My Love Affair with Churches Continues
My favorite thing that I did while in Ireland was also the simplest and cheapest: visiting St Fin Barre’s Cathedral. My apartment was less than a ten minute walk from the cathedral and I saw it literally every day (the grand spires can be seen from many vantage points in Cork; it seems like it is everywhere). Just a glimpse of its Beauty and the Beast like facade was enough to get me grinning. I do love a lavish church, so I was more than willing to hand over €5 to go inside and explore.
The grounds are lovely and serene. There is a little graveyard in the front, and I had an entertaining few moments imagining who might be buried there. It’s a tiny plot, in an odd spot, but it is not bereft of charm.
The sky was a deep delicious blue, the grass sparkling and green. I don’t remember specifically, but chances are good that it had rained that day.
I went inside, a little nervously. I always feel a bit bashful going into a place of worship just to explore, like I’m intruding. This was patently not the case with St Fin Barre’s, as was evidenced by the tiny gift shop and the man at the cash register waiting to take my money.
The man was very knowledgable about the cathedral, and quite eager for me to see and appreciate all that it had to offer. He stood with me and pointed to things of interest, spewing stories and facts. I believe that you can ask for guided tours, and if all staff are as knowledgable as this man, it might be worthwhile. But I prefer to explore alone.
The site of the cathedral has been holy for hundreds of years, dating back to the 7th century monastery that was first built there. I love that sense of history, of longevity, of long held secrets and promises. I love how the cathedral is relatively young by Irish standards (built in 1864), when it is positively ancient by Canadian standards. The depth of history drives home again and again what a young country Canada really is.
The cathedral is heavy with artful symbolism, down to the details in the marble floor mosaics. The details in front of the altar are based upon St Matthew: “the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind.” It shows many people within a net, and includes corks bobbing around (corks, get it?). Unfortunately, I didn’t grab a picture of that one.
I wandered around in awe until it was time for the service to begin. The cathedral is still an active place of worship for the Church of Ireland and there are services every day. I felt awkward being the only person there, so I left, but now I wish I would have stayed. A service in a place like that would be downright magical.
Next time, I guess.
Do you have a type of place that you just love to visit, like me and churches?
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