Even if you are not religious, it is worth attending one of the services – the combination of the organ and choir with the cathedral’s acoustics is breathtaking.
Although nearby Christ Church Cathedral is slightly older, St. Patrick’s is bigger, and thus holds the distinction of being the largest church in Ireland. It was founded here in 1191 to honour the place where the patron saint of Ireland supposedly baptised Celtic chieftains and other religious converts on his visit to Dublin. The actual spot is a well in St. Patrick’s Park, adjacent to the cathedral, which is a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by as you take a break from a day’s wandering.
Fury at the English
The cathedral itself, like anything in Ireland that has been around for a while, has had to weather some pretty turbulent episodes over the years. During the English Reformation, St. Patrick’s was converted into an Anglican cathedral, a move which was strongly resented by the still-catholic local population. In the 17th century this bitterness deepened to anger when Oliver Cromwell, as a mark of disrespect for Anglicanism, appropriated the nave to stable his horses during his conquest of Ireland.
Religion on the Grandest Scale
Today, the cathedral cannot fail to impress with its 43-metre spire, intricate stonework and spectacular stained glass windows. It seems even larger from the inside and, looking at the vaulted ceiling high above you, it seems impossible that a structure this grand could have been built 800 years ago. Highlights inside include the grave and epitaph of Jonathan Swift, who was the cathedral’s dean for over 30 years, and the enormous organ, which has over 4,000 pipes.
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