Today we started by exploring the Dublin Castle, Chapel Royal, and the gardens outside of the Dublin Castle. We arrived early for are tour of the Castle so we stepped inside the Chapel Royal. Like all the chapels and cathedrals I have entered throughout this trip, a great peace and beauty fell over me. Constructed in 1814 it was the third church to be on the castle grounds, the previous one was destroyed in a fire that wrecked the castle. It contains gorgeous stain glass windows, as all chapels do, and I spent a solid ten minutes just sitting there reveling in the beauty. The church also contained a massive gorgeous organ given as a gift by Prince Albert.
After leaving this beautiful building we headed into the main part of the castle. The castle is fnot what you would traditionally expect. It lacks the giant walls and fortifications that we assume castles would have. This is due to a disastrous fire that happened in 1684. King James was away on holiday, or important business, and so he had left the keeping of the castle to his son. Well on the 7th of April an accidental fire started to spread throughout the castle. Though they tried contained it, it quickly spread out of control. To prevent one hell of a firework show when the fire would reach the powder stores in the northwest tower, the were forced to blow up and demolish sections of the walls to create a firebreak. Can you imagine what the letter King James Son wrote to him the next day? How does one explain to their father that they burnt down his entire castle? I would not want to be him when James arrived back in Dublin. The structural damage was so bad that all the walls, all but one of the towers and the rest of the main buildings had to be completely demolished. This is why currently standing castle no longer looks like a castle and much more like any other governmental building.
Also located on the castle grounds are the statutes of Fortitude and Justice with the Bedford tower between them. There has been much controversy over the statue of Lady Justice. Not only is she facing away from the city and towards Dublin Castle, which was the seat of the English government, but there are another few alterations which have angered the Irish. For one she has no blindfold, the traditional marking of justice being blind, so with eyes wide open she smiles towards the throne. The original statue also had medal scales, so when in rained one of the scales would become imbalanced and tilt below the other. The sword which is supposed to be pointed down is held upright. All of this led to the Irish coming up with a quaint little poem concerning Dublin Castles Lady Justice. “The Statue of Justice, mark well her station, her face to the castle and her arse to the nation!”
One more scandalous situation that has happened here occurred the Bedford tower. In 1907 the Irish crown jewels, and a few other precious ceremonial artifacts were stolen. They had been transferred to a new secure safe a few years prior, but this safe would not fit in the old room used for storage. So they placed it in an office nearby instead. This office was accessible by a wide arrange of people, and it has even been said that the Ulster King of Arms would get drunk and awake with the crown jewels around his neck from time to time. So in 1907 days before the English King arrived, the theft took place. Though an extensive trial took place, and accusations were made the crime was never solved and everyone involved was forced to resign from their positions.
Later that night we were invited to the Fulbright & Ireland – United States Commission Awards. Now I know this might sound like a dry and boring event, but words cannot describe how blown away I was by it. We were all completely unprepared for what we had in store for us. For one it took place at the Residence of the US ambassador. This is undoubtedly the nicest place I have been in my entire life. A mansion of grandiose scale with a breathtaking view that overlooked the Irish country side. We mingled and socialized with Fulbright Scholars and almui as well as staff of the US embassy. Included in the people I talked to were the Economics Commission Officer for the US and Ireland, as well as Tom Healy, Obama’s appointed chairmen of the Fulbright Commission. Mr. Healy, not only the Chairmen, but a poet, and a wonderful man aside was quite welcome towards us and it was an honor to be able to talk with him. Entering this event was the most stressful moment of the trip so far. Yet by the end of the night we had all relaxed and truly come together as a group. This change hopefully will continue throughout the trip as we are relaxed finally and feel like we belong in this beautiful country.
*photos of the estate will be forthcoming.