Upon my first step outside this morning I was nearly blinded by the reflection of the sunlight off The Spire. After getting over the initial shock it became apparent that this was certainly the most beautiful day I have spent in Dublin so far. Over the last week it had been getting progressively colder in the city and I was fully expecting a blizzard or hailstorm in the coming days. Now I am expecting to go out to the bay and see sun bathers and swimmers before long. Maybe that is just wishful thinking. Either way I have no complaints about this unexpected (in more ways than I thought) day.

I followed the steely glow to the base of The Spire. I have come to enjoy spending a few minutes standing beneath the metallic shaft as I double check my provisions for the days adventure. I stuck my hand in my pockets to make sure I had a pen and paper, turned on my camera to make sure I had enough power to get through the day, and zipped up my jacket. Then I was off to find the days intended sites (and whatever else I may come across).

Today I was interested in seeing parts of Dublin I had not seen yet. I walked down O”Connel street away from the river in search of The Garden of Remembrance, which honors all those who gave their lives for Irish freedom. This is the place where many of the leaders of The Easter Rising of 1916 were held before being imprisoned in the Kilmainham Jail. My expectation was that getting to the garden would be a good hike. However, the Dublin Tourist Map is not drawn to scale and before I even looked up from the sidewalk I was across the street from the memorial. The central feature of the Garden of Remembrance is a larger than life stone statue of “The Children of Lir.” “The Children of Lir is a well-known Irish myth that has been used to symbolize cycles of rebirth and rejuvenation in Irish history. The legend goes that after being elected king of the Irish people Bodb Derg offered one of his daughter to the sea god Lir for the purpose of marriage. After bearing four children Lir’s wife died. To keep the god of the sea happy Bodb Derg offered him another of his daughters for marriage. Lir accepted but soon his new bride, Aoife, grew jealous of the love that existed among Lir and his children. She was so jealous that on a trip to visit her father, the King, she ordered her servant to murder the children. Her servant refused and Aoife could not bring herself to commit the act. Instead, she used her magic and turned the children into swans. The children were then forced to spend nine hundred years in different lakes and ponds of Ireland. After that time they were blessed by a monk and returned to their human forms. Now, at the age of nine hundred, they died peacefully and spent eternity with their mother and father in Heaven. This tale is very popular in the Irish tradition, as it affirms faith in a positive outcome even after many years of troubles.

The garden itself is also popular in Ireland but for many other reasons. The beautiful rows of terraced flowers lead to a shallow pool in the shape of a cross. Along the bottom of the pool thousands of colored pebbles form a mosaic fashioned into the shapes of swords, spears, and shields that all lead to the mythically-inspired statue. The garden, which drops nearly twenty feet from street level, is surrounded by grey brick walls that are blanketed with vines, giving the impression that the garden is in a much more remote location than the center of the modern capital of Ireland.
I moved on from the garden and back to the clamor of the Dublin streets. As O’Connell street ended I was in an unfamiliar part of town. The streets were cracked and the brick of the apartments was crumbling around the windows. Graffiti on the buildings told me that this was probably not one of the tourist- heavy areas of the city. Every few doors that I passed were covered with corrugated aluminum sheets and I wondered if I was heading towards or away from The Black Church of 1830. Then I spotted the recognizable church from the rear. It was nearly as wide as it was tall but the pointed arches of its face made it appear more sleek than it really was.

I neared the entrance but before landing on the stoop I decided that I would like to see the church’s facade in full. I crossed the street and when I turned back the church had disappeared. No, I am just kidding. Wanted to see if you were paying attention. There is an interesting legend associated with this church, though. It is said that if you walk counter-clockwise around the church three times at midnight you will summon the devil. Ok, so I crossed the street and when I turned around the dramatic pointed arch of the front entrance made the entire church seem to thrust itself into the sky. Having seen the exterior, I was now ready to step through the acute arch. As I walked in I found myself speechless. I mumbled something to the woman sitting at a desk in front of me and then she asked how I could be helped. I was not sure what to say. This was unlike any church I had ever seen before. Mostly, because it was not a church at all. After some stammering on my part I was able to elicit the thirty second history of this stone structure from the building’s secretary. It went something like this: “It used to be a church. Now it is home to a financial firm and an advertising company.” The inside of the building looked like any modern office I had ever seen, with painted steel staircases and cubicles. While I was somewhat disappointed I could not help but laugh at myself and my dashed expectations as I walked out of the Black Church of 1830 Financing and Advertisement Firm.

I put on my headphones and walked down the street wondering just what it is that I might be able to find to satisfy my craving for impressive architecture and design. About twenty minutes later I found it. There was a church that was larger than the Black Church and had much more in the way of openings for natural light. To me, natural light is usually a sign that what is inside is worth seeing. I once again walked across the street from the church to see its facade from a distance. As I took my first step on the stoop of Saint Joseph’s Carmelite Community Church I half expected to be opening the doors to a telemarketing center with a Starbucks at the altar.                                

I was relieved when I pushed open the solid wood doors to reveal a striking white interior highlighted by a yellow vaulted roof. The ribs that ran down the arches were deep brown and they led to burgundy stone columns. Along the aisles were shrines that contained statues, paintings, and gilded ornamental patterns. The most impressive shrine was devoted to The Lady of Mount Carmel. The marblesque statue of The Lady was resting in front of a backdrop of golden fleur-de-lys crafted on red and blue cloth. Above this shrine, and all the others, were a total of fourteen arched stained glass windows containing religious imagery and figures. High above these windows was another row of twenty windows that shone white, yellow, and gold. All the windows seemed to push the attention to the altar at the head of the church. The red carpet of the altar led up to a marble-white tryptich adorned with relief sculptures. Above it was the image of a crucified Christ on a backdrop of solid gold. Behind the altar were cloth drapes of an emerald hue accented with designs of fruits and abstracted crosses.

After sitting in a pew and spending some time taking in this sight I headed for the door. It was not what I expected to see or where I expected to see it but nothing about today has quite been what I expected. It makes me wonder just what might happen in the remaining hours of the day. One thing I can say for sure is that if it something exciting I will make sure to let you know. Well, it was fun for me. I hope it was fun for you. Until our next adventure…