This Cathedral dating back to 1030 A.D. is in the heart of Dublin and was my first European cathedral I laid eyes on. I was fascinated with the architectural detail of this medieval cathedral. Little did I know, this cathedral was just the appetizer to the even grander and incredibly elaborate string of churches I’d soon see throughout Europe. This church is a beautiful Gothic building with a bridge on one side that connects the church to the other side of the street. Christ Church was originally Catholic, until Henry the VIII’s time when he broke from Rome and the Catholic Church declaring himself head of his created Anglican church of England.
My favorite part of this cathedral is the huge underground crypt. The large crypt in Christ Church is an underground cave displaying many tombs, elaborate caskets and other funerary monuments. It’s very common for European cathedrals to have crypts underneath them that contain grand caskets, statutes and memorials of their dead. This crypt is the largest cathedral crypt in all of Britain or Ireland and is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin city. Always inquire if the church has a crypt. If it weren’t for one of the friendly church staff adamantly telling us to go see the crypt on our way out of the cathedral, we wouldn’t have even know it was there.
My Experience at Christ’s Church:
An interesting experience I had at this church was when my husband and I went to attend the service on a Sunday. We thought this would be a great experience to go to a mass in Ireland. We came very early and spotted the dean of the church standing outside the front door. I went over to ask him what time the next mass began. Apparently, I made the mistake of using the poor word choice of “Mass,” because the official spouted back to me with a deep stern tone, “A mass has not been heard here since 1534.” I was taken aback. I felt automatically hated and unwelcome. I was quickly humbled to assume it was Catholic.
I instantly realized I was experiencing first hand resentment of the obviously still strong catholic vs. Anglican/Protestant tensions in Ireland. I almost wanted to be like, “No, it’s ok, I’m American, I don‘t have anything to do with all that!” like an idiot. After being put in check, I hoped he would say I was still welcome to attend the service, but he seemed very adamant that I turn away. I didn’t care what religion it was, I just wanted to have an experience in this amazing church, but I now felt very uncomfortable to even get near an Anglican Church.
It seemed apparent to me that even though this was now the Republic of Ireland, Protestant England seemed to still have a strong hold. I guess I though the contention of the two religions was a thing of the past, but realized how deep it still ran to the present day. You hear about Protestants and Catholics hating each other but to actually go to that country and accidentally offend a head leader of the church and in turn you receive a feeling of discrimination, gives you a very real perspective of the reality of it all. Just from that little bit of tension I experienced, I could imagine what it would be like for not only the people of Ireland, but people all over Europe that have had a brutal history of Protestant/Catholic war and discourse.
After we left we ended up walking around for over 20 minutes looking for a Catholic Church. I had no idea how hard it would be to find a Catholic Church in Dublin. I must be biased, but when I think Irish I usually pair that with Catholic so I figured they’d be everywhere. We finally found a Polish Catholic Church of all things and attended the service. Even though it was in a different language it was an interesting experience and mass is mass, so no matter where you go it’s all the same!
I would recommend attending any service available while you are in Ireland. This country has strong religious roots and attending a service of any religion is always a good idea when on vacation as it allows you to experience the local culture.