Friday, March 19, 2010
Dublin Castle Complex
For seven and a half centuries Dublin Castle was the fortified seat of British rule in Ireland, until a handover to Michael Collins in the Upper Yard of the castle in 1922, the culmination of the bloody Irish Uprising that began in 1916 (Easter Rebellion). The handover marked the formation of the Irish Free State, when twenty-six of the thirty-two counties of Ireland left the dominion of Britain. The Irish Free State has now become a Republic, and the remaining six counties form Northern Ireland, still part of Great Britain.
The round medieval tower shown in the above photo dates back to the thirteenth century, but the Chapel Royal to the right of it was not constructed until the nineteenth century. The River Poddle, a tributary of the Liffey, now flows under the castle in a channel designed to divert it, but the confluence of the Poddle and Liffey rivers was a naturally defensible site when construction of the castle began in 1204 upon the order of King John of England. This castle, completed in 1230, replaced a Danish Viking castle which had stood on the same site.
The castle stands on the highest point of ground in Dublin, which gets it name from Dubh Linn (Black Pool; dubh = black), which was on the site of the present castle gardens and coach house. The castle contains splendid State Apartments and the renowned Chester Beatty Library. Additions and remodelings continued through the twentieth century.
The octagonal clock tower shown in the above photo is known as the Bedford Tower, which occupies the site of the original Norman gate. The regalia of the Order of St Patrick, the “Crown Jewels” of Ireland, were kept in the Office of Arms in this tower facing Dublin Castle’s Upper Yard. The jewels were discovered missing on July 6, 1907, four days before the state visit of England’s King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. To this day they have never been found.
The Chapel Royal shown below is a Victorian era nineteenth century replacement of an earlier chapel. The organ was a gift of Prince Albert, escort of Queen Victoria.
In the adjacent Dublin Castle gardens the circular grassy middle lawn is embellished by a large-scale ancient Celtic emblem (photo below) formed by brick pavers. The design is best seen from the terrace of the Chester Beatty Library. This lawn is actually used as a helicopter landing pad on occasion. Ogham designs (Irish writing symbols) decorate the benches facing the circular lawn. Strangely, most tourists overlook this welcoming spot.