Faith and Footprints: March 2016

By Kelly Wise Valdes

Built in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well where Saint Patrick baptized new Christians on his visit to Dublin. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland and also serves as one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral has been at the heart of Ireland’s history and culture for more than 800 years. For long periods it was the largest enclosed space on the island and it remains the largest Cathedral in the country. The present Cathedral building, in terms of shape and size, dates from 1220-1259. The building is largely constructed from local limestone and imported stone from Bristol.

Archbishop Luke is largely credited for the construction of the Cathedral from 1220-1260. He was blind by the time the work was complete, so he never saw the full fruits of his efforts. He was responsible for building the Gothic cathedral in a cruciform shape; with the main body of the church known as the Nave resembling the long part of a cross, the top of the cross known as the Choir, with the arms of the cross known as the Transepts. The spires top 140 ft.

The building constantly evolved over the course of the next 700 years. In 1270 the Lady Chapel was added. In 1316 a violent storm blew down the spire of the building and in 1362 the Cathedral suffered substantial damage after an accidental fire. In 1370 repairs to the nave and the tower were carried out under the direction of Archbishop Minot. The tower was later named Minot’s Tower. This structure also collapsed in 1394 destroying much of the west end of the Cathedral in the process. Eventually the tower was rebuilt but was never renamed. This version still survives today.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral has been visited by some of Irish history’s most influential individuals from King James I to Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. It is the final resting place for one of Ireland’s most famous men, Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s travels. Today, the Cathedral is open to all people as an architectural and historical site, but principally as a place of worship. The cathedral charges a small entrance fee for tours, however, all fees collected are used for the continued restoration of this architectural masterpiece.