Sunday, July 23, 2017
Our last day on our trip and we had a perfect day planned -- two great sights, lunch at a unique restaurant and dinner at an Irish dance show.
I know my posting dates don't correspond with my travel dates. For some reason I had very sketchy WiFi with my AT&T and could not post regularly. Also, blogger is no longer supported by Apple, so I had to use a new app that allows me to use my blogspot.com. It is not a perfect system and there are some glitches, but it is better than nothing (or learning a new program).
We started off with our tickets from Thursday to see The Book of Kells. Fortunately, the line was not long. The book is a 1200-year-old version of the gospels of the Bible, elaborately inked and meticulously illustrated by the monks of Iona off the coast of Scotland. They fled to Kells in 806 AD after a Viking raid, presumably finishing the 680-page manuscript there. The book, which was moved to Trinity College in the 17th century, contains the 4 gospels in Latin.
The self-guided tour has 3 stages: making the book, the book itself and The Old Library. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed in the first 2 stages. Ed and I were quite fascinated by the information on making the book. To create the vellum for the pages, the monks used calves' skin soaked in lime. Then they scraped off the hair, dried the skins and cut them into imperfect pages. They had an interesting video on bookbinding and a display of raw materials used to make over 100 colors for the illustrations. Many of the inks are made from scraping fine minerals from rocks because these have the most permanence, but some inks are plant based. This introductory display also had poster-sized reproductions of the pages of the book. This turned out to be the best way to appreciate the book's detail, because in the second stage, the book is under glass in a darkened room and open to one folio. Also, there is always a dense crowd around it, making it hard to see.
The third stage was the Trinity College Library, with over 3 million manuscripts and books.
Since 1801, it has had the right to claim a free copy of all British and Irish books published. We visited the Long Room, which is about 200 ft. in length and contains 200,000 of the library's oldest books. A highlight in the room is the harp, the oldest to survive in Ireland (15th century) and the symbol of the country.
Now it was lunch time and we headed to "The Bank on College Green" for lunch. Built as the Belfast Bank in grand Victorian style the 1890s, it has been exquisitely preserved and restored. It was a real treat to eat on the balcony looking over the main floor while musicians performed for brunch.
Our final tour for the day was the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). Thanks to a tip from a friend (thanks again, Maggie) I had purchased timed tickets on line from home, because they sell out daily. Only 6 euros for a senior. The jail opened in 1796 and was considered a model in its day. It was only supposed to hold 100 prisoners in individual cells, but that changed over time with up to 5 in a cell. It was frequently used by the British as a political prison. Many of the leaders of the 5 rebellions (from 1798-1916) were imprisoned here.
Sadly, during the famine of 1845-1850, there were 1000 people here. People committed petty crimes in order to go to jail because the British government (which had plenty of food), by law, was required to feed prisoners. These are the cells from that era and many people just lived in this hallway which was open to the elements.
This area was built in 1861 during the Victorian era to provide natural light and better visibility for the guards.
The execution of the leaders of the 1916 rebellion were held in this jail and executed in the courtyard, our last stop on the tour. This galvanized the Irish to continue to fight for independence, which occurred in 1922. Two years later the prison closed, releasing its last prisoner Eamon de Valera, who later became the president of Ireland. A wonderful exhibit in the attached museum gives insight to the rebellions.
After its closure, the prison was vacant for 40 years and in danger of being torn down. However, in the 1960s, the public, including many who had been imprisoned there, worked to have it preserved due to its important role in Irish history.
Tonight we went back to the Arlington Hotel for "Celtic Nights," a 3-course traditional Irish dinner with Irish music and dancing. It was well attended but we had great seats at the end of a long table close to the stage. A great way to end our stay in Ireland.
P. S. - A couple of post scripts about Ireland - some things we never knew, found interesting and were repeated by different guides:
1) A nation the size of Indiana with 4.7 million people produces enough food to feed 30 million people.
2) The population of Ireland in 1840 was around 8 million. By the end of the famine it was less than 5 million and it never recovered.
3) Due to the mass emigration resulting from the famine and Irish criminals being sent to Australia, over 70 million people globally claim Irish heritage.