Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ireland Weekend One!

This weekend, we started an intense trip through counties Kerry and Clare. We left on Thursday and got back late on Saturday. It was a great, great weekend!

St. Senan's Church
First, we stopped at the Church of St. Senan's in County Clare outside of the village of Kilrush. Kilrush is important because during the Famine, the rich landowners evicted people who couldn't pay their rent. Eventually 20,000 people were evicted from the parish, and like many towns, this one has never recovered the population. The church is avant garde for Ireland for a few reasons. The stained-glass
windows in the church (shown in the front) are designed by Harry Clark, who learned the trade in France. During Cromwell's reign, all stained-glass windows in churches were bashed in, so these specific windows are not "original," since the church was built hundreds of years ago. However, they were built after Cromwell and thus still
pretty old. I was excited to see by the window a statue of Mater Admirabilis, who is a figure that was very important to our Sacred Heart education! She is, of course, included on the side :-) In case you are wondering why she is not next to any stained-glass windows, the Church ran out of money before it could finish all of the windows. It is a church that shows a history of old, but not completely financially stable history because the tiles on the wall were made out of wood and then painted, which is different than a more rich church which could afford real mineral tiles.

Lunch afterwards
It is of course important to catalogue now where we had lunch after seeing the beautiful cathedral. We drove through County Clare to the outside of County Galway and stopped at a
small beach town. Of course, as part of my new obsession, I ordered fish and chips at a small pub we stopped at that we decided looked "authentic" enough for us! There are two mantras you should never do in unknown countries: the first is drink the water, and the second is eat seafood there. In Ireland, we do both because it is sooo good. The water here is like drinking right from a Brita pitcher, and the seafood is legitimately like they jumped from the water to the frying pan because they are so fresh. Due to this wonderful tidbit, I have had fish and
chips a lot so far and hope not to stop any time soon.... After lunch, we spent some time at the beach. My favorite way was the way that the beauty connects itself. The sea stretches directly to the farm land, and there are sheep and cows that graze right next to the rest of the ocean. The pictures do not justify the natural continuity of beauty.

The Cliffs of Moher
Just when you thought you could witness all of the beauty possible in the world, there is more
to see! After the beach, we visited the Cliffs of Moher, which are one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Built off of the cliffs, there is a small castle that works perfectly to show the proportion of the cliffs next to the water. I walked a bit farther than is technically admissible on the cliffs with some of the other women, but it was well worth it! It felt like we were on top of the world (or about to be blown
off of it), and I think that it was by far the most breathtaking experience we
have had thus far-- if you can believe it!! None of the pictures I am posting here (none of the cliffs of Moher) have been photo enhanced- the cliffs really
were that gorgeous.

After the cliffs, we drove to the small town of Kilfenora, which lies within a region called "The Burren." The Burren is a large area of land that has some of the most rare species of Irish
plants and animals. It is mostly agrarian land that was once all under water, and now is stripped of most trees and consists of exposed rock. Kilfenora, which is the town, is named after the town's patron saint, Nora. "Kil" means church in Irish, so the town is literally translated as "Church of Nora." The Church had some great examples of early high crosses and tragic Irish history all mixed into one, as per usual. The high crosses in these pictures are from the fifteenth century, as is the church itself. Kilfenora is also known for its crosses, and is nicknamed "City of the Crosses" because of the early high crosses we got to see in the church. The church, if you can imagine this, actually used to be plastered and painted completely white. The ceiling was painted dark blue and covered in stars, as if the parishioners came to look at the stars. Tragically, it was
demolished on purpose to give it a more "authentic Gothic" look, which was actually not the way it was supposed to look at all. The high crosses are good examples of culture blending with religion because the religious scenes portrayed on them frequently also have druidic symbols and Irish heritage markers to recognize the way that culture fits into religion. However, as they are within crosses, the culture does not impede the religion. Also, in case you are wondering what distinguishes a high cross from any other cross, it is the way that there is a circle around the top part, as well as the elaborate drawings that tell overlapping histories within the crosses. Of course, I have not included any good pictures of them since the one on the right is so worn you can't see the drawings, but you'll just have to trust me on this one. The picture on the right is actually outside of the Church, but I really loved it because it is a high cross from the 15th century that still sits in someone's farmland, just like a water trough or sheep. This is very common in Ireland- there are ruins of old houses and castles and walls everywhere!

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