St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland is sometimes compared to the Notre Dame in France and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. While certainly smaller and lesser known than these other two magnificent churches, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Dublin and has its own intriguing origin and history. The cathedral is often included on tour routes. Dublin visitors can arrange a guided tour of historic Dublin through a travel agency or head out independently with a good map and an excellent pair of walking shoes. Remember that Ireland is known as the country of clovers and greenery for a reason: it frequently rains. Be sure to check the weather and if necessary, bring along an umbrella or poncho.
Formally known as The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is located in West Dublin. It is one of two Protestant cathedrals located within the capital city. The history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral is certainly an interesting one. According to legend, St. Patrick baptized many people from paganism to Christianity at a well located at the site where the cathedral now stands. A small church was erected on the site to memorialize the event. The church was expanded into a cathedral, and, at 305 feet, it is the longest church in the country. When Cromwell’s forces besieged Dublin in the 17th century, they actually used St. Patrick’s Cathedral as a horse stable. It was not surprising that the cathedral fell into a terrible state of disrepair. Over the past few centuries, a number of philanthropic efforts have steadily restored the cathedral to its former glory.
The history of St Patrick’s Cathedral includes many famous Irish people. Literature lovers can visit the tomb of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and former dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland. The epitaph over the tomb was translated by Yeats and reads, “Swift has sailed into his rest; Savage indignation there cannot lacerate his breast.” He is buried near his beloved “Stella,” Esther Johnson. Another favorite sight is the Choir of St. Patrick’s, decorated with brightly colored, beautiful banners.
Services are held every day of the year at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Ireland, and sung services are held six days a week. A lovely park is located to the north of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, decorated with statues of prominent Irish writers. Music aficionados can attend matins and evensong on most days. Interested visitors can pay a modest admissions fee to attend “Living Stones,” which is a permanent exhibition that explore the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its relationship to the city and greater Ireland. Guidebooks, church histories, sermons, and several nonfiction books are available for purchase online.
Travelers can also head over to the Christ Church Cathedral, the other Protestant cathedral in Dublin. Founded in approximately 1040 by Sitric, the Danish King of Dublin, it was gradually expanded over the centuries. Christ Church became Protestant in 1551, and the cathedral itself was almost completely rebuilt in the 1870s in Gothic revival style.