Friday, June 27, 2008

Livin' Large with Laura: Ireland is an Onion

Is that a metaphor? I think so because a simile uses "like" or "as" and I always thought that was very juvenile and basic and I am a sophisticated metaphor type. I use it as an ode to Laura, an English teacher and my Travel-Back-through-Irish-history companion.

We took a few tours around town while Laura was here and learned a good bit of Irish history along the way. Some is remembered, some is not. What blows your mind is how old Ireland is and how many layers of history are built one on top of the other. And history is all around you. Driving around the country, look in any field and you stand a good chance of seeing a ruin (remember, pronounce it rooooooooon in your head) of someone's mansion or farmhouse.

Even Manus' parent's house, as I've told you before was the farm manager's house and stables for Desart Court, the manor house that was built in 1773 and burned down by the IRA in 1923. Man! That is old! ... Oh, really?

On the drive out of Kilkenny County, on your way to Dublin is a house that I would someday like to call my own. But, officially it is called "Shankill Castle" It was built in 1708 though I think a lot of what you see now was added in the mid 1800s. I just found out that you can tour the castle and its gardens so I intend to do just that. Someone actually lives there now, an artist named Elizabeth Cope and if she ever reads this I would like to a) ask her if I can have it and b) would she PLEASE take down the big YELLOW "Cope Art" signs that are on the outside walls? But, man! That house is old!..... oh, really?

Right in the heart of downtown kilkenny (using the term 'downtown' quite loosely) is the Rothe House. This house has been restored "to it's original splendor" (I love it when they say that) and we were able to take a tour through the house. It was built by a wealthy merchant (Mr. Rothe) and he and his wife were extremely prolific. In the bedroom. They had 12 kids and so he just kept building houses one behind the other. 3 in total and their very own water well in the second courtyard. Interesting tour and cool to see how people lived back then. It was built in 1594. Man! That is old!

Oh, really....

Kilkenny has it's own bit of witchcraft lore as well. Once upon a time a woman named Dame Alice Kyteler was tried and found guilty of witchcraft after 4 of her rich husbands mysteriously died. Obviously they didn't know how to treat a lady and their's should be a lesson for many a man today. right, MTW? Long story short, she escaped punishment but her housemaid Petronella paid the price, burned at the stake in front of the city hall (which still stands) and her home (which still stands) is now Kyteler's Inn, a pub and restaurant right in the center of town. You can't see the date on the sign but it is 1324.... Man! That is old!.... (you are starting to catch on now!)

Ireland, including Kilkenny and its surrounds has a very long and very rich religious history. Fortunately for us, many of the churches and monastic settlements still stand. Some still hold religious services. I went to more masses and spent more time in God's houses in these last few weeks than I have in the whole of my life prior to Laura's visit. 3 hours in just one day in Dublin. I now know that I can hold my breath for exactly 46 seconds. A priest will say the words "Heavenly Father" an average of 4 times in 10 minutes and Laura gives dirty looks when I use the conversion function on my cell phone to find out how many feet are in 2.71 yards during the Nicene Creed. Below are a few of the churches we visited:

Forgive the photo formatting, as always... Left to Right: The Black Abbey, Kilkenny est. 1225, Christchurch, Dublin est. 1171, St. Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny est. 1202 (note the round tower to the right of the church. We went up to the top for a look around - yes, even Lar) and the last one is St. Patrick's Church in Dublin, est 1191.

Now, I know what you are thinking... Man! Are those churches old! Yes, they are, but we are not yet even close to the center layer of this historical onion.

We went to Jerpoint Abbey, outside of Thomastown in Co. Kilkenny. We got a private tour with Claudia (private cause we were the only ones there, not cause we are special).
This abbey was established in 1158 and was in use by the Cistercian Monks for almost 400 years.

I don't know if you can see the map of the abbey at all, but the picture on the left is where the big red X is on the map. And on the map, there is a room on the right side called the "calefactory" and these monks were such fundamentalists that that room, the calefactory was the only room in the abbey where they were allowed to light a fire for warmth in the winter. They were only allowed to enter that room to warm themselves for 10 minutes at a time, and only 6 times per day. They'd better have the best seat in heaven for all their penitence.

Glendalough is another monastic settlement that will make Jerpoint look downright modern. It was founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. Some of the structures still remain, though I don't know how much is truly 'original' as the monastery was used for almost 700 years, until 1214 when the Normans invaded and destroyed the site. (bloody french!) I didn't take any pictures of Glendalough the day we visited as I'd been there before and very little had changed in the last few years (shocking, I know), but I did snap this photo of the cemetery that is intertwined with the ruins. The oldest headstone that I could still read was from 1763. But not to shabby a place for your eternal rest, is it?
Now, you are saying to yourself, "Self! That Glendalough sure is OLD! There can't be anything older than THAT in Ireland!" Okay, you're right. Unless you count something from 4000 B.C. older... And I do.

Think -'s a contemporary to these dolmen portal tombs that dot the Irish landscape. They are over 60oo years old and they are just sitting there in some farmer's fields. They are huge and imposing and just amazing.

And Man! Are they OLD!

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