I had my first British Literature class this morning, at 8:15 am….after those grueling 30 minutes (haha) we left the hotel for Christ Church. on our way we stopped by the General Post Office. It was here that the Easter Uprising of 1916 took place. The irish were inside rebelling against the British control. The entire inside of the post office was destroyed during the fight, but the columns still remain. The post office was rebuilt in the original spot with the columns still out front. The Easter Uprising led to the General Uprising, the bloodiest year being 1920. There was a peace treaty in 1921, but soon after there was Civil war from 1922-3. It wasn’t until 1923 that Ireland became an independent state. The columns, still with visible bullet holes, remain as a reminder of the cost of Irish freedom.
We then walked across the Liffey to Christ Church. This church was built in 1030 in the early gothic style. For those of you art history people out there, here are some of the facts of the building: there are flying buttresses outside, the nave and side isles have quadripartite groins, second story isles with 3 archways in each opening, third story clerestory, there are not any radiating chapels nor is there a dome over the crossing. The inside was breathtaking! It was so special in part because we were asked to be as quiet as possible inside. Also there were gorgeous stained glass windows that were for the purpose of telling the gospel to the illiterate. Each picture had Latin subscripts below it. My friend Jordan and I quite enjoyed translating each with help at times from one of the professors Dr. Beck. Below the church is a crypt filled with different memorial stones and plaques and artifacts.
Next we headed to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift is buried. I must admit, after Christ Church it was a disappointment. While this church is also a practicing Anglican church, it seems that during the week it is not a place of reverence and worship, but instead is a museum and gift shop. I dislike being this cruel, but that was my first impression. We walked in and there was the giftshop! If Jesus were here I have a feeling he might have thrown them out…besides these unsettling feelings, it was a beautiful church. It was similar to Christ Church in its architectural layout, but it also had some beautiful flags hanging throughout the sanctuary.
Next we went to the Chester Beatty Library. The library is a part of the Dublin Castle grounds, which we didn’t have time to tour. There is a wonderful selection of manuscripts and artifacts from most of the large world religions, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity to name a few. Many of these manuscripts were collected by Chester Beatty and his wife during their travels to Egypt. Besides manuscripts, there were also many beautifully painted books, scrolls, and carvings from all over the world.
Our last stop before we had to be back for our Oxford Christians class was the Kilmainham Gaol. It took us a while to find the entrance after we traveled there by bus. This turned out to be quite a lovely walk as we traveled down a beautiful tree lined path. This is the place were 14 of the leaders of the Easter Uprising were kept and executed. The jail was abandoned after the civil war in 1924. It wasn’t until 1966 that the jail was excavated and reopened. The jail was overcrowded most of the time, especially during the famine since you could get better care inside than out. We were lead through the West Wing, the oldest part of the jail. There are tiny barrel vaulted ceilings with small one person cells. Each cell was usually filled with more than 5 people though. It was here that TB and asthma were prevalent as well as dysentery and typhoid due to lack of sanitation and the moist air. At one point a member of parliament, Parnell, was jailed there during the rebellion, but he was given special treatment due to his status. The office was turned into his jail cell, which included a fire place and his own furniture and clothing. Next we went to the West wing. This room was oval, 3 stories high, very large and open. It was built in the Victorian style with and upside down V shaped glass roof. When inside the guards could see everything and hear every sound, even whispers. Also in the wing was a spiral staircase for the prisoners and a straight staircase for the guards, man holes for ventilation of the laundry and kitchen below, and a lift for laundry and food.
Then we had our Oxford Christians class. I have a feeling I am going to learn a LOT! But I can say that Dr. Hanks is one of my favorite professors!!!
Tonight we went to see Riverdance!!!! IT WAS AMAZING!!! The dancer in me was making my feet move the entire time…it was wonderful!!!! The first dance was a tradition irish river dance. For those of you unfamiliar with the river dance, it’s like taping but the entire top half of the body is held still while the feet move up and down and all around. Absolutely fantastic! Then there was some beautiful a cappella singing, and the lead singer had a voice angel like in its height and sweetness. This was followed by a ballet type dance. I say “ballet type”, but that’s not exactly what it is…I think I was just noticing the strong influence ballet has on Irish dancing, explaining why ballet is the fundamental dance form. The girls also did some dancing on point in their tap shoes!! Ouch!! There were some wonderful instruments in the show, including a violin, some form of saxophone, and an airless bagpipe (I believe). When the men would get out on stage with the tap shoes it was fabulous! Their feet moved so fast, being a tapper myself it was just awe inspiring. My favorite part of the show would be a tie between the wonderful Gaelic sung in a cappella and when the entire crew would line up across the stage and river dance! The entire show was Brilliant!! One interesting point though, there were no redheads…?