Architecture in Ireland…Castles and Churches and more !
The Rock of Cashel, once the palace of the kings of Munster, dominates the surrounding plain and has a fine collection of early Irish buildings. The 13th-century cathedral, although a ruin, is a most impressive edifice. Nearby there is a round tower and the delightful 11th-century Cormac's Chapel built in Irish-Romanesque style. It is similar to Clonfertcathedral with its ornate yet delicate doorway.
Gothic architecture was brought to Ireland by the Normans and the expanding monastic orders. The ruined Mellifont Abbey which still has part of its cloister and octagonal lavabo is an early example. Boyle Abbey, also built around 1200, retains its solid arcade but St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and St Canice's Kilkenny, are perhaps the finest examples of gothic architecture intact today. Also worth a visit is Jerpoint Abbey which has a 15th-century tower and an elaborately decorated cloister. Nearby is the cleanly restored Abbey at Grainguenamanagh with its outstanding processional doorway and delightful medieval tiles.
Castles or fortified houses are found in great numbers in Ireland. One of the largest is Trim Castle, whose extensive ruins cover several acres. It was built in 1170 by Hugh deLacy. Reginald's Tower in Waterford dates from the same period and is a circular building with a conical roof and walls 10 ft thick. Once used as a prison, it now houses a small museum. Blarney Castle is a large tower with a parapet 83 ft from the ground and houses the famous Blarney Stone, which promises eloquence to all who kiss it. The 15th-century Bunratty Castle near Shannon airport has been carefully restored and holds a good collection of old Irish furniture and tapestries. In the grounds is the Folk Park, where typical thatched farmhouses, fishermen's and labourers' cottages have been reconstructed.
Kilkenny city has a number of first rate buildings. The medieval castle of the Dukes of Ormonde stands on a commanding site above the River Nore. Rothe House dates from the 16th century and is built around a cobbled courtyard. Other noteworthy buildings are the Black Abbey, the Tholsel and St Canice's Cathedral.
Among other superb castles worth visiting are Carrickfergus, Cahir, Malahide, Dunguaire, Thoor Ballylee (once home of W.B. Yeats) and Dublin Castle. An outstanding unfortified 16th-century house is that of the Ormondes at Carrick-on Suir. Town walls have survived in part at Limerick, Dublin, Clonmel, Wexford and Killmallock. The walls of Derry (Londonderry) are almost complete and give an excellent view over the whole city.
Dating from the 17th-century is one of Ireland's prize buildings, the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. Originally an old soldiers' home, it is in the form of an arcadedquadrangle with dormer windows on its two stories. It also has a spacious hall and a beautiful clock tower.
Classical architecture came to Ireland in the early 18th century when Castletown House was built for William Connolly, speaker of the Irish House of Commons. Many of the finest buildings, including Trinity College, the Bank of Ireland (old Parliment House), Leinster House, the Rotunda, the Custom House, Powerscourt House, the Four Courts, the Marino Casino, Carton House, the King's Inns and the City Hall were built in the Palladian style. They are the supreme jewels of Irish architecture. This was also the period when the gracious Georgian squares of Dublin were laid out - Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, Parnell Square, Mountjoy Square and St Stephen's Green. The interiors of many of these buildings are equally beautiful, exquisite plasterwork, carving and decor. Outside Dublin several towns were built along classical lines, for example Tyrellspass, Hillsborough, Birr, Armagh, Portarlington and Westport.
The 19th century saw an upsurge in church building. Noted examples are Killarney and Enniscorthy cathedrals - both by Pugin the gothic revivalist - St Finbarr's Cork and St Saviour's, Dublin. The railway companies have also left a valuable heritage in the large numbers of elegant stations. In Dublin the terminals of Heuston, Connolly, the Broadstone and Harcourt Street are gracious buildings.
Not all interesting buildings were designed for the wealthy. All over Ireland the traditional thatched cottage may be seen, especially in the west and in Adare. There are also elaborate, brightly painted shop fronts in every town along with neat little churches and simple public houses that have escaped modernisation.
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