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The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland

Charleston to Dundalk

overcast 65 °F

As is somewhat unusual, we flew non-stop from Charlotte to Dublin on American. This is the first time in 24 years that I have flown to Europe from Charlotte. The 7 hour flight was fine landing at 5:00am in the morning, but the AA food was OK at best in business class, although the flight attendants were great.
Once we landed, the process was slow. As there were one AA flight and three Aer Lingus flights, the baggage delivery was very slow. Once we got our bags, there was a sizeable delay at Hertz to pick up our rental car, purely because of the paperwork and the line in front of us.

We headed out about 7:00am towards our first stop at Dundalk.

The first attraction was the ancient Mellifont Abbey. Mellifont Abbey was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. St Malachy of Armagh created it in 1142 with the help of a small number of monks sent by St Bernard from Clairvaux. The monks did not take well to Ireland and soon returned to France, but the abbey was completed anyway and duly consecrated with great pomp. It has several extraordinary architectural features, the foremost of which is the two-story octagonal lavabo. The monks at Mellifont hosted a critical synod in 1152. The abbey was central to the history of later centuries, too, even though it was in private hands by then. The Treaty of Mellifont, which ended the Nine Years War, was signed here in 1603, and William of Orange used the abbey as his headquarters during the momentous Battle of the Boyne.


We headed to the resort, but, arriving at 9:00am, our room was not ready. After a nap on a comfortable chair we headed off into Dundalk to explore. Our first stop was St. Patrick's Cathedral. There has been a Catholic church named Saint Patrick's in the town since 1750. The first building was on a site donated by the first Earl of Clanbrassil on Chapel Street and in 1843, was converted into a school. The then-Parish priest, Fr. Matthew McCann, acquired the current site in 1834. The church was opened for worship in 1842 but was not complete for many years after. Work stopped during the Great Famine and resumed in 1860. It was designed by the Newry architect Thomas Duff, who modelled the interior on Exeter Cathedral, and the exterior on King's College Chapel. Duff died before completion and the architect J. J. McCarthy was chosen to finish the magnificent interior. The bell tower is a later addition, being added in 1903. On 3 February 1867, Michael Kieran was consecrated as Archbishop of Armagh in St. Patrick's Church and chose during his tenure from 1867 to 1869 St. Patrick's in Dundalk as his mensal parish. The completion of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh was left to his successor, Daniel McGettigan.


Or final stop before heading back to the hotel and finally checking in was St Bridid's Shrine. Tradition holds that Faughart, is the birthplace of Ireland’s iconic matron saint Brigid. The Annals of Ulster record St. Brigid as being born in 452 and the five Latin Lives of St. Brigid contain lists of miracles carried out by the saint in a life dedicated to God and helping the poor, needy and oppressed. St. Brigid is strongly associated with healing, fertility, poetry, care of the land and animals, abundance and the coming of Spring. The saint has the same name as the pre-Christian Goddess Brigid, meaning ‘exalted one’ in old Irish, and described as a goddess of poets, woman of wisdom, protector of the land and source of new life and re-birth at springtime. In 1934 Faughart was chosen by Cardinal Mac Rory as the National Shrine of St. Brigid for the whole of Ireland. The first national pilgrimage took place on the first Sunday of July 1934 with an attendance of 10,000 people, including two Irish presidents, Eamon de Valera and T.K O’Reilly. The Shrine is a place of tranquil beauty. A series of modern Stations of the Cross run along Sruth Bhríde, St. Brigid’s Stream, from the upper part of the Shrine, through a beautiful glade of towering beech trees and across the road to the lower part of the Shrine. This is where you will find the very ancient stone stations, which are believed to have healing powers. These include the Head Stone, the Knee Stone, the Waist Stone and the Back Stone.

Posted by rpickett 17:15 Archived in Ireland Tagged dundalk

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Beautiful pictures and wonderful story.

by Jimmy Craven

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