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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Architect Benjamin Woodward

Benjamin Woodward, Irish architect who, in partnership with Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, designs a number of buildings in Dublin, Cork and Oxford, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly on November 16, 1816.

Woodward is trained as an engineer but develops an interest in medieval architecture, producing measured drawings of Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. These drawings are exhibited at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London in 1846.

The same year Woodward joins the office of Sir Thomas Deane and becomes a partner in 1851 along with Deane’s son, Thomas Newenham Deane. It seems that Deane looks after business matters and leaves the design work to Woodward.

Woodward’s two most important buildings are the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford, (1854-1860). He is also responsible for the Kildare Street Club in Dublin (1858-1861) and Queen’s College Cork, now University College Cork (1845-1849).

The work of Deane and Woodward is characterised by naturalistic decoration with foliage and animals carved into capitals and plinths around windows and doors. It is extolled by John Ruskin in particular when he visits the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin. Woodward collaborates in particular with the O’Shea brothers, James and John, who are stone carvers from County Cork. They, along with London sculptors, carve the abundant decorative stonework at Trinity, showing owls, lizards, cats and monkeys, as well as other flora and fauna. Later the O’Sheas carve stonework at the Kildare Street Club, including the famous window piece showing the club members as monkeys playing billiards. Some stories tell of the O’Sheas getting into trouble and possibly even being sacked for carving cats or monkeys at the Oxford University Museum.

Benjamin Woodward dies on May 16, 1861.

(Pictured: Benjamin Woodward attributed to Lewis Carroll, albumen print, late 1850s, © National Portrait Gallery, London)


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St. Patrick’s Cathedral Designated National Cathedral

st-patricks-cathedral-dublinSt. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is designated the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland on May 2, 1872. Chapter members at St. Patrick’s are drawn from each of the twelve dioceses of the Church of Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is dedicated on March 17, 1191. With its 141-foot spire, it is the tallest church (not cathedral) in Ireland and the largest.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is founded on the spot where St. Patrick himself is believed to have baptized the first Irish believers into the Christian faith. The sacred well which St. Patrick used has been lost, but the Cathedral is built in the area where the conversions are believed to have taken place.

The first church is constructed here in the 5th century but St. Patrick’s as it stands now is built between 1191 and 1270. In 1311, the Medieval University of Dublin is founded here and the church begins a place of higher education as well as a place of worship.

By the 16th century, however, St. Patrick’s falls into disrepair following the English Reformation, a time when the Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church. In 1537, St. Patrick’s becomes designated as an Anglican Church of Ireland and it remains a part of the Church of Ireland to this day.

Repairs to the cathedral begin in the 1660s and continued in phases over the following decades to save it from falling into complete ruin.

As its status grows, St. Patrick’s begins to rival Christ Church Cathedral in importance. This is where the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral takes a bit of a complicated turn in term of church definitions. The current cathedral building is often hailed as one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Dublin, however, it is only fair to point out that the structure went through a massive rebuild in the 1860s, mainly financed by money from Benjamin Guinness.

As one of Dublin’s two Church of Ireland cathedrals, St. Patrick’s is actually designated as the “National Cathedral of Ireland.” However, it lacks the one thing that usually makes a church a cathedral – a bishop. The Archbishop of Dublin actually has his seat at Christ Church Cathedral, which is designated as the local cathedral of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. St. Patrick’s is instead headed by a dean who is the ordinary for the cathedral. This office has existed since 1219 with its most famous office holder being Jonathan Swift.

Today St. Patrick’s Cathedral plays host to a number of public national ceremonies. Ireland’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, hosted by the Royal British Legion and attended by the President of Ireland, take place there every November. Its carol service (the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols), celebrated twice in December, including every December 24, is a colourful feature of Dublin life. On Saturdays in autumn the cathedral hosts the graduation ceremonies of Technological University Dublin.

The funerals of two Irish presidents, Douglas Hyde and Erskine Childers, take place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1949 and 1974 respectively. In 2006, the cathedral’s national prominence is used by a group of 18 Afghan migrants seeking asylum, who occupied it for several days before being persuaded to leave without trouble.[