As Dublin Castle is
located south of the River Liffey and well west of the
O'Connell Street bridge, getting there involved a fair amount of walking for
Nella and me (Philip had to walk even farther to reach his destination for
the day, but more on that later), and a crossing of a very calm Liffey.
River Liffey from Grattan Bridge
At the south end of the Grattan Bridge we noticed a building with some
distinctive-looking colored friezes. As it turns out, this building is
called Sunlight Chambers, and it was built in 1902 as the Dublin office
for Lord Lever, as in Lever Brothers (a British company at the time).
Lever Brothers' flagship product was a soap that used glycerin and
vegetable oils instead of tallow. This product was called Sunshine Soap
(hence the name of the building), and the friezes depict people making
their lives better with soap and doing things (like farming) that make
the use of soap necessary. As with the Dublin Spire, this piece of
architecture met with a mixed reaction when it was unveiled, with one
critic even calling it the "ugliest building in Dublin". If this was
true at the time, I'm sure it has been surpassed since. But some
(including me) no doubt disagree with this assessment, and the building
is certainly unique. It is now occupied by private offices.
Sunlight Chambers Frieze
The original Dublin Castle was built by Vikings as a defensive fortification
around 930 A.D., adjacent to a dark tidal pool that once existed where the
River Liffey was joined by the River Poddle (the Poddle now flows underground).
The name of the city derives from this pool, as it was called Dubh Linn, or
"black pool" in Gaelic. The Vikings were eventually defeated by the native
Irish, but in 1169 the Normans successfully invaded from England, and in 1204,
King John of England commanded the building of a strengthened castle on the
site. The resulting fortress had strong walls, a moat and several towers. As
we walked from the north into the parking lot, it was impossible to miss the
only tower remaining from this 13th Century fortress, a tower known as the
Record Tower (which once served as a jail and is now a museum), with the
sitting next to it.
Dublin Castle from Parking Lot
Chapel Royal and Record Tower
Passing through an archway to the right of the tower, we entered the
castle's upper courtyard. The location and dimensions of this courtyard
closely match those of the area enclosed within King John's fortress,
though the structures surrounding it have changed considerably over the
centuries. Throughout the British occupation of Ireland (until 1922),
the buildings in the castle complex served as headquarters for the top
representatives of the British crown (e.g. the Viceroys and Lords
Lieutenant). A number of renovations were done during this time,
usually to reconstruct something after a fire or because of structural
instability. The current structures mostly date back to the 18th
Century, and are in generally good condition.
The visual centerpiece of the courtyard is a building called the Bedford
Tower, which has a clock tower and is flanked by two gates, called the
Gates of Justice and Fortitude. The building has been used for a number
of purposes (it once housed the Irish Crown Jewels, which were stolen in
1907 and never found), but at present it is used as a conference center.
Bedford Tower and Gates
Statue, Gate of Justice, John van Nost the Younger (1750)
Statue, Gate of Fortitude, John van Nost the Younger (1750)
Bob in Guard Box
Opposite the Bedford Tower are the State Apartments, which are used for
official ceremonial purposes, including the inaugurations of the Irish
Presidents. Tours are available, but we didn't partake.
Every ten years or so, when the rotating Presidency of the European
Union rotates through Ireland, the castle is a center for EU functions.
As this was not the case during our visit, the courtyard was playing
host to sand sculptures. These sculptures were executed by a
three-artist group called
("fleeting sculpture"), which also does prize-winning ice sculptures.
Courtyard and Duthain Dealbh Sculptures
Nella and Duthain Dealbh Sculptures
iČ=jČ=kČ=ijk=-1, Daniel Doyle
iČ=jČ=kČ=ijk=-1 (flip side) with Artist
Light Pipes, Alan Magee
After exiting the courtyard the way we came, we paid a visit to the Chapel
Royal, next to the Record Tower. Though it looks like it should be older,
the Chapel is a Gothic revival construction, built in the early 19th Century.
From its completion in 1814 until the creation of the Irish Free State
in 1922, the Chapel Royal was the chapel of the sitting Lord Lieutenant's
household. Since the Chapel was built on soft ground, it was framed in
timber to save weight and avoid settling as much as possible. The
exterior has a thin outer layer of limestone, and the columns and vaulting
in the interior are painted to give the effect of stone. The Chapel has
wooden carvings or stained glass representations of the coats of arms of
all of the royal representatives since the building of the castle. The
Chapel's organ was a gift from Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert.
The Church of Ireland Chapel was consecrated as a Catholic church in 1943,
but no divine services have been performed in it for many years. The
Chapel's crypt is sometimes used for cultural events, and the Chapel
itself was used in The Tudors television series in recent years.
Inside the Chapel Royal
Columns and Windows
Balcony with Coats of Arms
South of the castle and covering part of the historical location of the
Dubh Linn pool is the aptly named Dubh Linn Garden. The Garden consists
of a large circular lawn, with bits of foliage clustered around its
perimeter, and collected into small "sub-gardens" in the corners. There
is a walkway around the lawn, and there are paths through the sub-gardens.
Embedded in the lawn are narrow, curved brick pathways, which apparently
constitute a Celtic design when seen from above. The garden was created
in the mid-1990's, and one of the requirements for its design was the
ability to land helicopters in it for easy access to the Castle (the
Presidency of the EU rotated through Dublin in 1996). There are circles
of lights in the ground to help the pilots at night or in times of low
Dubh Linn Garden
Historical Layout Showing Location of Garden
Inscriptions Above Entrance
Record Tower and Chapel Royal from Garden
Along the south edge of the garden (and pre-dating the garden considerably)
is the Coach House, which was built in 1833 to house the Lord Lieutenant's
coach and horses. It's now used for exhibition space.
Nella and Coach House
Just west of the garden is the Chester Beatty Library,
in which are displayed manuscripts, small paintings and art objects from countries
across Europe, Asia and Northern Africa.
Chester Beatty Library from Garden
Peacock Weather Vane, Beatty Library
We had ambitious plans for the rest of the day, which unfortunately didn't
leave us time to visit the Beatty Library. After a short visit to the
garden, we left and headed for our next destination, the Christ Church