indignation swirled around inside.  But Saint Patrick’s is not a person.   It is a building.

What is wrong with me?   Have things really gone this far?   Is it possible I’m in love with this saggy, damp old place ?

Well, yes, okay, I am.   and let me show you why….

I find the cathedral warm. It breathes goodness and tolerance;  yet it is also imposing and mysterious and magnificent.   Nor is there anywhere better in which to to learn about Dublin and Irish history.  This is designated our National Cathedral, founded on a site where St Patrick himself –  the most famous of our patron saints-  had a tiny Celtic era church, well over a thousand years ago,  all the way back around  640 AD.    The Anglo-Normans got hold of the site in the 12th & 13th century  and rebuilt it,  on a very different, and massive scale.   Even now, this is the largest church in Ireland.

I submit it is also the best.    (And there are some ancient, historically rich and wonderful churches in Ireland, so that is in the face of some serious competition)

Saint Patrick’s is so full of history, of the memories of great and not-so-great people, and of giants like Jonathan Swift.   It is full of artworks, of skill, energy,  craft and  beauty.

It’s full of treasures and stories and mysteries.  And then more stories.

I used to write a magazine or newspaper column called Hidden Dublin.    For the last 3-4 years I’ve been updating and extending the material for a book of the same name.    So many of these stories and details come from this place.  It is full of them, a treasure-book of narrative, saturated in moral, artistic history.  Civil and military and religious politics.  Wars and death and heroism and irony, both funny and sad.    Indeed, Saint Patrick’s is so venerable it has even contributed words and phrases to the English language.  – “to chance your arm“;  – “to wallop the opposition” – and via the great Swift himself: “Lilliput” and  “Lilliputian“;  and  – “a bunch of yahoos

Over the next few days and weeks, I’d like to show you some of my favourite things i the Cathedral, and to tell you some of the stories behind them.

I hope you’ll join me then.

18 thoughts on “Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, my favourite place in the world.

  1. I can see why you were furious. I’ve never been there but it looks amazing. Difficult to imagine ‘so-so’ being used to describe it.


    1. J.D. it is amazing. Honestly. Meet me there one day, see it and if you like I’ll give you a few stories and so on. In fact, to hell with it. Let’s get the rest of the Dublin-based bloggers to join us. It can be our community Xmas meet-up. What do you say?


      1. Sounds great but I am nowhere near Dublin unfortunately. I’m down here in County Limerick, but if I am ever going up to your neck of the woods I’ll take you up on that offer.


  2. Oh marvelous! I simply ADORE the fact that your passion brought you to utter fury at your student. 😀 Also, I am so annoyed at myself that I’ve yet to visit Ireland–particularly as I lived so close for a few years and I have supposed roots there. (We Americans are fond of creating our own histories, so I am dubious…). To be absolutely certain, I look forward to your book’s completion and release and will be first in line to purchase a copy. I hope it comes out in giant size with color plates, etc.
    Thank you for sharing your portion of the world with us all! xxA


  3. Ha! “So-so”?! That’s an impressive structure. What do you suppose they would have considered spectacular, rather than so-so?


      1. Good response, Pixel 🙂 You and me both.
        And J.G…. As for that old Jail house Flicker picture, I like it but God only knows what my student would make of it. ? Probably assume its some electricity sub-station or something. In fairness, she is Italian. Guess they’re a bit spoilt for art, architecture and history over there. Was still taken aback by her comment on St Patrick’s though. But, I have to repeat: she is a lovely person and a great student, so all is forgiven !


  4. I love cathedrals a lot, too! Have you ever been to Burgos? If not you should once go there…beautiful cathedral with many side chapels from different centuries. Was there when walking the Way of St. James this May.


    1. Not yet, but I’d love to see that some day Miya, in fact, I’d love to walk the whole route. Many wonderful churches in Spain of course, and I am sure especially along the Camino. Thanks so much for your visit and your comment, and so sorry for my extremely late reply! I don’t know how I missed your comment until now. But never late than never, eh? regards- A.


    1. You are far, far too kind WM, and from a man like yourself I take that as a very great compliment, so impressed with your blog, and with your lovely museum and all you do there. Yours in mutual esteem. -Arran.


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