St Patrick’s Cathedral

The present St Patrick’s Cathedral building in Dublin was started around 1220. It was built on the site of an ancient well allegedly used by St Patrick to drink from. The Cathedral took the place on what is thought to have been an early wooden structured Cathedral. Some stone, which came from Bristol in the UK and Irish limestone made the walls. Many think the design of St Patrick’s is based on Old Sarum Cathedral, just north of Salisbury, in Hampshire in England as its design in the shape of a cross is very similar to the Salisbury one.

As you would have expected the Cathedral building has changed considerably over time until today. In 1270 the first addition to the Cathedral in 1270, was the Lady Chapel now known to us as the French Chapel because of the connection with the exiled Huguenots from France. In the fourteenth century the combination of violent storms and a fire caused significant damage to the Cathedral and much renovation and the building of a new tower was perfected and with such substantial buildings it is nearly impossible to recreate what came before.

There was a big change after the English Reformation, when Henry V111 split from Rome and Saint Patrick’s became an Anglican Cathedral. To suit a more austere religion many statues were removed and ornate decoration was stripped mainly from ceilings. The turbulence of being protestant then catholic and back to protestant several times led to a lack of strategy and direction led to decay and little renewal. During the early sixteenth century the cathedral became a parish church, a university and a court house. However, under Queen Mary in 1555 St Patrick’s became a Cathedral again.

In the nineteenth century the Cathedral was in dire strait with parts of the Cathedral deemed unsafe for purposes on top of that the Dean of the time was unable to raise enough funds or even to come any way near the amount of money needed to restore the Cathedral to glory. All looked gloomy for the future of St Patrick’s until a “White Knight” in the shape of Benjamin Lee Guinness came to the rescue with £150,000 and an undertaking by the cathedral board that they would not interfere with his work. The Cathedral was closed for five years between 1860 and 1965 but the work was completed to the satisfaction of most people.

Today the Cathedral Board are far more practical and renovation continues nearly all the time.

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