Friday Afternoon near O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland

Thanking the bus driver, we stepped on to the sidewalk, amongst the noisy 4-lane thoroughfare. It was packed with people, bicycles, double-decker buses and rows upon rows of brownstone buildings one next the other. Welcome to O’Connell street! Its one of the busier streets in the heart of Dublin.

Unsure of which direction to head, we looked around until we spotted an extremely tall, slender, shiny, pointy thing in the middle of the meridian. Our guidebook called it “The Spire” without an explanation of what or why it was in the middle of the street. Walking across the 2-lanes of traffic an onto the gigantic meridian we went. Standing back 2-streets the pointy thing  was about a 100-feet taller than the highest building along the street. Walking towards it my wife says, “The guidebook says its 120m high, has a 3m diameter base and 15cm apex. They say its base is partially polished stainless steel for about 10m and has an abstract design.” My reply, “great, what’s it about?” “Nothing. It’s just a piece of public art.” We both laugh at this ridiculous structure and wonder how much it cost for this spire to be erected in the City? “Well, I’ve never seen anything like it. I guess that makes it unique.” 

The Spire on O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland, April 2016

Back across the road we head down Talbot street as it appears there are several restaurants and the two of us are famished from lack of nourishment. I think the last actual meal we had been at Edmonton International Airport during our extended stay in the airport before taking off. Everything since has been snacks and beverages. We turn right on Marlborough Street until we find a cafe. Checking the restaurant menu, it seems it’s an Indian Restaurant. We’ve struck gold. As Indian cuisine is typically vegetarian and will have vegan options too. Perfect for the travelling Celiac Gluten-Free couple!

Explaining our dietary needs to the waiter he smiles and says that they will accommodate to our food restrictions. He explains a handful of dishes which can be made into Celiac Gluten-Free friendly options. We order one each of the three dishes he’s just explained and a pot of tea for our first lunch feast in Ireland. Over lunch we discussed the most important places to visit this afternoon because jet-lag would soon be hitting the both of us, and it was nearly 2:00pm and most museums closed about 5:00pm. Short on time and walking everywhere, we decided on our top 3-locations to try to visit:

  1. Trinity College and the Book of Kells
  2. The National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
  3. Dublin Castle

Setting off down Marlborough street, we went, a quick turn on to Sackville Place then half a block later we were back on O’Connell street. Turning left we went towards the River Liffey and our first destination Trinity College. Standing on the corner everywhere we looked statues, monuments, three-story buildings, double-decker buses, cars and the constant buzz of cameras, cellphones, languages and people heading in every direction. Crossing over O’Connell Bridge below us a river ferry-boat. Wandering down Westmoreland street we went with the flow of people. Nearing the Irish Houses of Parliament, a set of bag pipes could be heard reverberating off the buildings along this narrow street. A colourful array of open umbrellas, hats, and rain jackets streaming along the street as we approached the archway into Regent House on the Trinity College campus. Through the arch and into Parliament Square the sounds of traffic died and a calming silence surrounded us. Checking the map we turned right heading over to Fellows’ Square and the entrance into the Museum where the Book of Kells sits on display.

The line was enormous at least 113 people in front of us, all standing patiently in the drizzling rain discussing their travel guide information, or a local brochure or some other historical knowledge about the Book and anticipating their reason to visit. The revelation was everyone knew the same two things;

  • Book of Kells (c 800 AD) Mark 1. 1 The Symbols of the Four Evangelists (folios 129v-130r) INIT/IUM EUANGE/LII IESU / CHRISTI: ‘The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ’
  • Book of Kells (c 800 AD) Matthew 13. 13-22 (folios 66v-67r) non uident et audientes non audiunt … suffocant uerbum et sine fructu: ‘though seeing you do not see, though hearing you do not hear … [the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth] choke the word, [making it] unfruitful’; The explanation of the parable of the sower.

Nearly 35-minutes later, we paid our £15 per Adult and entered the museum which attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually to Trinity College. Stepping into the museum everyone stands awestruck by the presentation of the content before them. Life size glass walls presenting each page of the book, audio and visual representations. All presented in 12 different languages for everyone to enjoy. Elaborately decorated the book was written about 800 AD containing the four gospels in Latin based text-based on the Vulgate edition completed by St Jerome in 384 AD. In all there are 340 folios (680 pages) which summarize the gospel narratives and concordances of gospel passages. Embellished by key words and phrases the book contains complex scenes and interpretations of the Arrest of Christ, His Temptation, and images of Christ, the Virgin and Child, St Matthew and St John. The two of four volumes on display were turned to the letter “M” a heavily decorated page and the other to text.

A reflection of The Old Library, Trinity College

Climbing a set of stairs you depart the ground floor exhibitions and enter into The Old Library. Words do not express the enormity of the Long Room. The chamber is nearly 65 metres long and holds nearly 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. The full library is housed in 8-buildings and has over 3-million volumes. As the number of volumes of books grew architects designed the room to house more books. In 1860 the roof was constructed into the present day barrel-vaulted ceiling and gallery bookcases.

Imagine ninety some people standing in this long room gawking at the number of books discussing the eloquent interior, ladders, volumes, taking photographs of the hall, the 14 marble busts by sculptors Peter Scheemakers, Simon Vierpyl and Louis Francois Roubiliac, and a fifteenth century harp constructed of oak, willow and brass. The harp is one of the oldest to survive and appears on Irish coins. It is attributed to the high king of Ireland, Brian Boru whom died in 1014.

One-hour and forty-three minutes later, we departed the museum walked East across the Fellows’ Square into the Hyde Gallery and out on to Nassau Street, headed for the National Museum of Ireland a handful of blocks away. As we drifted down the streets we chatted on and on about the sheer brilliance, the abundance of history inside the Book of Kells, the decorative arts, text, construction of the library and what might be out there awaiting us on our 8-day journey through Central and Southern Ireland.

The upper library vault with an old wooden ladder