Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Unexpected Romanesque - Cormac’s Chapel Ireland 1127 AD - Essay


"...Saint Patrick, to whom we owe gratitude for banishing the Devil..."


Unexpected Romanesque - Cormac’s Chapel Ireland 1127 AD - Essay

After years of looking closely, I can confidently say I find Romanesque architecture more compelling than Gothic.  So it was worth the hassle of losing our Rent Car mirror on a ridiculously narrow road to see an unforgettable Romanesque site, particularly since with such mishaps one can easily sooth oneself with Harp Lager or Guinness Stout, or even better, a fine whiskey. So without  the mirror Donnie and I gallivanted to the Rock of Cashel to see Cormac’s Chapel, which was built in 1127 for the King of Munster, Cormac MacCarthy.

Besides containing one of the best preserved Irish frescoes from the time period, the Chapel has elaborate carvings at its doorway arches, quite atypical in Ireland. One arch is decorated with multiple human heads, and the tympanum over the other features a Centaur fighting a Lion, but I can’t figure out how Irish sculptors gained artistic familiarity with Greek mythological Centaurs.

The Rock of Cashel which holds fortress and church, has legendary ties to Saint Patrick, to whom we owe gratitude for banishing the Devil, and converting the heathen King Cormac.  Despite Patrick's efforts, the coating of Christianity over Irish pagan culture is feeble, one observes how thin it is around awe-inspiring Neolithic sites, as well as the popularity of demons and spells. We had tea and cookies with an old woman who placed crucifixes over her door “to keep the evil spirits out.”

Image: Cormac's Chapel Door Arch Carvings - Virginia Billeaud Anderson