20 February 2011

Sunday afternoon in Dublin Castle and Temple Bar

The Upper Yard in Dublin Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Patrick Comerford

After this morning’s Cathedral Eucharist, five of us went to lunch in the Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle this afternoon. After hearing last night’s documentary on RTÉ on the theft of priceless Quranic manuscripts from the library, it was good to recommend the library to students and friends.

Afterwards, a few of strolled around Dublin Castle, which was a royal residence and the seat of government in Ireland until 1922, and which is still used for formal government and state occasions.

First we called in to see the Chapel Royal, which was the official Church of Ireland chapel of the Household of the Lord Lieutenant and the Viceroy from 1914 until 1922.

The Chapel Royal was designed by Francis Johnston (1760–1829), the foremost architect working in Ireland in the early 19th century, and architect to the Board of Works. The interior of the Chapel Royal has one of the finest Gothic Revival interiors in Ireland, and predates Pugin’s arrival in Ireland.

The decoration of the ceiling of the interior is the work of George Stapleton, one of the leading stuccodores of the time. Over the chancel window are three life-size figures representing Faith, Hope and Charity. Over the galleries are heads representing Piety and Devotion.

The interior vaulting and columns are cast in timber and feature a paint wash (faux pierre) to give the effect of stone. It is said that this is “the most flamboyant and luxurious Dublin interior of its era.”

The Chapel Royal had its own dean, but shortly before the handover of government, the title of Chapel Royal was transferred nominally if only briefly to Christ Church Cathedral.

In 1943, the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle became the property of the Irish Army, and the former Church of Ireland chapel became a Roman Catholic church, which was renamed the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Although the church is no longer used for public worship, it has recently been restored to its 19th century state.

Beside the Chapel Royal, we stopped to look at The Record Tower, the sole surviving tower of the mediæval castle, dating from ca 1228, and then passed under the arches into the Upper Yard, the castle’s principal Georgian courtyard.

There we looked into the State Apartments, and at the Bedford Tower of 1761, from which the Irish Crown Jewels were stole in 1907. The tower is flanked on the west by the Gate of Fortitude and on the east by the Gate of Justice – atop of which Justice is blindfolded with her back turned on the city.

A decorated doorway in a side street in Temple Bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

Later, I strolled through Temple Bar. Despite the recession, and despite the cold weather, its narrow cobbled streets were abuzz with life, and the cafés, bars and restaurants were busy.

I returned to Christ Church Cathedral for Choral Evensong, but later strolled back to Temple Bar on my own to end the afternoon with a double espresso in La Dolce Vita, an authentic Italian bistro and wine bar in Cow’s Lane.

Cow’s Lane in Temple Bar, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

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