You just can’t go to Dublin without visiting the Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells. So what did we do bright and early on Sunday? We hit the Trinity College Library, along with a slew of other people who thought Sunday morning would be a good time to see it.
From the library’s pamphlet:
Over 1000 years ago, when the Book of Kells was written, Ireland had a population of less than half a million people living in fortified homesteads along its coasts and inland waterways.
The Irish church was largely monastic in organization. Monks lived in communities devoted to the study of God’s word, fasts, and manual work. The message of the life of Christ was spread primarily through gospel books, and the scribes and artists who produced them held an honored place in Irish society.
The Book of Kells contains lavishly decorated copy in Latin of the four gospels. It has long been associated with St. Colum Cille who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in about 561. The Book of Kells was probably produced early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona, working wholly or partially at Iona itself or at Kells, county Meath, where they moved after 806 AD, when Iona was attacked by Vikings in a raid which left 68 monks dead. The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period. It came to Trinity College in 1661.
Have you ever read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill? It’s enlightening.
While Kathleen and Kathie lingered over the Book of Kells, I moseyed on over to the Long Room, which houses 200,000 of the library’s oldest books and, in cases down the center of the room, a bunch of medical exhibits. In the cases I saw a book by Robert Graves (of Graves’ disease fame) and an 1811 diary of a lady who had a mastectomy without anesthesia. Ouchie! One book opened to a Jonathan Swift play, in which he wrote that “The best doctors are Doctor Dyet, Doctor Quiet, and Doctor Merryman.” Of course, I was fascinated by the skeleton of a 7’ tall guy who had a pituitary adenoma.
From there we headed over to Dublin Castle to hit the Chester Beatty Library. Since it was closed on Sunday, we went to St. Patrick’s, the national cathedral (Anglican). St. Patrick supposedly baptized converts at a well that once existed in what is now the churchyard, and that is why there has been a church in this location since the fifth century. Most of the current building is 13th century vintage. Jonathan Swift, dean of the cathedral from 1713 until 1745, and his Stella (Esther Johnson, whom some say he married in 1716) are buried in the southwest end of the nave. Of course, we know Jonathan Swift best as the author of Gulliver’s Travels.
On a column was a plaque with the following poem by Jonathan Swift.
Stella this day is thirty-four,(We shan't dispute a year or more;)
However, Stella, be not troubled,
Although thy size and years are doubled
Since first I saw thee at sixteen,
The brightest virgin on the green;
So little is thy form declined;
Made up so largely in thy mind.
O, would it please the gods to splitThy beauty, size, and years, and wit!
No age could furnish out a pair
Of nymphs so graceful, wise, and fair;
With half the lustre of your eyes,
With half your wit, your years, and size.
And then, before it grew too late,
How should I beg of gentle fate,
(That either nymph might have her swain,)
To split my worship too in twain.
Do you suppose he was trying to tell her she needed to join Weight Watchers?
After we left the cathedral, we walked along and found the place – now an alley - where Handel’s Messiah was first sung in 1742 by the combined choirs of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals. If you listen closely, you can hear the ghosts still singing the Hallelujah Chorus…or was that Kathie?
From there we went to Subway for lunch - because we obviously can’t get enough of it in the States, and then to the National Museum to see the 8th century Celtic Brooch of Tara and the bog mummies. Eww. I erased that from my mind’s eye by doing a rubbing of a Celtic design in the kids area. Never let it be said that I don’t know how to have a good time.
The weather that day was great. Walking along the main drag, Kathie spotted the front door of a Georgian rowhouse that she just had to have a photo of. The only thing is that the door was at the top of a set of stone steps. Of course, she mounts the steps and is getting the shot when the owner walks up. He patiently waits for her to take her picture then says, “Would you like to see the inside?” And do you suppose that Kathie could turn down an offer like that? Not on your life. I must admit, it was a perfectly lovely house, but what if he’d been a serial killer, Kath? I can just imagine the headlines – “American ladies just had to see the inside of the killer’s house…”
We had dinner at Taste again, and then headed over to the Gaiety Theater, built in 1871, for Riverdance – which was so, so good. We had perfect seats and of course the music and dancers were just fabulous. What a treat!
All in all, it was a very good day.