Ireland, Day 5 and 6

January 13th, 2009

Castle

…I don’t think there are sufficient words for the things I saw yesterday.

Today, however, was more managable– we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and a few other mediaval manuscripts they had on display. It was all very pretty, and I was happy to see that the Book of Kells itself, which dates from around 800 AD, incorporates a lot of designs from older, Celtic artwork. The history in Ireland seems to be so interconnected!

Next, we were off to the Chester Beaty Library, which houses a huge collection of manuscripts and books, all of which are very beautiful and some of which are incredibly old–for example, there was a piece of papyrus with Egyptian love poems on it, from about 1160BC. Some other specimens of note were the fragment of one of the Gospels of the New Testament, from about 150AD (which makes it one of the oldest surviving copies of the gospels) and some very ornate Japanese woodblock prints.

Since I’m a giant  book fiend, this was a very interesting museum to just stroll through, taking in the craftsmanship of it all.

***

And now, Andi’s attempt at describing the class’s all-day outing of mass proportions:

First, we went out of Dublin and into the city of Trim, the goal of which was to see Trim Castle. It’s closed in the wintertime, but that doesn’t mean that the curtain wall and the view of the keep, as well as the surrounding fields, which a classmate and I actually frolicked around in for a few moments, were not exquisite in the late-morning light… which, you know, in Ireland, kind of looks like evening light all day, anyway…

Next, we were off to two monasteries–Mellifont (The Fount of Honey) and Monasterboise–from two different periods of Irish monastic life. The first one we saw, and the later one in date, was very organized, with wings and a central courtyard and a large church. The second one was interesting because it had examples of early Irish sculpture–that is, massive sandstone Celtic crosses that are at least 1,000 years old each, with beautiful Celtic and early Christian carvings that would have been brightly painted when they were new. I was surprised to learn that carvings like that probably would have been used to teach people religious stories–something I hadn’t really thought of before, but should have, considering that most people would have been illiterate.

Lastly, and most impressively, was Newgrange, which pretty much deserves an entry all its own. It was particularly meaningful to me because I have been interested in ancient cultures all my life–and Newgrange is older than both the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge in England (a fact about which our Irish tour guide seemed to revel in, which was amusing).

We were allowed to go into the mount, and there we saw the ancient, spiral carvings left by the people who had built it–WITHOUT mortar, I might add. Truly magnificent, and is still completely intact. The theory is that, since the sun shines into Newgrange on Midwinter Solstice, the spiral designs are solar in nature, perhaps representing the wheel of the year and the cylical nature of Life, Death, and Rebirth.

Our guide turned off the lights inside in order to show us a recreation of what the inside looks like on Solstice. And immediately afterwards, I went back to the visitor’s center and put my name in the lobby for next Solstice. (The chance is only 1 in about 34,000 but still, that’s better than the lottery!!) It was truly mind-boggling to realize that people more than 5,000 years ago were able to create such a thing, without all our current astronomical equipment, etc.

The mound itself is massive from the outside–and so, you’ll probably we surprised to hear that the inside is rather small. The entrance corridor is hazardous to the health, being narrow and not for the tall of stature, and it leads you into a small room that could probably only fit 40 people. Nevertheless, the rounded ceiling makes it quite imposing. A few of my classmates seemed to be claustrophobic, and so were forced to leave–but a few of us just stayed behind and gawked.

This experience was particularly meaningful to me. Standing on that ground, which was in ritual use well after the people who had built it had disappeared, just felt…. well it kind of felt like I had made a pilgrimage of sorts. I can’t really say much else about it, but I do hope that all of you have the peaceful experience I had at least once in your life. :)

More pictures!!:

s13.photobucket.com/albums/a273/SailorZelda/Ireland%20and%20UK%202009/

I’ve taken 1 gig of photos already!!! What you see are only the best ones….

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