Friday, March 15, 2013

Ireland - Thursday

        Today was religious culture day.  95% of the population of the Republic of Ireland is Catholic.  There has been significant conversation and news coverage about the election of the new Pope.  Cathedrals and churches are prominent in every city and town.  I mentioned in an earlier post about St. Mary's here in Thurles.  There is also St. Patrick's Cathedral near the center of town.

        This morning we had a short coach ride to Cashel which is located south west of Thurles.  We attended mass at St. John the Devine church.  The parish priest is also the chaplain of Limerick Institute of Technology.  (Another difference in Irish culture is the lack of separation of church and state.)  Three members of our ensemble were invited to provide music and song during the service.

        After a break for coffee, tea, and biscuits our group hiked out of town and up to the promontory referred to as the Rock of Cashel.  This fortress and cathedral was established in the 12th century.  Presently all that remains are the stone walls and architectural features of the site.  Even in a state of disrepair it is an impressive structure.  We viewed a short video presentation on the history of religion in Ireland and the role of the Rock through the centuries.

        After lunch there was free time to explore the town of Cashel and do a little shopping.

        On the way back to Thurles, we stopped briefly at the Holy Cross Abbey.  A volunteer docent gave us a quick tour of the Abbey and explained it's lengthy history.  The abbey was established in the 12th century.  Formerly occupied by Cistercian monks, the abbey was restored in the 15th century by the Butler family who owned Kilkenny Castle which we visited yesterday.  The building has had several additional restorations of various parts and is an active congregation today.

        In the evening our cultural experience was to observe and participate in some authentic Irish step dancing.  It was great exercise and an opportunity to participate in the culture.  There was no Lord of the Dance among us and the senior citizens who were our instructors really tired us out.

-Dr. Faulkner

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