Category Archives: cathedrals

St. Finbarr’s Holy Well: Gougane Barra

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Saint Finbarr’s Holy Well ~ Gougane Barra
* Gougane Barra * Macroom, County Cork, Ireland *
* Coordinates: N 51° 50′ 21.0″ W 009° 19′ 07.8″ * Grid Ref. W 09151 65974 * Elevation: 164 meters above sea level * OS 85 092 660 marked *

Just inside the gate crossing over to the Island with the Church that is known as Gougane Barra resides a stone enclosed holy well attributed to Saint Finbarr. Some claim this is one of the most potent holy wells in all of Cork known for its healing properties. Some say it is the source of the River Lee. There is also a Wishing Tree / Money Tree nearby. There used to be a old cross that stood in the middle of a field that had coins hammered all over it that fell down and rotted away.

May2312d-MaggieLandBlanckIllus-SportDramNews10-18-1879
Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, October 18, 1879
Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

The tradition of hammering money moved from this cross to the Wishing tree. This is because the cross fell over due to the weight of coins, and was removed by the Church in the late 1990’s and placed against a yew tree in the back of the settlement. Saint Finbarr was the founder of the monastic site and church on this island, Gougane Barra, the City of Cork, and its Sea. He was led by angels, chased off Lú, Gougan Barra Dragon who lived in the lake, and had a host of mysteries and miracles associated with his life. It is because of this, the magical waters of the well share in his fame. Catholics favored coming here for many years as it was a refuge from the Penal Laws due to its remoteness. Catholic/Christian Observations at the well include doing rounds, stations, or turas at the well before gathering a bottle of its magical waters to bring home with them. The fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place near here.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

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Gougane Barra

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Gougane Barra (Gugán Barra)
* Macroom, County Cork, Ireland *
Article by Thomas Baurley, Archaeologist – Technogypsie Productions www.technogypsie.com © 2013 – all rights reserved.

Gougane Barra is a enlightening niche of history nestled in the woods within a lake along Ireland’s southwestern countryside. Gougane Barra means “The Rock of Barra.” Barra refers to Saint Finbarr, the patron Saint of Cork. My first visit was at night which was magically radiant. I look forward to the opportunity to visit the site during the day. This is the home of the hallowed shrine of Saint Finbarr and his oratory. The church resides on a small island in the lake. Next to the church are the historic ruins of St. Finbarr’s monastery and contains ancient prayer cells with remarkably ancient stations of the cross. The original monastery dates to the 6th century C.E. (common era) The original monastery can no longer be found. Behind the chapel are ruins that some purport to be the original monastery, but they were built in the 17th century. They consist of four stone walls surrounding a large wooden cross dotted with a series of prayer cells within which have crosses inscribed. These cells were built in 1700 by Reverend Denis O’Mahony who retired here dedicated to God. During Cromwell’s torment of Ireland, the possession of this land fell out of the O’Leary families hands and fell into ruin. It then passed to the Townsend family and used for farmland. This is the location by Christian myth that Saint Finbarr came to and communed with God, seeing the surrounding mountains as his personal cloister, and the lake mirroring God’s grandeur. It is here he built stone cells to commemorate his hermitage and commune with Deity. It has ever since been a backdrop for art, painting, photography, poetry, and spirituality. From here Saint Finbarr traveled along the Lee River to become the first Bishop and founder of Cork and its church. Saint Finbarr passed away at Cloyne in 633 C.E. His feast day is celebrated in his honor on September 25th. On site is also a Holy Well and Wishing Tree.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

The church (also called the oratory) is of modern construct and design with infamous stained glass windows. Here pilgrims visit frequently, especially on September 25th, the feast day of Saint Finbarr. During Ireland’s Penal history, pilgrims came to Gougane Barra for Mass and is why there are numerous mass rounds in the area.
When we eloped in South Carolina we had plans of coming back to this church to get married at officially for our family and friends as it was always a dream wedding location for my wife. Alas though, an unexpected wee one changed our plans for that. It is however one of the most famous locations in Cork County to get married at

The Gougane Barra Lake formed in a rock basin that was carved out during the ice age with depths upward of 12 meters. The surrounding hills are made of old red sandstone. The park today is approximately 142 hectares in size. It was virtually without trees until 1938 when it was re-forested with Sitka Spruce, Lodgepole Pine, and Japanese Larch. The area now stands forested. The forested and bog areas are abundant with purple moor grass, bog mosses, cotton grasses, sedges, rushes, fox’s cabbage, butterworths, lichens, and sundews. The area is home to the otter, badgers, brown rat, fox, rabbit, field mice, pigmy shrew, pine marten, coal tit, wren, robins, wood pigeons, blackbirds, chiffchaff, willow warbler, pied wagtail, gray wagtail, dock dove, cuckoo, thrush, starlings, red buntings, cormorants, herons, moorhens, and swan.

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Gougane Barra, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland

Alot of legends surround Saint Finbarr, Gougane Barra, and its lake. It was here in the lake that Saint Finbarr chased off Lú, Gougane Barra Dragon. A dragon or a sea monster like Nessie, the legends vary in their descriptions. The creature’s expulsion is believed to be the source of the large channel that is now the River Lee flowing west to the sea at Cork City. A little sea monster is memorialized in the hedge along the isle’s road. Saint Finbarr was also believed to have been led by an angel from the source of the river Lee at his monastic site to its marshy mouth where he built a monastery “out of which grew the Sea and the City of Cork”. By placing the monastery here it made the River Lee to be the symbol of Cork City and Cork County. Legends tell of him going to Rome on a Pilgrimage and upon his return met Saint David who lent him a horse that miraculously helped him cross the channel. He was aided by Saint Brendan who signaled him in navigation during his voyage east. Some say Pope Gregory was going to make Saint Finbarr pope but didn’t because he was deterred by a vision. When Finbarr returned to Ireland, God created a miraculous flow of oil from the ground, sending him up into heaven and consecrating him as a Bishop. It was also told that he was visited by Saint Laserian and two monks who sat with him under a hazel talking about religion. They asked him for a sign that God was with him, in reply of which, Saint Finbarr prayed and the spring catkins on the bush above them fell off, grew into nuts, ripened, and poured them into their laps. The day he died and his body was moved to Cloyne, the sun failed to shine for a fortnight.

The fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place near here where he was thrown off a cliff by a Pooka. Some believe because of legends such as these, inspire other drunken pilgrims to come t the site in the dark leading to disruption, vandalism, injury, and death. According to Thomas Crofton Croker in his book “Fairy legends and traditions of the south of Ireland” that “in deed this fact was so notorious that the Catholic clergy in the south of Ireland publicly forbade the customary pilgrimage on the 24th of June to the Lake of Gougane Barra as it presented an annual scene of drunkenness, riot, and debauchery too shocking for description.

How to get here: Located 5 kilometers west of Ballingeary on the R584 roadway to Bantry just at the Pass of Keimaneigh. Follow posted signs.

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Tobar Ghobnatan Cross Etchings

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Tobar Ghobnatan Cross Etchings
* Tobar Ghobnatan * Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

An interesting custom I came across while visiting the Tobar Ghobnatan monastic site were these scratchings in the rocks of sacred sites of a Celtic Cross. They were done hundreds of times atop each other. Actually, the first time I saw this was at St. John’s Well in County Cork. I thought it was an anomoly, but that changed at Tobar Ghobnatan. Tobar Ghobnatan has an unlimited number of examples of this practice. This practice seems to have Pagan roots, but definitely absorbed by Catholicism in practice within County Cork, especially at the Stations while doing rounds or turas.

Throughout the Stations at Tobar Ghobnatan one can see that modern pilgrims have attended the stations and marked the stones around the shrine with Celtic crosses (equal armed crosses) with a stone by scratching the symbol over and over into the stone as part of their prayers. You first see this at the site when you enter the main entrance to the statue, hut, and well – the two gateway stones are marked by crosses, as are the modern cylinder shaped pillars found within the hut and church. This practice can be see at St. John’s Well outside of Cork, St. Declan’s Well at Ardmore, and many other sites around southern Ireland. The practice can be dated as early as the medieval period continuing to present day. It is unknown of how early the scratching of the cross began. Often small pebbles and rocks are left atop the stones so other pilgrims will continue the repetition and practice, each etching the sign of the cross as they say their prayers at the station shrine.

The etching in stone found at Tobar Ghobnatan are considered to be dedicated to the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan holy pilgrimage site and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where her church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built.

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Her purported grave can be found in the church yard opposite the hut. This is marked Stations 3 and 4 on the pilgrimage stations/turas map. This is a small artificial prehistoric mound that looks like most other megalithic cists. On its south end is a large stone slab which is the location where many believe her body to rest. Atop this stone pilgrims scratch the cross into the stone slab (Station 3). The slab atop the cist (Station 4) is also covered with scratched crosses. There are said to exist three Bullaun Stones here, the third of which may be in the station 3 stone slab.

How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

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Tobar Ghobnatan (St. Gobnait’s House, Church, Cemetery, Statue, & Well)

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Tobar Ghobnatan
* Ballyvourney (a.k.a. Baile Bhuirne), County Cork, Ireland *

Named after the Matron Saint of Ballyvourney and sacred Bee-Keeping mistress, Saint Ghobnatan, this site is a holy pilgrimage location and monastic settlement known as “Tobar Ghobnatan”. This is the legendary home of St. Gobnait/Ghobnatan. It is located a kilometer south of the village of Ballyvourney where St. Ghobnatan’s church Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) was built. The site is believed to have been a pre-Christian Pagan site used to smelt bronze and iron. There are also two holy wells at this site, both of which are believed to pre-date St. Abban and Gobnait’s arrival to the land, most likely Pagan shrines or Fairy wells. Today these wells are called “St. Gobnait’s Well” and “St. Abban’s Well”. This Christian site was believed to have been founded first by St. Abban who founded a convent here and giving it to Saint Gobnait. It is however, primarily attributed to St. Gobnait, and both wells seem to carry her name and reputation, even though there is controversy as to which well belongs to which Saint.

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The Statue of St. Gobnait

St. Gobnait’s cult and laity, as well as the Catholic population of the area, often come to the site for recreation, hiking, prayers, petitions, and doing the rounds or turas. However, every February 11th, the date that St. Gobnait was believed to pass away (year unknown), has become her official “Feast Day” which calls for tribute and celebrations for her. Pilgrims to the site do these rounds on the feast day by coming to the statue (station 1) and processing in a clockwise direction around the site scratching crosses on the stones of each station as they do their rounds. Just to the left of the statue the pilgrims begin reciting three sets of prayers seven times each at each station making a very long day to the rite and ritual involved. These are seven “Our Father” prayers, seven “Hail Mary’s” prayers, and seven “Glories of Christ”. The statue was erected in 1950 C.E. The turas however are believed to be done in the general vicinity of the statue for at least since the 17th century. No date is certain when the pilgrimage and practice began.

St. Gobnait’s Kitchen or House
Next to the statue is a round stone circular hut that is believed to have been either the kitchen or house of St. Gobnait. During construction of the statue and excavation of the site, post holes were found suggesting that the site was used for production of various crafts. From the 1800’s until 1950’s the hut and site was in complete ruin. The hut and site was restored after the site was excavated in 1950 by M.J. O’Kelly who rebuilt it to its current state. The excavations suggested that the site was used for metal craft working up to the early medieval period based on large amounts of iron smelting slag, a crucible, and other metal working artifacts found on the site. There are also Bullaun Stones found on the site. These were believed to have been used to grind metal ores in. It is believed the hut was a later addition and that the site’s original first use was for bronze or iron working. The circular hut, which has been restored, has an internal diameter of 6 meters. It was believed to have been used by iron and bronze smelters. It is also around this time that the well in front of the hut was believed to have been dug (called St. Gobnait’s Well). The House or Kitchen was deemed the second station of the turas. Here is the best example of the crude crosses scratched into the stones and markers during the turas on the site. This is done on the portal stones when they enter the hut, and on some of the stones atop the wall. Since this hut has evidence of an earlier site for smelting iron and bronze, folklore ties it to an earlier being or Deity … that of Goibnui, the Smith of the Tuatha Dé Danann that might be whom St. Gobnait replaced. One of the holy wells stands before the entrance to the hut. This one is definitely listed as St. Gobnait’s Well. The main well, found on the right hand side of the road down the hill before one comes up to the right side of the road as one drives up to the site. This main well is also called St. Gobnait’s Holy Well, of which both were revered as a site of healing waters and magic from their early beginnings to this very date.

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The Graveyard / Church yard
The cemetery is a fabulous find just in of itself. Some of the grave markers are fantastically carved and decorated. Celtic crosses dot the landscape. There is a large sculpture of a woman believed to be a Goddess standing on an egg with a snake curled around her feet that is interpreted by some modern day Pagans as being a sculpture of the White Goddess. There is no documentation to authenticate this however. St. Gobnait’s purported grave is located here. This is marked Stations 3 and 4 on the pilgrimage stations/turas map. This consists of a small artificial prehistoric mound that looks like most other megalithic cists. On its south end is a large stone slab which is the location where many believe her body rests. Atop this stone pilgrims scratch the cross into the stone slab (Station 3). The slab atop the cist (Station 4) is also covered with scratched crosses. There are said to exist three Bullaun Stones here, the third of which may be in the station 3 stone slab.

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The Ballyvourney Church – Stations 5-9 is the medieval church that is located in the graveyard. It is one of the major stops for pilgrims doing their rounds and is a location of more cross scratchings/etchings that are made during the turas/stations/rounds. This church was built atop an earlier church that may have been the original Móin Mór (a.k.a. Bairnech) church of St. Gobnait. Pilgrims begin at the northwest corner of the earlier foundation noted as station 5 and cite seven “Our Fathers”, “Hail Marys”, and “Glories” at each station. They go in a clock-wise direction circling the church saying a decade of the rosary visiting station 5 four times and all the other stations once. Station 6 can be found in the east wall window of the chancel where the altar was believed to first had rested. After prayers were made, they circle the church, re-enter, and pray at station 7 – rubbing the Sheela-na-gig carving above it which many believe is an image of St. Gobnait. Near the Sheela-Na-gig is the Flagstone of the Thief. The Flagstone of the Thief found in the graveyard and church ruins is believed to represent the tale when St. Gobnait fastened the thief and the cows he stole to the flagstone on which they were standing when they were caught, and the feet/hooves imprinted themselves upon the stone. There is a tale of this flagstone that states a robber once came to the church yard and tried to erect his own shrine here. Once Saint Gobnait learned of this, she took her bowl and threw it at the shrine, thereby destroying it. Since then, the bowl has been located along the west wall of the church and is a place where pilgrims go to touch it with a personal item used to gain healing.

Both of these particular carvings are believed to date from the 15th century C.E. From here the pilgrims would proceed to station 8 just outside of the south wall where the Chanel meets the wider nave. They would circumambulate the church again stopping at station 9 on the south side of the west wall just above the top of the steps at St. Gobnait’s Bowl. Pilgrims would reach into the bowl and touch the stone. Folklore states this bowl was used by St. Gobnait to defeat a local chief who was building near her monastery by destroying his fort. The final station is at St. Abban’s Holy Well (station 10). Here at the church each year on the 11th of February, the parish priest would bring out a 13th century wooden statue of St. Gobnait upon which pilgrims would measure a ribbon against the statue and wrap it around the figure, then take the ribbon home to use for healing magic.

No one knows for sure when the pilgrimages began at this site. Many believe early Pagan faiths came to this location for other reasons, most likely to pay tribute and make offerings at the fairy wells. Once Christianity took over the site, pilgrimages probably did not occur until after the death of St. Gobnait in the mid to late 16th century C.E. The earliest written accounts of pilgrimages to Ballyvourney date to the early 1600’s C.E. The Pope Clement VIII in 1601 granted a special indulgence of 10 years to those who came here on the feast day, went to Confession and Communion and prayed for peace among the “Christian princes”, for the expulsion of heresy, and for the exaltation of the church. Other works of art such as the poetry of Dáibhidh Ó Bruidar, the writings of Don Philip Ó Súilleabháin and Seathrún Céitinn clearly demonstrate that by the late 16th century the Saint Gobnait cult was strong and thriving. Donal Cam Ó Súilleabháin during his escape from Béara came to this monastic site in 1603 C.E. with his men to pray to Saint Gobnait offering her gifts asking for her protection. In 1645 C.E. the Papal Nunico Rinuccini wrote about the Cult as well from descriptions of his visit. In 1687 C.E. Sir Richard Cox wrote about Ballyvourney as being home to the Gobnait cult and location of the holy relic that makes cures and miracles to the pilgrims there, referring to the 13th century figurine of St. Gobnait used by the parish during the feast day. Traditionally the relics of Saint Gobnait were in the care of the O’Hierlihy family. It was cared for by this family until 1843 when it was passed on to the Parish priest. Today, the figurine is in care of the local Parish priest.

It is worthy to note that a ring fort that could have had ties with the Pagan pre-Christian use of the site, was destroyed by a local farmer. Information about this incident can be found at http://corkarchaeologist.wordpress.com/destruction-of-ringforts/. There are other wells dedicated to Saint Gobnait throughout Ireland. A magical well in Dunguin exists by the school house that consists of a shrine and well. Another is in Kilgore called the “Tovar Ghobnait” that is enclosed with two pillar stones and a cross stone. It is an ancient stone with a water mark impression that holds rainwater, and is said that the bowl never goes empty. During the summer months it is also said that the wild roses growing around the site will never root if transplanted elsewhere. It was here that the fairy tale of Morty Sullivan and the Black Steed takes place nearby as the location where he sought to atone for his sins at St. Gobnait’s shrine.

How to get here: Drive West from Macroom to Kerry on the N22. As you pass through Ballymakerry (Baile Mhic Ire), you will pass a church on your right-hand side and will take the first left hand turn after the church that has a sign post. Follow the road 400 meters and you will see the first (and main) holy well on the right. You’ll need to go up the hill a bit for parking as it is a very narrow road. Take the next right hand road (near where you can park by a graveyard) up the hill to see the other holy well, statue, hut, church ruins, and main graveyard. There is also a modernized porta-toilet in this parking lot so you don’t have to use the bushes. The GPS coordinates are: 79: W 1967 7688. Longitude: 9° 10′ 5″ W, Latitude: 51° 56′ 18″ N.

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Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Technogypsie Productions and Research Services: Technogypsie.com. © 2013: All rights reserved.

Article on the Church, Shrine, Graveyard, and Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/reviews/?p=14339. Article on the Holy Well found at http://www.technogypsie.com/chronicles/?p=7591. Article on the Tobar Ghobnatan Wishing Trees, Saint Ghobnatan, and Tobar Ghobnatan cross etchings.

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Whitby Abbey

The Gothic Abbey
The Gothic Abbey, Whitby, England

The Whitby Abbey
* Abbey Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire – YO22 4JT *

I have always been drawn to the iconography of the Gothic Abbey atop the hills of Whitby, England. It is that vaguely interwoven backdrop of the gothic culture that is drawn to this city that once was home to Bram Stoker and the concept of “Dracula”. This fabulous monastic ruins was founded in 657 of the Common Era by King Oswy of Northumbria as a “double monastery” Anglo-Saxon style masterpiece housing both men and women. Equip with a decent visitor center and museum, one can walk the majestic ruins of this Yorkshire image. The 1220 Early English Gothic style ruins belong to the church of the Benedictine abbey re-founded on its site by the Normans. Embracing the sky with high richly carved pinnacle d east and north end transepts brandishing the marks of war, nature, and history as it is slowly reclaimed by the Earth. Definitely a spectacular monument not to be missed. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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It was this Abbey, belonging to the Benedictine order, that was left in ruin after the dis-establishment after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under the auspices of King Henry VIII. Now preserved, monitored, and cared for by the English Heritage with its museum housed inside the Cholmley House. One of North Yorkshire’s most memorable monuments, it has been used for numerous photo shoots, films, documentaries, and settings. Whitby was originally called “Streoneshalh” (named after Fort Bay or “Tower Bay”, of the Roman settlement that stood here first) and was home to the first Anglo-Saxon monastery here in 657 C.E. by Oswy (Oswiu), the King of Northumbria at the time. Lady Hilda, the abbess of Hartlepool Abbey, and grand-nieces of the first Christian King of Northumbria, Edwin, was appointed founding abbess of this “Streona’s Settlement”. This was a “double monastery”, managed and occupied by Celtic nuns and monks. It was also the home of the great poet Caedmon. By 867-870, the Danes led successive raids of the monastery, leaving it in ruins for almost 200 years. When Reinfrid, one of WIlliam the Conqueror’s soldiers travelled to this site as a monk, it was called “Prestebi” meaning “white settlement” in Old Norse. He founded a new monastery atop the ruins of St. Peters with two carucates of land, joined by the founder’s brother Serlo de Percy, they began Benedictine rule. In 1540, Henry VIII declared the Dissolution of Monasteries, thereby falling into destruction and ruin. Locals mined stones from its structures, leaving it but a crumbling ruin on the landscape. It however was still used as a landmark by sailors coming into port, and was heavy inspiration for Bram Stoker when writing “Dracula”. In 1914, it was shelled by German battle cruisers by a mis-fire giving it un-repairable considerable damage.

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Brigid’s Sacred Flame at Kildare


Brighid’s Flame
* Kildare, Ireland *

For well over 1,000 years, if not 2,000 years or more, the sacred fire of the Goddess Brigid (now St. Brigid of Ireland) has existed and kept holy / sacred by her followers, priestesses, and/or members of her Order. In Ancient times, the Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit with 19 Priestesses keeping vigil that the flame was never extinquished. As Christianity spread through Ireland, the Goddess Brigid was so integral to the Irish population that She could not be eradicated and thereby made a Saint by the Catholic Church. In the 6th century C.E., A nun iconified as “St. Brigid” came to Kildare and built a nunnery/monastery and school on the same site where the Brigid Priestesses were keeping vigil at the Fire Temple eventually absorbing and taking over the duties of the Priestesses now brandishing the torch for Christianity while keeping the Pagan faith alive just hidden. Through many Viking conquests, raids, and wars, the original wooden church, monastery, and foundation was eventually rebuilt as a stone Cathedral by the 13th century. Giraldus Cambrensis wrote in the 12th century that the Flame was attended by twenty “servants of the Lord” at the time of St. Brigid with Brigid herself being he 20th. When she died, the number went down to 19 with each of the nuns taking their turns at night and on the 2oth night, the nineteenth nun would put logs on the fire and St. Brigid would miraculously tend the fire which never went out. By the time Giraldus wrote that, the fire had been continually burning for 600 years, and thereby never had its ashes cleaned out, nor did the ashes ever seem to increase in size. Surrounding the fire was a legendary hedge that no male could ever cross. By Legend, one of Strongbow’s men attempted to cross the hedge and wound up going mad. Another had attempted but just as his leg crossed the threshhold, his comrades pulled him back. Unfortunately the leg that did cross became maimed and he was crippled for the rest of his life. The magical hedge no longer exists, but in times of legend, protected the flame from male invaders by cursing them to go insane, die, become maimed, or have their penis wither. The Sisters of Brigid (Catholic nuns) continue the work in safeguarding the eternal flame in Solas Bhride which means “Light of Brigid”.

Once during the 1200’s the Eternal flame was briefly extinquished by Henry of London, the Norman arch-bishop of Dublin who ordered it to be put out as he considered the tending process to be a Pagan practice and not to be tolerated. It was quickly relit by the locals and the Sisters continued doing this until the 16th century’s British Reformation. During the Reformation, King Henry XIII had a campaign to destroy Catholic monasteries and in this process, attacked the St. Brigid foundation at Kildare, thereby extinquishing the flame. On February 1st of 1807, the Bishop of Kildare, Daniel Delany, restored the Sisterhood of St. Brigid and thereby re-lighting the Eternal Flame of Brigid. The Sisterhood of St. Brigid’s mission was at this point to restore the Ancient Order and bring back the legacy and spirit of St. Brigid to Kildare (and thereby the world). The town center saw the Flame rekindled in the heart of Kildare’s Market Square once again as well, in 1993 by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, the leader of the Brigidine Sisters at that time. From that point, the Perpetual flame was monitored and kept alive in their home and on February 1, 2006 – the flame was brought back to the center of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel (and numerous flames kept alive in the Sister’s houses). The St. Brigid’s Flame monument, centered in the photo above, was unveiled by President Mary McALeese on St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st, 2006.

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St. Brigid’s Cathedral – Kildare


St. Brighid’s Cathedral

St. Brighid’s Cathedral
* Kildare, Ireland * Open May-September, Mon-Sat 10 am – 1 pm; 2 pm – 5 pm; Sundays from 2-5 pm. Cathedral closes October thru April.

In the heart of Kildare lies St. Brigid’s Cathedral. This is the place in 480 C.E. that St. Brigid renamed as “Cill Dara” (modern Kildare) which means the “Cell or Church of the Oak” and built her Abbey on the hill beside a great Sacred Oak Tree. The present day stone Norman Cathedral is a restored 13th century version rebuilt numerous times after many fires, desecrations, and ruins of the originals that existed as early as 500 C.E. The Cathedral is likely built atop the Original Pagan Shrine to the Goddess Brigid and the later early Christian foundation and Church of St. Brigid. Brigid was the Goddess of Poetry, Magic, Muse, Inspiration, Healing, Smithcraft, and the Harvest. As a Saint she is the provider of plenty, giver of life, nurturer, fertility, and fire. The current structure seen in these photos was built in 1223 by the Norman Bishop Ralph of Bristol in an early Gothic style with a square central tower. Because of the history of invasions and plunders, especially by the Vikings, the current Cathedral was built for defense as well as worship. The Cathedral continues to serve the townspeople of Kildare as well as Brigid devotees from around the world and has for centuries. After the Reformation the Cathedral fell in disrepair and in complete ruins after the Confederate Wars by 1649. It was rebuilt in 1686 and restored to its present form from 1875-1896. In the 19th century it was rebuilt and restored back to its illuminated origins. Additional major restorations took place in 1996. The interior of the Cathedral has numerous stone carvings ranging from Pagan and early Christian to Norman period or later. It also houses numerous artifacts ranging from a 16th century vault, religious seals, a medieval water font, and shrines. It is here that the Nunnery originally founded by St. Brigid in the 5th century once stood as well as her original wooden Church. The churchyard has a graveyard, Celtic Cross, St. Brigid’s Fire Altar and Firehouse, Vaults, and a 105 ft high Round Tower (one of the last to be erected in Ireland). The Cathedral contains numerous medieval tombs, the most famous of which is one of the Fitzgeralds of Lackagh ( 1575 ). It is here that the Priestesses or Sisters of Brigid kept the flame eternally lit. This required 19 Sisters or Priestesses that kept vigil and made sure the flame never went out. Now Christianized, the Sisters / Nuns tend to her flame and continue the work the ancients once started. It was extinguished between the Reformation and its re-establishment in 1807. In 1993 the Perpetual flame was re-kindled in Kildare’s Market Square by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen.

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Kildare, Ireland


Kildare, Ireland

Kildare, Ireland
* http://www.kildare.ie/ * http://www.kildaretown.ie/ *
The visit I took in July to Kildare was one of the most sacred pilgrimmages I’ve made in my life. The Goddess Brigid has been my Matron and principle Deity since 1990 (20 years). I sought out Brighid’s flame, her holy wells, and to see the town that centers around the belief of this ancient Goddess and now Catholic Saint. “Kildare” is also known as “Cill Dara”. It is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It originated in pre-Christian times with a shrine to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. After Christianization, it became the site of the great Christian foundation of St. Brigid. The town and area is full of legends, lore, historic buildings, and ruins dating well over 1500 years. Kildare was a town even before the Vikings colonized the coast and building towns, as even though towns are believed not to have existed prior to the Vikings. We know that Kildare fit the definition of a town as Cogitosus, a 7th century monk from Kildare, described it as a “vast metropolitan city” with a street of stone steps and urban characteristics existing before the Vikings arrived in Ireland. It is on these facets alone that it can claim to be the oldest town in Ireland. Kildare owes its existence to St. Brigid who founded her monastery here in the late 5th century C.E (484). There is evidence of older Pagan shrines to the Celtic Goddess Brigid that were served by a group of young women who tended a perpetual fire that was kept alit here. Brigid was the Goddess of ars, poetry, healing, childbirh, magic, livestock, and the yield of the Earth. The earliest shrine is believed to have been built over by St. Brigid’s Cathedral and may have been associated with a particular sacred oak tree growing on the site. Some believe that the Christian St. Brigid was a convert from the Pagan women who tended the Pagan Shrine to the Goddess Brigid. Regardless of the roots, by the 5th century, a unique Christian foundation was established by St. Brigid. She chose a site at the ancient shrine, under a large oak tree, on the ridge of Drum Criadh (Ridge of Clay) and built her church. Its foundation was renamed Cill Dara (The Church of the Oak) which is where the modern name Kildare comes from. St. Conleth, another Saint popular in the area, died in 520 C.E. Brigid’s Shrine was erected by 523 C.E. St. Brigid passed away at age 70 in 528 C.E.

Kildare flourished from the early 7th century to this day. It became a grand center of learning and a school was established for students from abroad as well as the sons of the Gaelic nobility. As the foundation grew, the requirement for artisans, traders, and tillers of the soil increased until Kildare reached a proto-town status. Kildare and its political / secular powers were watched very closely by the local kings of Leinster who were based in the nearby town of Naas. There is mention in the Annals that in 710 C.E. the monastery was burned. In 756 the Bishop Eghtigin was killed by a priest at St. Brigid’s altar in Kildare as he was celebrating mass which at that time was forbidden for a priest to do in the presence of a Bishop. The Annals mention the building of a wooden church in 762 but by 770 Kildare and the monastery was burnt down again. By 772 it was burnt again on the 4th of Ides of June and again in 774. By 799 St. Conleth was placed in a shrine of gold and silver.

The Annals of Ireland referred to Kildare alot especially from the 9th-11th centuries in relation to raids and plunderings of Vikings and the Native Irish. They recorded that in 835 C.E. a Danish flet of 30 ships arrived in Liffey and another in the Boyne where they plundered every church and abbey in the region and destroyed Kildare with fire and sword carrying off the shrines of St. Brigid and St. Conleth. However the Brigidine order had removed the remains of St. Brigid and hid them in Downpatrick before her shrine was destroyed. In 868, Queen Flanna, wife of Finliath, the King of Ireland, rebuilt the Church. In 883, Ceallach Mac Bran, the King of Leinster gained a battle over Kildare in their church and slayed many in the churchyard. The same year the Danes laid spoil upon Kildare, its religious houses, and took the abbot and 280 of his clergy plus family captive. By 895 the Danish raided Kildare again. In 926 Kildare was ransacked by the son of Godfrey of Waterford and again by the Danes of Dublin in the same year carrying away numerous captives and rich booty. They ransacked Kildare again in 953. By 962 Kildare was almost completely destroyed by the Danes of Dublin and most of Kildare’s inhabitants were made slaves, yet the Collegiate School of Kildare continued teaching and the professors remained in residence. In 992 Kildare was yet, once again, destroyed and preyed upon by the Danes of Dublin. They plundered it again in 998 and 1012. In 1013 the Danes burnt Kildare down to the ground. In 1016 It was again plundered by the Danes. In 1018 it was recorded that all of Kildare except one house was consumed by lightning. According to the Annals, the Monastery was burnt through the negligence of a very bad woman. In 1040 Kildare was destroyed by fire. By 1050 Kildare and its great stone church was burnt down again and again in 1079. In 1089 the town was destroyed by fire. In 1135 the Abbess was forced from her cloister by Dermot McMurrough and made to marry one of his followers. In the course of that event, approximately 170 of Kildare’s inhabitants were slaughtered.

After the Normans landed in 1169, they came to Kildare with Strongbow using it for the center of his campaign to conquer Leinster. Giraldus Cambrensis, the Welsh chronicler of the Norman Invasion recorded his impressions of Kildare, its round tower, its marvelous manuscripts, and the Legends of St. Brigid. It was also here the very first mention of a castle in Kildare which was probabl a motte and bailey castle. The first stone castle to be built was done by the Earl Marshal on the site of the present castle in the early 13th century. Strongbow died in 1176 and by 1189 his daughter and her husband William Marshal Snr inherited Kildare castle. In 1295 John Fitzthomas quarrelled with Richard de Burgh, earl of Ulster causing unrest in Kildare. Calbach O Conchobair Failge captured the castle and burnt many of its documents, the followers of William Donyn broke into the castle and robbed it of money, cloth, wheat, oats, malt, oxen, cows, sheep, and pigs. In 1297 William de Vescy surrendered the castle to the king. The same year, Walter, son of Nicholas the chaplain, broke into the Cathedral and stole treasures from the Church. In 1032 the Inquisition claimed the Bishop of Kildare built the Castle of Kildare on church lands without permission. The Castle was sieged in 1315/1316 by Edward Bruce after a 3 day siege. Kildare and the region, being on the frontier lands of the Pale, were centrally attacked not only through history by the Vikings but dispossessed native Irish. The town went into the possession of the Fitzgerland family and by the Confederate Wars in the 1640s was garrisoned and the Cathedral stood in ruins. At this time Kildare was believed to have been abandoned and no longer inhabited. By 1798 Kildare got involved in the Rebellion and was where Lord Edward Fitzgerald, leader of the Rebellion, lived and some 350 men were massacred in Gibbet Rath when they were trying to surrender. The Jockey Club was founded in the 1700s and brought in horse training stables at the nearby Curraugh adding prosperity to the town and region with horse racing. By the 1800s the British Army artillery barracks were strongly rooted in the area and the Curraugh. With ease of access to Dublin by road and rail it became a dormitory town of Dublin and also declared a Heritage Town. Kildare’s major attractions are St. Brigid, her Cathedral, her wells, her flame, the Irish National Stud and Horse Museum, The Japanese Gardens and Visitor Center, and the Round Tower.


Cill Dara

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dublin)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
* Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Saint Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8, Ireland * http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie *

In the Medieval District of Dublin lies one of Dublin’s most famous churches also known as The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, Dublin or “Árd Eaglais Naomh Pádraig”. The Church was founded in 1191 C.E. and is the larger of Dublin’s two Church of Ireland cathedrals as well as being the largest church in Ireland with a 140 foot spire. The Cathedral is in memorial to St. Patrick and his colored past in Ireland and is meant to lift the spirits of the Irish out of the realm of things and circumstances which change into a realm of things that are eternal and unchanging giving everyone a perspective in both space and time to be face-to-face with faith in God through Christ giving one true meaning and lasting satisfaction … or so states the web site. This was the hotspot of activity for St. Patrick when he passed through Dublin on his journey through Ireland baptising converts from Paganism to Christianity in the well where the Cathedral now stands. In memorial, a small wooden church was built on the site to be one of the four Celtic parishes in Dublin. John Comyn, the first Anglo-Norman Archbishop of Dublin converted this small church into a Cathedral in 1191 C.E. THe current Cathedral was erected between 1200 and 1270. Much aging, erosion, degradation, disrepair, and some fires struck the Cathedral through time. Minot’s Tower and the weset nave were rebuilt between 1362 and 1370 following a fire. St. Patrick’s became an Anglican Church of Ireland after the English Reformation (ca. 1537) even though most of the population surrounding it in the Pale was wholely Catholic. During confiscation, some of the images within the Cathedral were defaced by Thomas Cromwell’s soldiers and collapse of the Nave in 1544. Cromwell set up his stables in the Nave during his time in Dublin as a sign of his disrespect for the Anglican religion which he associated with Roman Catholicism and political Royalism. In 1560 one of Dublin’s first public clocks was placed in St. Patrick’s Steeple. In 1666 The roof was close to collapse and was replaced by 1671. When Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) became the Dean of the Cathedral from 1713-1745 he brought more attention to the needs of the Cathedral. He had himself buried there with his friend Stella who took great interest in the building and funding an almshouse for poor women and Saint Patrick’s Hospital. 1769 the infamous spire (now a Dublin landmark) was added. From 1783 until 1871 the Cathedral became home to the Chapel of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick where the Knights of St. Patrick held their ceremonies until 1871 they moved to St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle. By 1085 the north transept was in ruin and the south was deteriorating that emergency work had to be done on the nave roof. Funding issues, Problems with seepage of water, number of floods, and disrepair during times of religious reformation and Irish struggles – The Cathedral not being restored until 1860-1900 with a full-scale restoration done by the infamous Guinness family. Benjamin Guinness believed the Cathedral was in imminent danger of collapse especially the Victorian era artwork … unfortunately most of these were removed and never replaced now no longer surviving. Since no records were kept during the restorations not much is known as to what is genuinely medieval and what is Victorian pastiche. Even though the Church is the largest in all of Ireland, it is not the seat of a Bishop as that is held by Christ Church Cathedral with St. Patrick’s being the National Cathedral for the whole island. St. Patrick’s is operated instead by a Dean, since 1219, and the most famous of which was Jonathan Swift. St. Patrick’s was also the location for the funerals of two Irish Presidens: Dr Douglas Hyde and Erskine Hamilton in 1949 and 1974 respectively. In 2006 there was a group of 18 Afghan refugees who sought asylum within St. Patrick’s staying there until persuaded to leave a few days later. The Cathedral receives no State funding so while free for those who come to pray, ask for a small fee in tourism. In 2006 the Cathedral had over 300,000 visitors.

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St. Audeon’s Church

St. Audeon’s
* High Street, Dublin 8, Ireland * http://62.73.177.39/en/HistoricSites/DublinArea/StAudoensChurchDublin/ * +353 (0)1 677-0088 *

Located right next to Christ Church, St. Audeon’s Church is designated as a National Monument as one of Dublin’s earliest surviving medieval churches. The towere alone is believed to be Ireland’s oldest and its three bells date from 1423. The church has an attractive botanical churchyard with flowers, herbs, shrubs, and plush lawn. Its 15 century nave is intact and the Church is currently undergoing restoration. It stands next to St. Audeon’s Catholic Church (1847). The Churches are in the heart of the walled medieval district and is the only remaining medieval parish church in Dublin. It was dedicated to St. Ouen, the 7th century Bishop of Rouen and Patron Saint of Normandy.

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Christ Church

Christ Church Cathedral
* http://cccdub.ie/ * Dublin, Ireland *

Christ Church also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was founded in 1030 C.E. in Dublin’s Medieval District and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The Cathedral is in Gothic style architecture and is operated by the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. It is also the cathedral of the Ecclesiastical province of the United Provinces of Dublin and Cashel in the Church of Ireland. Oddly, Christ Church is also officially claimed as the seat of both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic archbishops of Dublin. Originally Catholic then taken over by the Church of Ireland after the English Reformation. The Church sits next to Wood Quay and is connected to the Dublinia Medieval Museum by means of a dual carriage-way building overpass. The first cathedral was founded after 1028 C.E. after the Hiberno-Norse King of Dublin, King Sitric Silkenbeard made his quest to Rome. Dunan or Donat became the first bishop that answered to Canterbury rather than the Irish Church. THe Church was built on high ground overlooking the Wood Quay Viking Settlement. Secular clergy operated the first cathedral, then in 1163, the Benedictines came in and it was converted to a Priory of the Regular Order of Arrosian Canons (Reformed Augustinian Rule) after some time which was subsequently headed by an Augustinian Prior until re-establishment in 1541 after the English Reformation in 1539. This became the Priory of the Holy Trinity which was the wealthiest religious entity in Ireland possessing over 10,000 acres of land in Dublin alone. The Church became the new church structure of King Henry VIII when he converted the Priory to a Cathedral with a Dean and Chapter. In 1547, King Edward VI suppressed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and had its treasures transferred over to Christ Church. This was reversed by Queen Mary in 1558. Queen Mary I and James I of England increased Christ Church’s funding and assets. By 1560 the Bible had its first reading in English at Christ Church. Repairs and maintenance was performed on the Cathedra from 1829-1831 and then extensively renovated and rebuilt from 1871-1878 by George Edmund Street. This demolished the 14th century choir with a new eastern end and chapter house built over the original crypt, and the tower and south nave arcade was rebuilt. More renovations were achieved from 1980-1982. The Cathedral contains the tomb of the medieval Norman-Welsh warlord Strongbow and is located in the nave. There is some debate on whether or not it really is Strongbow’s tomb as the original tomb was destroyed centuries ago and purported to have moved here. This tomb was used as the venue for legal agreements from the 16th-18th centuries. Behind the organ in the choir is the infamous mummified “Cat and Mouse” that was found trapped there and mummified by the dry air of the cathedral. The cathedral crypt, constructed in 1172-1173, is the largest crypt of its type in all of Britain and Ireland. The Crypt contains the oldest known secular carvings in Ireland, a tabernacle and set of candlesticks used when the cathedral last operated under Roman Rite, the stocks made in 1670 used to punish offenders before the Court of the Dean’s Liberty, and historic books and altar goods.

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The Mummies of St. Michan’s Church

St. Michan’s Church of Ireland and it’s Mummies
* Church Street * Dublin, Ireland * Hours: Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri 12:30-2:30pm, Sat 10am-1pm * Admission: Free to Church; Guided tour: €3.50 adults, €3 seniors and students, €2.50 children under 12 *

A little hidden secret to Dublin tourism is St. Michan’s Church. St. Michan’s was named after a Danish Bishop. The Church is most famous for its ancient Viking origins, it’s 18th century organ, its mummies in the basement that were an inspiration for Bram Stoker in doing Dracula. The Church was built on the site of a Danish chapel that was originally founded in 1095 C.E. by he Danish colony in Oxmanstown, located near 4 Courts, and for many centuries was the only parish on its side of the Liffey River. It served the Viking population that was expelled from within the city walls. It was rebuilt in 1685 to serve a more prosperous congregation by Sir Humphrey Jervis and restored in 1998 and is now under control of the Protestant Church of Ireland. Church may have been designed by Sir William Robinson, Ireland’s Surveyor General. The Church has fabulous woodwork, a large 1725 organ which is legendary to have been played by Handel for his “Messiah”, has a 1516 chalice, a Penitent’s Stool, and and 18h century font and pulpit. Its biggest attraction is in its crypt where the dry climate created by limestone walls has preserved centuries old bodies intact like mummies. The Church runs guided tours down into the stone tunnels that are lined with decaying coffins, haunted burial chambers, and crumbling corpses can be seen up front and maybe even touched. Amongst the Deceased are the notorious Four: a 400 year old Nun on the left, A woman on the right, a thief – as he is missing a hand and both feet in the center, and towards the rear – A 6 and a half foot man believed Possibly to be a Crusader who was sawn in half to fit into the coffin – he’s the most intriguing as one of his hands is lifted slightly in the air. Folklore states that Bram Stoker visited this crypt and it is responsible for part of his inspiration for Dracula. The last room in the corridor holds the coffins of the Sheare brothers who were executed for the 1798 Rising as they were hung, drawn, and quartered by the British. Also buried here is Oliver Bond, another 1798 Rising participant; the Mahematician William Rowan Hamilton; and maybe even the remains of Robert Emmet who was executed during the 1803 Rising.

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St. Michan’s Church, Dublin

St. Michan’s Church
* 8 E Church St * DUBLIN 3, Co. Dublin, Ireland * 01 8724154 *
One of Ireland’s most macabre and spooky sites, St. Michan’s Church is an early Danish chapel that was built in 1095, then reconstructed in 1686 as a church, and may be the only parish church built on the north side of the Liffey that survived from a Viking foundation. The exterior is very bland, but the interior has fine woodworking, a beautifuly 1724 organ, a simple church, and creepy vaults beneath. Underneath the church in its crypts are many naturally mummified remains of the dead so haunting that they inspired Braum Stoker with Dracula. Because the walls of the vaults contain limestone that keep the air dry, the bones were able to preserve on their own – and its dead are infamous as a 400 year old nun, a 6 and 1/2 foot tall man who is thought to be a crusader, and a body with its hands and feet severed – a thief, and the Sheares brothes – Henry and John who were part of the 1798 rebellion. Many claim the church and crypts to be very haunted. Tours are open on Saturdays and some weekdays.

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Hore Abbey

Hore Abbey
Cashel, Ireland

Just 1 km down from the Rock of Cashel is the Hore Abbey, a ruined Cistercian monastery on the Tipperary plains in Southern Ireland. The land was given to the Cistercians by the Benedictines from Archbishop David MacCearbhaill in 1270 C.E. It was built in 1272 C.E. under orders of the then ArchBishop David McCarville. The name for the abbey comes from the term “iubhair” meaning “Yew Tree”. The Latin name of the abbey is “Rupes” meaning “the rock” most likely because of being located near the Rock of Cashel. The abbey came with quite a bit of property including acreage, mills, and other benefices. In 1279 the Abbey was labelled a safe haven of rogues ready to kill the English and plunder the area as described by Margaret le Blunde who detested the Bishop. It was never a prosperous abbey and usually never had more than 5 residing within by the 16th century. He evicted the Benedictines after dreaming that they were going to kill him as he was interfering with the commerce of the city of Cashel. It was probably a delusion, but didn’t stop him from changing over the monastery to a different order. It was dissolved in 1540 C.E. Its annual income at this time was only £21. It was discovered in 1541 by the royal commissioners that the abbey church had been used as a parish church for some time before the Dissolution. In 1545 it was rented to Edward Heffernan, a clerk who used it as a private housing complex. In 1561 Queen Elizabeth gave the land to Sir Henry Radcliffe who then transferred it to the Earl of Ormond, James Butler. By 1575 it came into the hands of Thomas Sinclair, and since then became part of the parish, under property of the earl of Mount-Cashel. It has however fallen into ruins even though the church and sections of the east range still have structure. Architecturally it is quite plain, albeit a sincere historic beauty. It represents the conservative approach of the Cistercians. The grounds are free for the public to visit, although cattle and sheep graze there.

Location: down the road from the Rock of Cashel – Head north on Camus Rd. from King’s Croft road and make first left onto St. Patricksrock – it will be located in a field south of this road. Discovery Map 66: J 069 410.

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Rock of Cashel

Article by Leaf McGowan, © 2010, 2014 all rights reserved originally published 11/25/2010 through Technogypsie Productions in Dublin, Ireland.

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Rock of Cashel
* Cashel, Ireland *

On the Tipperary plains atop the town of Cashel sits the infamous fortress, the Rock of Cashel. Mythically it was believed to have originated in the Devil’s Bit mountain that is 30 km north of the town when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock landing in Cashel. These are the remains of a historic royal center consisting of a 13th century Gothic Cathedral, a Romanesque chapel, a defensive round tower, Hall of Vicars Choral, a museum, and a impressive graveyard with Celtic crosses. It was once the assembly grounds for kings that was later taken over by the church. The 28 meter tall sandstone main round tower is one of the best conserved in Ireland. It is also the location where St. Patrick baptized King Aengus in the 5th century C.E. In the 4th century, the Rock was chosen as a power base by the Eoghanachta clan of Wales. After conquering most of Munster, and becoming kings of the region, St. Patrick converted their leader in the 5th century during a ceremony where St. Patrick accidentally stabbed the king in the foot with his large walking staff – the King bore the pain since he thought it was part of the ceremony. The clan lost ownership of the Rock in the 10th century to the O’Brien’s under Brian Boru. By 12th century, King Muircheartach O’Brien gave the Rock to the Church, and Cormac McCarthy built the Cormac’s Chapel in 1169 before leaving. By 1657 it fell to Cromwell’s Army under Lord Inchiquin who sacked and burnt it to the ground. By the 18th century, the Protestant church took it for 20 years, which was the last time it was used for worship. Cormac’s chapel is home to some of the most magnificent and well preserved Irish fresco’s in Ireland. There is a weathered ruin of a Statue of Saint Patrick that has folklore attached to it. Apparently if you can hug the statue and interlink your hands, you can get rid of a toothache. You can see the Hore Abbey from the graveyard of the Rock of Cashel.

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History:

The Rock of Cashel is an isolated elevation of stratified limestone jutting abruptly out of the Golden Vale which became home to the current day ruins of the Cathedral now atop its peak. In Ancient days, this was known to be a “Sid-Druim” or “Fairy Hill” and said to be the “dun” or “castle” of the ancient Eoghnacht Chiefs of Munster. It is believed that this castle was a circular ring fort of stones which the “Book of Rights” suggest was called “Cais-il” or “tribute stone” as the Munster tribes paid tribute here. Aengus Mac Natfraich’s grandfather Corc built this fort making Cashel the capital of Munster. It became one of the most celebrated courts of the region, next to Tara and Armagh which during St. Patrick’s time claimed supremacy over all the royal duns of the province with Aengus as the King of Cashel. Aengus was baptized here by St. Patrick. By the 5th century C.E. the Eóganachta dynasty set up their capital here with many Munster kings holding reign here. In 450 CE, Saint Patrick held mass here often converting king Aengus to Catholicism. Under the same authority, the 27 kings of Aengus’ race with his brother Aillil ruled from Cashel until 897 C.E. ending with Cerm-gecan being slain in battle. Cormac MacCullinan was believed to be the Archbishop of Cashel, albeit no evidence supporting he was anything more than a regular bishop, even though he was deemed Cashel. He was famous more as being a scholar and warrior well trained in the arts and sciences of his time. He was famous for leaving Ireland a glossary of Irish names as well as his studies on the history and antiquity of Ireland. He was killed in battle near Carlow in 903 C.E. In 977 C.E. Brian Boru was crowned here as the first non-Eóghanacht king of Cashel and Munster in over 500 years. Boru fortified Cashel in 990 C.E. building up much of the fortifications you now see today are built atop. The hill was originally a castle, not a cathedral. Kings of Munster ruled here until 1100 C.E. granting the title “City of Kings” to the area. Against modern legend, there is no substantial evidence to support the claim that St. Patrick built the church here nor appointed a Bishop of Cashel, much of which probably was the works of St. Ailbe in neighboring Emly. It wasn’t until 1101 C.E. when the Rock and its surrounding city was granted to O’Dunan, the noble bishop of Munster, dedicating it to God and Saint Patrick. It was from here that Cashel grew into the religious significance upon which legends speak. Boru’s great grandson King Muircheartach Ua Briain gave the place to the bishop of Limerick setting a long history of denying access to it from the MacCarthys, the senior branch of the Eóganachta. He set up a famous school here dispersing trained priests all over the continent even as far as Germany. By 1127 C.E. Cormac III of Munster, the King of Desmond, erected the church on the Rock known as “Cormac’s Chapel” consecrating it in 1134 C.E. holding a synod there. This was upon by Domnall O’ Brien, the King of Limerick into a more spacious church in 1169 C.E. In 1172 CE Henry II of England created the Synod of Cashel to regulate Church affairs, condemn abuses, and align with Roman Rites. The seat was filled from 1504-1523 C.E. by the Geraldine known as Maurice. In 1539 C.E. Henry VIII Tudor introduced the Anglican Reformation blackmailing the traders of the Suir, robbing their ships, and holding them hostage for ransom. This same time he promised to uphold the spiritual supremacy of the king denying the power of Ireland to the Bishop of Rome. Another Geraldine, Roland, became the archbishop by Qeen Mary for the Roman Catholics for 6 years, then followed rule by the Cistercian Abbot Maurice FitzGibbon replaced by James MacCaghwell through England’s Elizabeth I starting the Anglican religion at Cashel. This caused FitzGibbon to flee to France and Spain. After seeking a pardon from the Queen, he returned to Ireland only to get arrested, imprisoned in Cork, and finding death by 1578 C.E. When MacCaghwell passed, Queen Elizabeth promoted the Franciscan and Bishop of Down Miler MacGrath to the seat occupying the see for fifty-two years until his death in 1622 CE. By 1647 CE the town was destroyed during the Irish Confederate Wars by English Parliamentarian troops killing over 1,000 Irish Catholic soldiers, clerics, and civilians.

Folklore:
As the country folk tell the tale, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil’s Bit, located 20 miles north as a stretch of mountain where St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave and this was the result. Much to the legend that the Rock itself was dropped by the devil here when he saw St. Patrick whom founded a church upon the site. This is also where St. Patrick was rumored to have picked a shamrock to use in explaining the Trinity. Other legends tell that this is the site where the King of Munster was converted to Catholicism, during which, St. Patrick stabbed the king in the foot with his crozier – and this led the king to believe such injury was his initiation into Christianity. Others say that the Rock is named after Old Nick who took a bite from it and broke a tooth in the process forming the Rock of Cashel.

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Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden
* http://www.kylemoreabbey.com/ * Kylemore, Ireland
“Mainistir na Coille Móire” is one of Connemara’s famous attractions, the Kylemore Abbey with its Victorian Walled Garden is a highlight of history in the area. Nestled in an area of old oakwoods which terrace the mountainside, within the mountainous valley of Kylemore Pass with woodlands and a lake, sits the Abbey as a home to the Benedictine nuns since the 1920’s. The Abbey was built in 1868 by Mitchell Henry in memory of his late wife Margaret in a neo-gothic style as a castle by architects James Franklin Fuller and Ussher Roberts with the aid of 100 men a day. Margaret died of dysentry that she caught while on an expedition to Egypt. The castle took 4 years to complete. It covers over 40,000 square feet with over 70 rooms. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, a billard room, a library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room, and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper, and other servants. Mitchell Henry was a wealthy politician from Manchester, England who was also the MP for Galway Country from 1871-1885. A Gothic Church built by Mitchell Henry and designed by Architect James Franklin Fuller was constructed as a miniature cathedral on the estate. The house was purchased by the Benedictine nuns in 1920 after fleeing from their convent in war-torn Belgium in 1914. They replicated here the same boarding school they were running in Belgium for over 300 years, still schooling to this day. It became one of the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. The community of nuns who have resided here for 189 years. The south transept has beautiful stained glass tracery windows depicting Fortitude, Faith, Charity, Hope, and Chastity. In front of the altar was a trap door through which coffins were lowered to the vaults below. Due to erosion, the church began to decay. The nuns began restorations in 1991. A mile west of the main Abbey is the 6 acre Victorian Walled Gardens that Mitchell built during the construction of the Castle. This garden was one of the last walled gardens built during the Victorian period in Ireland and the only garden in Ireland that is built in the middle of a bog. The gardens are maintained with 21 huge glasshouses that were originally built to house exotic fruits and plants that were heated by three boilers, one of which doubled as a limekiln.
The Gardens fell into disrepair through the years until the Nuns found grants to repair them. The Gardens were re-opened in 1999. The Garden houses only plants and vegetables that grew in the Victorian era. In the back of the gardens is a tea room providing refreshments for the guests.

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Dublinia Museum

Dublina Viking & Medieval History Museum
* http://www.dublinia.ie/ * St Michaels Hill * Christchurch, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, Ireland * 01 679 4611 *
Located within and connected to the infamous Christ Church Cathedral of Dublin (a.k.a. “The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity”) is now one of Dublin’s most spectacular and interactive museums/tourist attractions. Christ Church is the elder of Dublin’s two medieval cathedrals, next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Christ Church is officially claimed as a set of both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic archbishops in Dublin. The Museum and Cathedral sits in the former heart of medieval Dublin next to WOod Quay at the end of Lord Edward Street. Christ Church is the only one of the three cathedrals that can be seen from the River Liffey. It is the home of the purported tomb of “Strongbow” – the medieval Norman-Welch warlord who came to Ireland and marking the start of English involvement in Ireland. The Dublinia Museum tells the story about how Dublin was settled by the Vikings and that is was an important medieval mecca at one time. It was established by the Medieval Trust in the rooms of the disused Synod Hall. The concentration of the museum is between the 11th century and the Reformation. The museum is a living history museum, with hands-on displays, and typical museum artifact displays. Reconstructed dioramas give glimpses of Dublin in the Middle Ages. The Museum gets quite crowded and is sometimes difficult to navigate around. The museum also houses the archaeological finds and a presentation of the current excavations of Wood Quay. The museum is linked by a bridge to Christ Church. Parts of the building are visible and climbing the tower will give you spectacular views of Dublin’s skyline. There are three prime exhibitions in Dublinia: (1) Viking Dublin Exhibition, (2) Medieval Dublin Exhibition, and (3) History Hunter’s Exhibition. Visitors can explore the Viking times of Dublin, its settlement, what life is like on a Viking warship, the clothing, what it is like to be a slave, and how cramped Viking homes were. Visitors can learn the runic alphabet and learn the mythos of the time. Visitors can see medieval Dublin – following history from Strongbow to the Reformation, what warfare and crime/punishment was like in the times, and about the Black Death. Visitors can get a glimpse of the historic Dubin Faire. Tourists can also gain insight into modern archaeological practices and current digs in the area, the technology they use, and the tools they utilize. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.


Sidewalk outside Dublina

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The Black Church (Dublin)

Black Church
* aka: St. Mary’s Chapel of Ease * The Black Church, St. Marys Place, Dublin, Co. Dublin, Ireland? – 01 860 0007? *
St. Mary’s Chapel of Ease was a Gothic Revival Cathedral that was part of the Church of Ireland and located on St. Mary’s Place, in Dublin, Ireland. A chapel of ease is a church building other than the parish church lcoated within the bounds of a parish for those to attend that cannot conveniently reach the main church. This is also known as “The Black Church” and sinisterly looms upon its onlookers in the area. Named “the Black Church” after the black limestone calp it was created from. The Church was designed and founded by John Semple in 1830. Within the Church there is no walls or ceiling, but rather consists of a single parabolic vault. It was the favorite Church of infamous English Poet Sir John Betjeman and the Dubliner Austin Clarke. Clarke claimed in his autobiography that a local legend states that if you went Twice Round the Black Church the Devil would appear. Some say that you have to walk counter clockwise around the Church three times at midnight to summon the Devil. The Church is now closed. took the title for his autobiography from the local legend that the devil would appear if you went Twice Round the Black Church. The church is no longer open and was closed 1962. It is currently used for offices for the Dublin Corporation. The grounds belong to the Earl of Mountjoy.

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Madron Well

Madron Well, Wishing Tree, and Baptistry
Madron, Cornwall, England

This is one of Cornwall’s most actively sacred sites and blessing wells. It is throughout Cornish history known as a Cornish sacred site that was dedicated to Madron or Mabon, the Earth Goddess, as a site for the granting of wishes, answering of prayers, and its healing waters. To this day, people flock from all over the world to make requests or petitions by offerings of pins or coins to the well or by tying ‘clouties’ (or pieces of cloth) to the nearby bushes to appease the water spirits within the well to grant blessings. The well has a long history of healing properties. Up until the 18th century it was the only source of fresh water for Madron and Penzance. A stone baptistry was built near the well dating to the 6th century that was utilized for baptisms and blessings making use of the sacred waters that flow in this area. The baptistry is now just stone ruins measuring 7 x 5 meters with no roof (no evidence there was ever a roof). The blocks are made of granite. Spring water flows through the granite blocks into a basin located within the southwest corner of the ruins. A low altar stone, believed to be Pagan, can be found along the eastern wall with stone seats lining the walls. During my visit in June of 2010, the altar was in use as a memorial for a girl named Cherry who loved this site. I can only assume she recently passed away. The waters flowing from this Spring, feeding both the baptistry and the Pagan well is buried in lore about it hosting healing waters. The true ‘Pagan’ well is believed to be buried further into the marsh (approx. a half a mile from the baptistry) and not at the actual spot where people traditionally have been tying the clouties.

There is little evidence as to the existence of a actual Saint Madron and is believed that it was just a means by Christianity to take over a very Pagan sacred site to claim as their own. Author Misses Quiller-Couch stated that “No clue can be found as to whom St Madron was, or whence he came; beyond the fact that he lived in the hermitage which bears his name, nothing is known of him; there is even a diversity of opinion as to the sex of the saint, some writers speaking of him as a woman.”
It is told that local Pagan groups have located the original well and made the true location more accessible. The well is outlined by a stone surround and is located near the green mound known as “St Madderns” bed where pilgrims would sleep upon as part of the healing cure. Clouties or pieces of cloth are often cut from a person’s clothes, like I did with the shirt I wore to the site, and hung / tied to a thorn on the hawthorne tree for luck. Also tearing a piece of cloth off of the body where the body is ill will result in a cure for that which is ailing the requestor. East Cornish lore also has a custom of bathing in the sea on the three first sunday mornings in May – after which the children were brought to this site before sunrise to be dipped in the running water so that they may be cured of rickets, skin diseases, colic, shingles, aches, pains, and other child disorders. After being stripped naked, the children are plunged three times into the water, parents facing the sun, and passed around the well nine times from east to west. They were then dressed and laid by the side of the well to sleep in the sun – and if the water bubbled when they lied down, it was good sign the prayer/petition was heard. Not a word was spoken of the even for the whole time for fear it could break the spell. The water from the well has magical healing properties if drunk or applied to the body of the ill. The site is also used for love magic. Young girls often would visit the site in May to find their sweethearts by dropping crooked pins or small heavy things into the well in couples, and if the items stayed together the pair would be married. The number of bubbles surfacing from the fall will show the time that will elapse before the match is made. Sometimes two pieces of straw were weaved into a cross and fastened to the center by a pin to be utilized in these divinations. The area is extremely magical and enchanting. Walking in the forests around the Well on a breezy day will result in great tree chatter and omens revealed by dryads. Water naiads are also abundant in the Spring who grant the wishes/petitions. In 1996 there was an incident where unidentified persons who took offense to the Pagan practices of the Spring cut down to branches upon which the clouties were tied. Folklore states that the Bishop of Exeter brought a crippled man named John Trelille here … who was paralyzed from the waist down. Upon bathing in the waters on the first three thursdays in May, each time sleeping on St. Maderne’s bed, was miraculously cured of the paralysis.

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Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 16, Part A (4/10) -Leaving Amsterdam for Mons, Belgium to the “Trolls et Legendes” festival …

Part A


Hunting for the hostel in Mons

Friday, 10 April 2009
Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Mons, Belgium

The adventurers had a pretty interesting night partying in Amsterdam with the pub crawl. Awaking early with a hangover was not the best start to the day that Sir Thomas Leaf could have. Onwards to check out from the Zeesburg hostel after a good night rest. Princess Breanna took advantage of the free breakfast and chatting with friends before their departure, Sir Thomas Leaf was certainly too groggy and needed to catch up on winks. A short bus ride from the hostel to the Zeesburg park-n-ride, the party was soon into their rental auto-carriage and off on the road to Belgium – the land of chocolate and fries. The roads getting out of Amsterdam were pretty congested and a headache, but once into Belgium, the traffic alleviated somewhat. It was afterall Easter weekend and since European’s are big on travel and vacations, one would be sure to run into crowds hitting the roads for their Easter vacation plans. The party drove through Brussels, but didn’t stop, as they wanted to get to Mons to find their hostel and the festival center so they could see the opening acts at http://www.trolls-et-legendes.be/. Sir Thomas Leaf has 6 years of French under his belt so was quite excited to try it out – unfortunately he sucks at comprehension and pronunciation, so it was no better that he knew French as he was still stuck with English. It however was much easier for him to manage in Belgium than Germany and other countries he felt. The roads in the historic section of Mons were an absolute nightmare. Cobbled roads all one way, roads the GPS was saying existed either didn’t or were blocked off, the frustrated duo, arguing over directions, finally two hours of driving around in circles parked and hoofed it on foot dragging their luggage. They weren’t too far off as the looming castle of a hostel was right in front of them the whole time, it was just shut off from driving to it because of road constructions and restorations. Checking in, they were blessed with their own private room, as the apparently “full” hostel on the web, wasn’t so full in person. One could spot a few of the festival goers in their outfits that were staying at the hostel as well. Unfortunately, the duo really struggled getting around because no one knew English and with Sir Thomas Leaf’s poor french, it was a struggle finding out where to go. The woman at the hostel desk knew decent English so was able to guide them to the Central station so they could catch a bus to the festival center.

Continue reading Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 16, Part A (4/10) -Leaving Amsterdam for Mons, Belgium to the “Trolls et Legendes” festival …

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Mons, Belgium

Mons, Belgium
Population [2006] is 91,221 (47.78% male / 52.22% female)
Mons is a city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut and is considered a Walloon city (French). At Spiennes some of the best flint tools in Europe were found dating from the Neolithic period and were the first signs of activity in the region. 1st century BC, Julius Caesar entered the region and settled by the the Nervii the settlement of Castrilocus consisting of a castrum where the name was derived. The name was later changed into Montes for the hills upon which the castrum was built. 7th century – Saint Ghislain and his two disciples built an oratory/chapel dedicated to Saints Peter and paul near the Mons hill. 12th century, Baldwin IV, the Count of Hainaut fortified the city – causing the population to grow fast, trade to flourish, and several commercial buildings, town halls, and churches constructed near the Grand’Place. 13th century saw a population of 4,700; by end of the 15th century grew to 8,900. 1515 Charles V took an oath here as Count of Hainaut. Beginning in 1572 various occupations began – Protestant takeover by Louis of Nassau, the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre murder of de Coligny, the Duke of Alba took control in that September for the Catholics. The city was laid to ruin and many of its inhabitants were arrested. 1580-1584 Mons was the capital of the Southern Netherlands. Continue reading Mons, Belgium

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Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 15, Part B (4/9) – The New Amsterdam Free Tour, pt. 2 – Begijnhof, Amsterdam Miracle, Dutch Courtyards & Paintings, Multatuli, The Bird

Part B


Entering the Begijnhof

Thursday, 9 April 2009
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sir Thomas Leaf was inspired by the healing energies of the plaza that was mythologically known for its healing and the bread that doesn’t burn. From the crazy wild partying city of Amsterdam – a walk through a door to another dimension – into a Dutch square where it was sacred, quiet, and tranquil. Intriguing thoughts about the key swarmed Leaf’s mind. He realized he is closer yet to discovering the ‘key of life’. After the tranquility, Kevin led the band to oogle over the Dutch masterpiece painting and learning about the seals and marks of Amsterdam. The tour ended at Anne Frank’s house where the story of “tolerant” Amsterdam stood up against the Nazis and the tragedies befell that struggle. Hungry for Thai food, Sir Thomas Leaf and Princess Brea headed over to the Asian District to try out the highly recommended “Bird Thai” restaurant which they quite enjoyed. Wandering back to the hostel for a nap and down time before exploring the nightlife with the New Amsterdam Tour’s Pub Crawl.

Read my telling and review about the Amsterdam Miracle and the Begijnhof / Chapel here …

Continue reading Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 15, Part B (4/9) – The New Amsterdam Free Tour, pt. 2 – Begijnhof, Amsterdam Miracle, Dutch Courtyards & Paintings, Multatuli, The Bird

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The Miracle of Amsterdam, Begijnhof and Chapel (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Begijnhof and Chapel
*Zandvoorterweg 78 * 2111 GZ Aerdenhout * Tel. 023-5246229 * Fax. 023-5440081 * info: info@stille-omgang.nl * website: www.stille-omgang.nl
Amsterdam, Holland
http://www.begijnhofamsterdam.nl/
It was here, at the Begijnhof that a few days before Palm Sunday on March 15, 1345 a sick man in the Kalverstraat took the Sacrament of the sick from the local priest. The man vomited up the host, which was caught in a basin and thrown on the fire where it “appeared” to “float above the flames”. It was an amazing miracle. A woman then stretched out her hand into the flames to seize the host from the fire and put it in a case. She remained unburnt and unharmed from putting her hand in the fire when touching the host. The priest, who was from the Oude Kerkwas sent for and took the host back to the “Old Church”. The next day a woman in the house in the Kalverstraat opened the case and saw that the host had magically transported back. She sent for the priest again, and again he took the magic host back to the Old Church. The next day for a third time, the host transported back to the case in the sick man’s room. The miracle of the bread that didn’t burn and wouldn’t leave the house became known widespread. Again, the priest took the host, but this time returning to the Old Church with a solemn procession. The next year the Bishop Jan van Arkel declared this host to be a genuine miracle. Two years later, a church was built on the very spot where the miracle took place. As people joined a procession to take the holy sacrement through the streets of Amsterdam in mid-march to celebrate the Miracle. The Holy Stead Chapel (The Ter Heylighen Stede) was consecrated by the vicar-general of Bishop Jan van Arkel, the Bishop of Utrecht in 1347.

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Oude Kerk (Old Church) (Amsterdam, Holland)

The Old Church (Oude Kerk) in the Red Light District
* http://www.oudekerk.nl/ * Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Oude Kerk is the oldest parish church in Amsterdam. It was consecrated in 1306 by the bishop of Utrecht and is located in the De Wallen, Amsterdam’s main red-light district. The church spans over 3,000 square meters. Its foundation was set upon an artificial mound. Its roof is the largest medieval wooden vault in Europe. The floor is primarily gravestones as the church was built atop a cemetery. The planks are Estonian and date to 1390. The church has gone through numerous renovations through its history. The first set of alterations occured in the 1350’s where the aisles were lengthened and wrapped around the choir in a half circle to support the structure. During the 15th century, the north and south transepts were added creating a cross formation. This work was completed in 1460. Before the Alteratie or “Reformation” in 1578 the Church was primarily “Catholic”. The Church then became Protestant. The 16th century saw many battles leading to the Church becoming looted and defaced. It became a public space where the locals gossiped, peddlers selling their wares, beggars sought shelter, but in 1681 the Calvinists fed up with the homeless kicked them out. The Church was closed off with a brass screen. Then the Church became a center for the registry of marriages, followed by the city archives. Local citizens continued to be buried underneath the church up until 1865 with a total count of 2500 graves containing over 10,000 Amsterdam citizens. Pipe organs were built in 1658 with the cabinet organ constructed in 1767. The third was built by the German Christian Vater in 1724 establishing the finest baroque organs in Europe. Today, many concerts are performed here including the BBC Singers and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. This is now a center for both religious and cultural activities and can be rented for presentations, receptions, and dinner parties. Continue reading Oude Kerk (Old Church) (Amsterdam, Holland)

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New Amsterdam Free Tour (Amsterdam, Holland)


New Amsterdam free tour meeting place at the monument in De Dam square

New Amsterdam Free Walking Tour
Rain or shine this tour meets every day at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm in front of Centraal Station, and Starts at 11:15 am and 1:15 pm at Dam Square in front of the National Monument. It is Free.
Again, I’m not a big fan of tours, but this tour is spectacular and quite informative – best yet it’s free. This is one of best orientations you could take of the city. Our tour guide was Kevin, a humorously fun and knowledgable man who guided us on a three-hour free walking tour through the history of Amsterdam, from its beginnings as a muddy village on the Amstel River to the prosperous industry it is now. He told the tales, the legends, the lore, and many tales that most won’t tell you about prostitution, drug decriminalization, Anne Frank and the Nazi occupation, the Old Church (including the sour occupants), the Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, the Royal Palace, the Jordaan District, the Anne Frank House, the Dutch East India Company, The Begijnhof Convent, Masterpieces of Dutch Art, the Widest bridge and the narrowest house to name just a few of the sites we saw. We were blessed with a fantastic guide, Kevin, who was the perfect match for our crowd. According to the New AMsterdam site: “Kevin is originally from Boston, MA in the States. There, he went to the University of Massachusetts and began studying psychology. While studying abroad at the University of Amsterdam, he fell in love with the city and began working as a tour guide. Now, he still works as a tour guide, still goes to school in Amsterdam, and is eventually hoping to marry in to the European Union.” Excellent Job Kevin! Rating: 5 stars out of 5. Continue reading New Amsterdam Free Tour (Amsterdam, Holland)

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Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 15, Part A (4/9) – The New Amsterdam Free Tour

Part A


The Dam Monument

Thursday, 9 April 2009
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sir Thomas Leaf awoke shortly after Princess Brea disappeared down to the dining hall. Slowly rustling out of bed, Sir Thomas Leaf headed downstairs to join her and their new friend from Ireland, James for a pretty delicious continental breakfast and good conversation. Princess Brea had been worried a little bit with Sir Thomas Leaf disappearing off with the two girls they had just met – but was glad he was safe and sound. Sir Thomas Leaf was a bit hungover from clubbing with Kristien and Karolien. As 10:00 rolled around, Princess Brea and Sir Thomas Leaf met in the lobby the New Amsterdam (free) tour guide who took the crew of them on the bus and down to Centraal Station. There they were led to the De Dam square to meet at the monument. A New Amsterdam tour guide named Kevin who took them on a few hour foot trek around Amsterdam showing the sights and explaining the history of everything under the sun. The duet definitely felt it was a fabulous tour. Meeting a handful of Canadians, new friends were also made as the explorers all tromped around the streets, canals, and alleys of Amsterdam. Continue reading Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 15, Part A (4/9) – The New Amsterdam Free Tour

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New Amsterdam Red Light District Tour

New Amsterdam Red Light District Tour
“The Red Light District Exposed”
The tour meets daily at 6:45 pm next to the Tourist Information Center directly in front of Centraal Staation. Look for the guides wearing red New Europe T-shirts. €10 Adults/€8 Students
Now I’m not usually a real big fan of “tours” and the whole “tourist” “sightseeing” parts of travelling. I usually like to explore on my own. But this tour was very affordable and had an incredible tour guide who knew her history of the district and was extremely helpful with orientation to Amsterdam. I couldn’t recommend any other tour “more” other than the accompanying “free” tour of Amsterdam each morning by the same company. They market the tour as “The Red Light District Exposed” and they certainly do an incredible job talking about every sensual or creepy corner of the district. They advertise with “Intrigued by the Red Light District at night but don’t feel safe exploring it on your own?” and they perfectly show the area for its beauty, intrique, history, and that its quite safe – with a two hour walking tour wandering from coffee shops and jazz clubs to sex theaters and smart shops, prostitute windows, and condom shops, ending with free shots and cocktail specials at the infamous Belushi’s bar. The guides take you to the Proefokaal and other Historic Bars, the World’s first Stock Exchange, a stroll through China Town, window gazing at the Condomerie, to the Old Church, Jazz legend Chet Baker’s place of death, the Warmoestraat: hardcore leather neighorhood, S&M Specialist, Smart Shops and a talk about Mushrooms, visits to the Sex Shops, Video Cabins, the Elite Streets, The Bulldog: Amsterdam’s first “Coffeeshops”, The Prostitution Information Center, the Word’s first Sex Theater, the Newmarket, and many more intriguing locations. On the eve of April 8, 2009 – we were luckily blessed with a fabulous guide named “Stacey”. Stacey was born in Russia, has lived in Canada, the US, Italy, and Malaysia, and now Amsterdam. She’s studying Art History and completing her degree in Asian Studies. Friendly, courteous, and extremely intelligent, she’s one of the best guides on the planet. The tour is worth the 10 Euro just to pick her brain about great places to eat, see, and experience nightlife. Top rating 5 stars out of 5. Thanks Stacey!!! Continue reading New Amsterdam Red Light District Tour

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Wurzburg, Germany


Entering Wurzburg

Wurzburg, Germany
Wurzburg is a Franconia city in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. It is located on the Main River approximately 120 kms from Frankfurt and Nuremberg by road and it is a center for culture, exports, trade, and commerce. It is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Unterfranken. It is a German speaking city with the regional dialect as Franconian. The city itself is not included in the district of Wurzburg but is its administrative seat and holds a population of roughly 131,320 (2006 census). Wurzburg started as a Celtic fortification in 1000 BC where the Castle Marienberg now stands. As it was Christianized in 686 by Kilian, Colman, and Totnan; a group of Irish missionaries wanting to convert the area. First called Vurteburch in 704, the first diocese was founded by Saint Boniface in 742 who appointed Saint Burkhard as the first bishop of Wurzburg. The bishops created a duchy in the center of the city which extended throughout the 12th century to Eastern Franconia. Wurzburg became the seat of several Imperial diets, including the one of 1180, in which Henry the Lion was banned from the Empire and his duchy was handed over to Otto of Wittelsbach. [wikipedia] In 788, the first church was built and became the present Würzburg Cathedral and was later consecrated that same year by Charlemagne. It was converted to Romanesque style from 1040 to 1225. Wurzburg is also home to the infamous University: The University of Würzburg, which was founded in 1402 and re-founded in 1582.

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Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 12, Part B (4/6) – Wurzburg and Castle Marionburg, Return to Dusseldorf

Part B


View of Castle Marionburg from the bridge in Wurzburg

Monday, 6 April 2009
Wurzburg, Germany

The adventurers made it to Wurzburg. Wandering around the streets and exploring the artistic architecture, statues, and sights. The adventurers were in awe of what a beautiful city Wurzburg is. Sir Thomas Leaf, Lady Vanssa, and Princess Brea crossed the bridge with all the statues to see how far a walk it would be to make it to the Castle on foot. Deciding against it, they opted for a scenic walk along the waterfront and over to the Tourist Information center. Soon thereafter, Lord Christian picked the group up in his motor-carriage and drove them up to the Castle. There they explored the still used interiors, walls, towers, and well. A key was held in the hand of a Saint and the other who may have held one, was missing the arm that would of held the missing key. Could this be the heavily sought after “Key?” to “Life”? Was the key in the hands of this other statue and cut off by someone who wanted “the sacred key of life”? Bedazzled and confused, the adventurers continued on as Sir Thomas Leaf believed a mighty Troll may have taken the Key to Belgium. Omens and prophecies said the key would be there. Being a reknown diviner – faith was planted to follow his intuition. After the castle, it was a couple hour drive to Dusseldorf. The party dropped by Sir Ingo the Great’s for some tea and cake, then Lady Vanessa lured Princess Breanna and Sir Thomas Leaf off for some Lebanese fast food. That evening they took it easy and settled down to a movie satisfied with their adventure.

 
The statues at Castle Marionburg, one holding a key, the other perhaps had the missing key

Continue reading Lady of the Rhine, Sect 2: Chapter 12, Part B (4/6) – Wurzburg and Castle Marionburg, Return to Dusseldorf

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Ansbacher Markgrafengruft (Ansbach, Germany)


Cathedral, Ansbach, Germany

Ansbacher Markgrafengruft
Ansbach, Germany

Underneath the Gumbertuskirche is a crypt called the Grablege der Markgrafen or Ansbacher Markgrafengruft. Here some very important people are buried, with their caskets/coffins available for you to view during set hours with a custodian present to tell you the histories. The Solms-Laubach: Sophie (1594-1651) – spouse of Joachim Ernst (1583-1625) of Brandenburg-Ansbach; Sophia Margaretha (1634-1664) Oettingen – the 2nd spouse of Albrecht V [7]; Henriette Louise (1623-1650) – Württemberg, 1st spouse of Albrecht V [7]; The following of the Brandenburg-Ansbach: Albertina Louise (1646-1670), Sophia Elisabeth (1643-1643), Friedrich August (1685-1685), Charlotte Sophie (1679-1680), Albrecht Ernst (1659-1674), Johann Friedrich (1654-1686), Leopold Friedrich (1674-1676), Friedrich Karl (1715-1716), Eleonore Wilhelmine Charlotte (1714-1714), Carl Wilhelm Friedrich (1712-1757), Carl Friedrich August (1733-1737), Carl Albrecht (1675-1692), Wilhelm Friedrich (1686-1723), Sophia Amalia (1649-1649), Georg Friedrich (1678-1703), Louise Sophie (1652-1668), Albrecht V (1620-1667); The Baden Durlach Family: Johanna Elisabeth (1651-1680) – 1e spouse of Johann Friedrich [14]; The Wurrtemberg Dukes Family: Maximilian Emanuel (heart) (1694-1729), Christiane Charlotte (1694-1729) – spouse of Wilhelm Friedrich [4], ; The Kings of Prussia: Friederike Luise (1714-1784), ; The Saxe-Coburg-Gothal Family: Friederike Caroline (1735-1791). They ask for a Euro donation for the opening viewing, students are free. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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