Anna in Dublin – Christchurch Cathedral
It has been a long long time since I visited Christchurch Cathedral, not since I was a child! It must be said, I wasn’t nearly as interested back then as I am now! I was overdue a visit to brush up on my history!
Sitruic Silkenbeard built the first church on this site almost 1000 years ago! You can feel the years of history as the Cathedral is an eclectic mix of both medieval and 19th century architecture. Fun fact, it is actually considered to be the oldest building in all of Dublin! Not too shabby!
I started off my visit by having breakfast in the park just out the front. On a cold, clear-skied autumn morning, I sat wrapped up in my big coat and ate my chocolate scone from Queen of Tarts and sipped a well needed coffee as I admired the building’s stunning exterior. If you’ve never taken the time to do this I highly recommend it but maybe pick a warmer day! It’s a great spot for people watching!
Once I’d finished off my brekkie and frozen myself silly I finally headed inside. I was greeted by a very friendly team who kitted me out with their audio guide which gave me a really good deep dive into the history of the cathedral!
The first thing that caught my attention were the beautiful stained glass windows. I hadn’t taken time to appreciate them on my last visit. I even got side tracked from my audio tour, trying to link each one to the corresponding biblical story!
Once I was back on track I found myself standing in the middle of the quire looking up at the beautiful organ. The organ in Christchurch is relatively new in organ years. It was built and installed in 1984 by Kenneth Jones and Associates of Bray. For context, the world’s oldest playable pipe organ in Switzerland was built in 1435! So considering the age of the Cathedral, The Organ is pretty young!
I’d love to hear it played in person but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance this visit. I love the sounds of organs! There is something so ethereal about them. I sat in St Paul’s cathedral in London listening to them play the organ for a whole hour once! Christchurch’s Church Choirs are legendary and are well known for taking part in the first performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin in 1742. You can see the times of their upcoming performances on their facebook page if you are keen to listen to them perform!
The old organ that was there before was replaced due to its poor sound quality however it is forever immortalised by James Joyce in his final work ‘Finnegans Wake’!
The story goes that a cat chased a mouse into a pipe of the old church organ. The two animals got stuck and their bodies were mummified over time. When they were discovered people thought it was pretty cool so their mummified bodies were put on display!
Now, if you have been to Christchurch you are probably thinking; ‘hang on a minute, It’s not a mouse, it’s a rat!’ Well you’re correct! Today what is on display is a rat, however James Joyce wasn’t just bad at his rodent biology. Originally it was a mouse. The mouse was lost/destroyed during renovations and a mummified rat was found under the floorboards of the cathedral so it was used as a replacement!
The thing I was most excited to see was Laurence O’Toole’s heart! We all know the story of the disappearing heart. Back in March of 2012, someone hid in the cathedral and in the dead of night stuck out to cut the relic free from its cage and ran away with it! It was missing for six years until An Garda Síochána received an anonymous tip in 2018 claiming that they would discover the heart in Phoenix Park!
The heart was retrieved from the park and now is safely back on display in the cathedral! Safely guarded under lock and key! I was so excited to see it because it was missing on my last visit!
I don’t know what i expected but i couldn’t believe how small it was. I had always pictured it bigger in my head!
My last visit was to the Crypt! You could really feel the history in this place! I felt like I was stepping back in time as I descended the stairs. It was such a contrast to the elegant cathedral above! It was built in the late 12th century but parts of it are said to date back to the 11th century and that doesn’t surprise me at all
It is the largest crypt in Ireland and it has had many different functions over the years. Along with its intended purpose of storing coffins and religious relics it was used to store bottles of wine and nowadays you can even rent it out for events which I think is really cool!
If you have never been to Christchurch Cathedral, I highly recommend a visit! Not only is it a beautiful building steeped in 1000 years of Irish history, but you can see some pretty amazing artefacts and hear some pretty quirky stories! There truly is something interesting for everyone to enjoy!