Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dublin Castle Medieval Undercroft and Chapel Royal

On free OPW sites day, I finished the State Apartments poke-around just in time for the tour of the Medieval Undercroft- some recently-discovered ruins beneath the modern administrative offices of Dublin Castle.

The 20-minute tour explores the foundation of another 13th-century Norman Tower matching the one still standing on the other side of the parking lot. The round foundation helped archaeologists more accurately diagram the layout of medieval Dublin Castle and Dublin city.

Norman Tower Foundation Dublin Castle
Norman Tower Foundation

From the tower, sections of the original stone castle wall are still standing, including an entrance of steep steps leading up from what would have been a deep moat surrounding the castle fed by the now-underground River Poddle. Boats carrying people and cargo would have pulled up to this niche and loaded and unloaded right here- 800 years ago.

Dublin Castle Wall
Dublin Castle Wall

Old Dublin Castle Entrance
Old Dublin Castle Entrance

Leading from another corner of the tower foundation is the old Dublin city wall, which shared Dublin Castle's exterior wall- forming the southeast corner of what was then the tiny walled port city. Boats would have had to come under this arch of the city wall to deliver goods to the castle. The arch was bricked up after the original construction, but long before it was found under the current castle. The keystone is still clearly visible in the old arch today.

Dublin City Wall and Keystone
Dublin City Wall and Keystone

At the bottom of the current arch, the city wall meets the old castle wall- and the River Poddle still provides a bit of a "moat" for the exhibit today. The underground river flows so near this spot that water regularly seeps in and needs to be pumped out. The effect is nice, though. The curators are allowing water from the same little river to feed the same moat it did all those centuries ago... Pretty cool.

Castle Wall and City Wall Corner at Dublin Castle
Castle Wall and City Wall Corner

To finish the day of free access to the normally-pricey Dublin Castle exhibits, I took a few minutes to check out the Chapel Royal- the 19th-century Neo-Gothic church attached to the 13th-century Norman Tower. Got all that?

Norman Tower and Chapel Royal
Norman Tower and Chapel Royal

This chapel is VERY unique in Dublin history. It was one of the very few (only?) churches to have been built as an Anglican Protestant church and later converted to a Roman Catholic church. I can hear it now...

"Well ye can KEEP St. Patrick's and Christ Church! We've got the Chapel Royal, so HA!"
-No Irish Catholic Ever

This used to be the King's own private chapel, and the names of all the noble (read: rich) houses are inscribed on wooden plaques lining the upper balcony. 

If you are ever near Dublin Castle on the first Wednesday of any month, I would highly recommend a visit to these normally ticketed exhibits. Because they are operated by OPW, the admission price isn't too steep, but at free, it's a real steal!

Chapel Royal Interior Dublin Castle
Chapel Royal Interior

Chapel Royal Pipe Organ Dublin Castle
Chapel Royal Pipe Organ

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