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Dublin: History and Heritage (2/2)

Dublin: History and Heritage (2/2)


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 Dublin, both county and capital of the Republic of Ireland, is an energetic city on a human scale, with an important historical and cultural heritage.What to visit in Dublin in a few days? This second part takes you around the main districts, museums and symbolic monuments through the Castle of Dublin, the university Trinity College or the old prison Kilmainham. You will find tourist trails to discover the essentials of Dublin during a short stay.

The many faces of Dublin

Dublin is made up of several complementary and dynamic neighborhoods. North of the Liffey you will find the O’Connell street lined with commemorative statues, the literary surroundings as well as the docks (quays) which border the river. To the south are the magnificent Georgian quarter, the medieval part, the Liberties (former working-class district) as well as the festive side of Dublin: Temple bar.

The north of the Liffey, popular district with many shopping streets, developed at the end of the 17th century. It has acquired Georgian and cultural buildings, and since the 1990s a booming financial space. The district includes the famous post (GPO), the Writers Museum and the Abbey and Gate Theaters, often producing plays by Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. During a walk on O’Connell street, you will see the Spire (the needle), monument 120 meters high, very useful for getting your bearings. As you walk along the river (the docks), you will notice the large number of bridges (eleven in total) that lead to the other side of the city as well as two major administrative buildings closed to the public: Custom House and Four Courts.

To the south, the Georgian quarter reveals a particular architecture, elegant houses, symbolizing the prosperous Dublin of the 18th century. The north of the district includes the bank of ireland, the heraldic museum and the oldest university in the country: Trinity College. The space around Merrion Square is famous for its colorful doors (photo below) and consists of many national museums free located not far from each other. The magnificent parks of Merrion Square and of Saint Stephen green, further south, deserve a short break. These, which have not always been open to the public, were formerly reserved for the inhabitants of adjacent houses, respectively until 1974 and 1880.

The Viking quarter and the Liberties bring together the oldest monuments of the city whose Christ Church Cathedral (1030), the St. Patrick's Cathedral (1191) and the Dublin Castle (1204). The Dublinia museum opposite Christ Church is an essential stopover for all lovers of medieval history! City Hall, town hall witness to the 1916 uprising as well as the Kilmainham prison-museum, symbolize the culmination of decades of struggle for independence. The extremity of the Liberties, will make us change the scenery with the Guinness store house, factory-museum dedicated to the beer of the same name.

Temple bar is the name of the most lively district of the capital but also that of the famous establishment. The many typical pubs and restaurants are an ideal gourmet stop at the end of the day. The " Brazen head"Founded in 1198 is one of the oldest pubs in Dublin. It is a witness to the uprising of the Irish in 1798 and an unofficial meeting place for the latter against British rule. A little further east of Temple Bar is the wax Museum, informative and fun stopover. A word of advice, it is more pleasant to reach Temple Bar by the most direct and original bridge: the Ha’penny bridge (first picture). Built in 1816, this bridge means "half a penny" because of the toll imposed on travelers until 1919.

Suggestion of five museums and establishments to visit

You will find a selection of must-see museums. Most of them have fairly short opening hours (10 am-5pm). It is therefore strongly recommended to start your visit in the morning.

The Writers' Museum located in the north of the city and open since 1991, reminds us that Ireland is not only known for the beauty of its Celtic landscapes and the production of the famous Guinness. It is a tribute to the talented Irish writers. Four of them received the Nobel Prize: William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. The building, which is a restored Georgian mansion, stages through portraits, sculptures, drawings and rare editions, the journey of writers but also more generally the history of Irish literature.

Trinity College is Ireland's oldest university and the only one open to the public. Founded in 1592 on the initiative of Queen Elizabeth 1st of England, the establishment was intended exclusively for Protestants until 1873. You cannot pass in front of its imposing facade, with a dial with an architecture similar to universities. from Oxford and Cambridge, without stopping there. The university is famous for containing in the library the most famous manuscripts of which the book of kells. This manuscript, created around the year 800, contains magnificent illuminations as well as the Latin text of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Let's go to the medieval quarter. The museum Dublinia takes place in the former Synod Hall of Christ Church Cathedral and illustrates, through reconstructions, Dublin life in medieval times under the domination of the Vikings and Anglo-Norman. The reproductions of the townspeople of Dublin reveal different aspects of life at the time: craftsmanship, commerce, hygienic conditions, the consequences of the plague, crimes and punishments. In the basement, you will learn more about the archaeological discoveries and the modern techniques used. If you take a combined ticket, you will be able to discover Christ Church Cathedral adjoining the museum, which you can reach by a bridge.

It is at the site of an ancient Viking fort that the Dublin Castle was built. Built in 1204 by order of King John, it was to become the seat of British power until 1922. Of the ruins of the fortress only the Record Tower. The wings of the castle were devastated during the fires of 1670 and 1684. Additional towers were gradually added from the 18th century. The visit of the castle is done only with a guide.

Located southwest of the city, the Kilmainham prison museum takes us back to the history of the country’s independence through a chronological exhibition, the execution court and cell tours. Erected in 1796, Kilmainham Goal served as a prison for 140 years. Many nationalist leaders have been imprisoned. We can cite in particularPatrick Pearse, James Connolly, Tom clarke who were involved in the Easter uprising and executed in 1916. For the first fifty years, the conditions of detention were very precarious. It should be noted that there was no lighting or panes in the windows. The prisoners were given a single candle every two weeks and ate bread, milk and oatmeal. The prison was restored between 1960 and 1986 before becoming a museum.

Dublin Memorial Statues

Dublin is home to some thirty commemorative statues representing writers, politicians and businessmen, journalists or even folklore characters ...

On Henry Street, opposite Kilmore Café, you will see the statue of a famous writer: James joyce (photo opposite). He is one of the best-known novelists and poets of the 20th century, author of “The People of Dublin” and “Ulysses”. The statue was erected in 1990. To learn more, do not hesitate to visit the "James Joyce Center ", A tower-museum dedicated to the life and works of the writer.

The walk along O’connell Avenue is punctuated by outstanding figures of Irish patriotism such as those of the nationalists Daniel O’connell and Charles Stewart Parnell. Let’s dwell on the history of the O’Connell monument. This sculpture was erected in 1882 in honor of Daniel O’Connel, nationalist leader to whom we owe the name of this shopping avenue 500 meters long. This politician worked against the Act of Union and anti-Catholic legislation, The Act of Union of 1800, reinforced English rule by giving birth to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Having won his case thanks to the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), Daniel O’Connell is today considered the “liberator”.

The main avenue has not always received strong supporters of the Irish cause. As an anecdote, between 1881 and 1966, in place of the Spire stood a troublesome witness to the English occupation: the pillar dedicated to Admiral Nelson. This is the British vice-admiral who defeated Napoleon's fleet at Trafalgar in 1805. The column would be bombarded at the head by members of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in 1966 and then withdrawn completely.

Symbolic buildings

The General post Office (photo opposite), has played a strategic role in the history of the country and deserves our attention. The GPO indeed served as headquarters for the insurgents during the Easter uprising of 1916. It is in front of this post that Patrick Pearse, poet and leader, read the proclamation of the Irish Republic. This rebellion gave way to a week of British bombing before ending with an Irish defeat. The building also suffered from the civil war of 1922 and could only retain its facade after that conflict. Today, the building, a post office in its own right, has been fully restored and houses the statue of The fall of Cuchulainn, legendary hero, to commemorate the 1916 uprising. Cuchulainn is a warrior from Celtic mythology, symbol of power. It gets its name from a fight waged at the age of five against the blacksmith Culann's watchdog, an animal he killed. He is famous for his exploits and his ability to dress any appearance.

It is keeping the course towards the south of the city and along the quays that you can observe Custom House and Four Courts, two administrative buildings closed to the public. Custom House, the work of architect James Gandon, is reminiscent of the Protestant golden age through the desire to beautify the city. This building cost over 10 years the cost of 400,000 pounds sterling, a significant sum for the time. Despite sabotage attempts, James Gandon and his workers succeeded in completing the building in 1791. Former official customs office, Custom House now includes administrative offices and is the headquarters of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Heritage .

Short Oven,The building located towards the end of the quay was the initiative of the Irish architect Thomas Cooley and continued by James Gandon in 1784. The building, like the previous one, consists of a Corinthian portico. Four Courts is home to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ireland, originally built as a counterweight to British power.

These non-exhaustive tourist trails aim to familiarize you with the history of the city and its buildings during a short visit. If you have a long week, do not hesitate to visit all of the city's national museums, Saint Patrick's Cathedral, City Hall, the magnificent parks or the various libraries.

For more information :

- University: Trinity College

- Viking Museum Dublinia: Dublinia

- Writers' Museum: Dublin Writers Museum


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