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Dublin cathedral features sweeping historical artifacts

By Catholic Online
July 30th, 2010
Catholic Online (

The Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin was founded in 1030 A.D. by the Hiberno-Norse king Sitriuc Silkenbeard and Dúnán, first Bishop of Dublin. Heralded as the original Viking church, the structure has been a part of Dublin and Irish history ever since. The wooden Viking structure was destroyed during the Norman invasion by King Richard Strongbow de Clare, and the stone church was built starting in 1171. Strongbow's tomb is inside the church walls, his effigy seen just inside the entrance.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Famed Saint Laurence O'Toole's heart remains - literally, at the cathedral. Named an archbishop in the 1150's and dying in France in 1180, his preserved heart lies inside a heart shaped box enclosed by iron bars, near the back of the church.

A decidedly un-Christian stockade is on display in the crypt, which is the largest crypt in Ireland or Britain. Made in 1670, these stocks were used to punish criminals in Christ Church Place. They were moved inside the cathedral in 1870.

Such an ancient structure would face the ravages of decay, so a massive restoration to the cathedral was undertaken in the Victorian era. Following the renovation, while the seriously decayed structure was preserved from collapse, it remains difficult to tell which parts of the interior are genuinely medieval and which parts is a Victorian pastiche. Nonetheless, Christ Church remains a fascinating sampling of surviving medieval and later church building.

The crypt contains various monuments and historical features, including the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland, two carved statues that until the late eighteenth century stood outside the Tholsel (Dublin's medieval city hall, which was demolished in 1806).

One of the cathedral's more intriguing inhabitants is the mummified remains of a cat and a rat. According to church lore, the cat had chased the rat in to a pipe of an organ and both became stuck. James Joyce used the cat and the rat as a simile in "Finnegan's Wake" when he describes someone as being "...As stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christchurch organ..." The cat is chasing the rat in perpetuity behind glass in the crypt of the church.

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