Big Churches in Little Europe: St Patrick's, Dublin

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St Patrick’s, Dublin

When I went to Dublin I thought I would visit St Paddies and view the best of Irish Roman Catholicism. In Australia (as in many English speaking countries) the Roman Catholic version of Christianity was synonymous with the Irish until after the Second World War when everybody discovered that Italians were Roman Catholics too. Old stereotypes die hard. So for me, what could be more Catholic than St Patrick in Dublin?

It turns out that Ireland has a troubled religious past (who knew?) and there are lots of traditional worship styles in Ireland including the Church of Ireland. The Church of Ireland, which is associated with the English tradition rather than the Roman one, owns many of the older church buildings.

This meant my visit to St Patrick's for an evening service was firstly, very similar to what happens in England and will be, secondly, associated forever in my mind with the faces of bemused tourists who weren't expecting what they saw or heard.

The building is very old and is the real St Patrick's Cathedral. There is a Roman Catholic cathedral down the road (I didn't ever find it, although I did find a great Polish church with fake prayer candles that lit up electrically for 10 minutes when you put a Euro coin in the stand). When religious freedom was organised, some churches were given to some religious groups and some to others and a few have been left to fall down. I won't even pretend that the division was impartial, reasonable or acceptable.

In some ways there isn't much more to say about this place. They probably charge for entry during the day. The park next door does some great out-door art.

The church is certainly looked after and clearly loved. Unfortunately the impact of such a revered and ancient place is lost by its place in the religious segregation. I don't think it would matter who "owned" it if first and foremost the people of its city owned it. And I didn't feel that was the case.

Still, everybody's an expert, except me, so I will stop now.

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