Tag Archives: strongbow

IMMA – A Modern View

IMMA - a delight

IMMA – a delight

I don’t know how I had not managed to visit IMMA before, but I’m sure glad that I did. The place, although it concentrates on the Modern there is much history to learn. It’s a terrific place to visit, and I expect you’ll need a second one to ‘get it all in.’

The Irish Museum of Modern Art was established by the Government in 1990 as the first national institution for the collection and presentation of modern and contemporary art. It was opened officially by An Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, on 25th May 1991 and since then it has become an influential presence in both Irish and international art. It is recognised for its extensive and informative exhibitions that attract half-a-million visitors each year.

The site where the building stands has an interesting history. James Butler, Earl of Ormonde and Viceroy to King Charles II was granted permission to build a place for ‘old soldiers’. He was impressed with the building Les Invalides erected by France’s Louis XIV and selected William Robinson (he also designed Marsh’s Library) as the architect. The old hospital on the site that dated back to the days of Strongbow was removed, and the foundation stone was laid in 1680. The work was completed in four years and what you now see is Ireland’s best preserved 17th century building. Much work by the Office of Public Works (OPW) in the 1980s has really made the place ‘easy on the eye’, and it is no surprise they received a Europa Nostra in 1986.

Art in the open air

Art in the open air

 Apart from the building you must visit the 18th century formal gardens. It was a treat walking past the neatly trimmed hedges, fountains and many, lovely statues. There are art works at different points around the grounds and you can always consider your next move the friendly restaurant. The mixture of ‘old and new’ works very well – it’s a delight.

Formal Gardens

Formal Gardens


The road to....

The road to….

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Christ Church Cathedral – Living History

The old phrase about being ‘steeped in history’ certainly applies to Christ Church Cathedral like no other building in Dublin. When you realise that its foundation took place less than twenty years after the Battle of Clontarf, then that is almost a thousand years of history. Where to begin?

Christ Church Cathedral - in all its glory

Christ Church Cathedral – in all its glory

The original wooden building was rebuilt by Strongbow and other Norman knights after their arrival in 1169. Laurence O’Toole was the then Bishop of Dublin who later became the city’s patron saint. He died in 1180 in Eu, Normandy and his heart was returned to Christ Church where it remained as an item of veneration. However, it was stolen from its casket on 3rd March 2012, and sadly has not been seen since.

Curved Footbridge over Winetavern Street

Curved Footbridge over Winetavern Street

Over the centuries various refurbishments have been carried out with the iconic, curved footbridge added in the 1870s.  A number of small chapels with wonderful stained windows looked great as they were bathed in strong sunlight. And the colourful, tiled floor across which so much history has occurred was a constant reminder of the church’s unique history.

The famous choir began in 1493 and its members took part in the first performance of Frederic Handel’s oratorio Messiah on 13th April 1742 in nearby Fishamble Street. On another musical note a cat and rat were discovered in one of the organ pipes when it was refurbished. The two animals had died and became mummified in the 1850s, and are preserved, under glass, in the Crypt. James Joyce incorrectly referred to them as ‘that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ’ in Finnegans Wake. Joyce, however, had bad eyesight and this proves it! Also in the Crypt, the city’s oldest surviving structure, are numerous, fabulous gold items, statues, stocks, the Crypt Café and costumes from the TV series The Tudors.

The rat and the cat - in the Crypt

The rat and the cat – in the Crypt

And, lastly, up the narrow stairs in the belfry, are the bells that we have all become familiar with as they ring in the New Year, and long may they continue to do so.

Great view from outside the belfry

Great view from outside the belfry

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Clontarf, ready to celebrate

As famous dates in Irish history go, the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 is one of the best known. It is part of our national DNA, and Brian Boru is rightly lauded for his victory over the Vikings. And now, a thousand years after the fateful day, it is being celebrated with a full programme of events.

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An overcast Dublin Bay at Clontarf

The battle itself took place at different locations during the day (Good Friday), with fierce fighting at ‘The Fishing Weir’, what is now Richmond Road, and around Cross Guns. Late in the day, Brian Boru’s men drove the Vikings back to their longships at Clontarf, and in their desperation to escape, the Vikings were slaughtered to a man – there were no survivors! Brian, however, did not live very long to enjoy his greatest victory as he was attacked and killed by Brodir, the Viking leader from The Isle of Man. After the battle there followed a century and a half of uneasy peace between the Celtic chieftains and the ‘local’ Vikings, that was finally ended by the Norman Invasion with the arrival of Strongbow (Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare) in 1169. There are many different events celebrating the momentous day with mock battles, lectures and walking tours all adding to the festivities. When I was in Clontarf recently I couldn’t resist visiting ‘Restaurant 1014’, a fine place to spend a little time and enjoy the magnificent view over Dublin Bay. While sipping a coffee outside it was not difficult to imagine the Viking longships, with their colourful sails billowing in the breeze,  sail to the shore, the warriors tense and ready for battle. The restaurant is owned and operated by CASA (Caring And Sharing Association) which supports people with disabilities. And upstairs, you can read a book (or buy one for €2) while having something to eat or drink. It will be holding a Gala Evening on Wednesday 23rd April (the date of the battle), and in the week before the Big Day the restaurant will offer a special menu with a fusion of Nordic and Irish cuisine. And if you’re lucky you might even see a few Vikings. You’ve been warned!

Restaurant 1014

Restaurant 1014

PS – Check out Battle of Clontarf and the excellent exhibition in Trinity College for more Battle/Viking details.

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