Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ireland, Day 11: The Giant's Ring, Monasterboice, St. Peter's Church, and St. Laurence's Gate

We left Belfast this morning, and almost immediately stopped to see the Giant's Ring, a prehistoric enclosure 650 feet in diameter, with a dolmen at the center. It was built in about 2700 B.C. during the Neolithic period.

From Ireland (2015)

In the middle is a tomb made up of five upright stones and a large capstone, the bare frame of what was originally a chambered grave, covered with a cairn of stones and earth.

From Ireland (2015)

About six miles from Drogheda, where we'll be spending the night, we stopped at Monasterboice Monastic Site, a name that's a part-anglicization of the Irish name Mainistir Bhuithe, meaning "monastery of Buithe." As an early Christian settlement it was founded in the late 5th century by St. Buite mac Bronaigh, a bishop of Mainistir, who died in 521; the monastery was burned in 1097, and served as an important center of religion and learning until the founding of nearby Mellifont Abbey in 1142. (As a side note, there's a very interesting conservation study available to read.) The site houses two churches built in the 14th century.

From Ireland (2015)

One of the more impressive structures is a 10-century round tower, which currently stands 110 feet tall; unfortunately, one can not go inside. The Round Tower was the Irish reaction to the Norse raids on monasteries in the 10th and 11th centuries. These buildings, over 100 feet high, served as watch towers, belfries, repositories for church valuables, and as refuges for the community. The door, normally 15-20 feet above ground, was reached by a movable ladder; the interior was divided into four or more stories. The present height of the tower is 110 feet. The level of the surroundings has been raised by burials, and the conical cap is missing.

From Ireland (2015)

However, Monasterboice is well-known for its 10th-century high crosses. Muiredach's High Cross is about 18 feet tall and was named after an abbot, Muiredach mac Domhnaill, who died in 923. The cross features biblical carvings of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and is purported to be the tallest in Ireland.

From Ireland (2015)

Less than 300 feet from our hotel was St. Peter's Catholic Church, which houses the relic of the head of St. Oliver Plunkett, the Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland; he opened a school in Drogheda in Jul 1670 for both young people and ordained priests, where both Catholics and Protestants were taught together. This was Ireland's first integrated school.

Plunkett was the last Catholic saint to be martyred in England (having been hanged, drawn, and quartered), and the first new Irish saint in about 700 years. The reliquary was rather impressive, and one could indeed see his head encased within. This is the door of the cell in Newgate Prison where he was imprisoned for eight months before his martyrdom at Tyburn on July 1, 1681.

From Ireland (2015)
After dinner we walked to St. Laurence's Gate, a structure that was built in the 13th century as an outer defense gate within the town walls. The two round towers are four stories high and connected by a portcullis and a retaining wall to the top of the building. The inner toll gate was in operation until the early 19th century. It's named after the Priory of St. Laurence, which stood outside the gate until its dissolution after the Reformation.
From Ireland (2015)

No comments:

Post a Comment