29 December 2018

Lost in a labyrinth and
finding the heart of
the city in a cathedral

Visitors lost in the new labyrinth in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Many years ago, I read or heard a short story in which a man returns with his family to his home city in Ireland to spend a Christmas holiday with his brother and his family in what had been his childhood home.

His brother is about to drive the family that now lives in England back to the airport, The man asks to drive the car as far as the airport, but loses his way through the one-way systems, roundabouts and street signs that have developed over the decades in what had once been his home town, and the family almost misses the flight.

It is a frightening experience that wakes him to the present reality. Former home towns must be accepted as they are today. If we no longer know our way through a town or city, can we continue to call it home?

On the way back from Howth or Skerries earlier this week, I became confused by the new one-way system in the city centre streets in Dublin, and in the dark of a winter evening I found it difficult to read the directions on the new street signs.

I have written in the past that I feel equally at home in Dublin, Wexford, Lichfield and Rethymnon. We drove on south through Harold’s Cross, Terenure, and past the houses on Rathfarnham Road I had been born in and had lived for part of my childhood. I wondered briefly whether, since moving to west Limerick almost two years ago, I was becoming a stranger in the city I had been born in.

On Friday afternoon [28 December 2018], four of us had a post-Christmas lunch in Il Vicoletto in Crow Street. Two of us strolled around the Temple Bar area, like two tourists, viewing the cobbled streets and the street art.

Street art in the Temple Bar area of Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

From there, we walked on up to Christ Church Cathedral, which had been my home church for many years while I was a canon in the cathedral chapter and a member of the cathedral board.

Outside, it was interesting to see the number of tourists anxious to take photographs at the new stone labyrinth in the redesigned grounds of the cathedral. Funding from Dublin City Council and Fáilte Ireland enabled the redesign and landscaping of the grounds.

Inside the cathedral, we saw the heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole, which went on public display last month [14 November 2018] following an ecumenical service of dedication and thanksgiving to mark the return of the heart of the city’s patron saint.

The saint’s heart was stolen from the cathedral in March 2012 from an iron–barred cage on the wall of the Chapel of Saint Laud, its resting place for centuries. Following a long-running police investigation, the heart was recovered earlier this year by the gardai after a six-year absence.

Saint Laurence’s heart is now housed in the north transept in a specially designed art piece crafted by the Cork-based artist Eoin Turner.

As i made my way back through Harold's Cross, Terenure and Rathfarnham to Knocklyon, I thought that fetting lost in a cathedral labyrinth and finding the heart of the city in the same cathedral were interesting metaphors for how I was feeling about Dublin before returning to Askeaton this afternoon.

the heart of Saint Laurence O’Toole on display in the North Transept in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

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