Slow Sunday

4 October 2015, Sunday
Gosh, it was good to sleep, and sleep late. That’s another thing I like about the Portmarnock—it’s quiet. We went down to breakfast around ten o’clock. Alli and Sabas joined us for tea after they finished eating. I really enjoyed spending time with my niece and her husband on this trip.

Later I got a text from Conor and Laura, and I went down to the lobby to say good-bye. They are longtime friends of mine and had flown in from Rome for the party … and as is the case in these sorts of situations, I’d barely had time to visit with them. This was my chance.

As we sat there, just chatting, other friends came by.* Pris and Emmet sat down with us, and then Alli and Sabas were checking out and waiting for their ride. As we all talked I realized my friends had already connected on Facebook, on WhatsApp, had exchanged business cards and phone numbers … I’d seen it happening last night too. Most importantly, they’d had a good time, and they’d met new friends. The thing that makes me happiest is everyone, literally everyone, has reported not just having a “nice” time but a “GREAT” time. I can almost get tearful about how wonderfully it all went. I’ve given plenty of parties in my time, but never with so many strangers in one room.

I believe we pulled it off. 🙂

Good-byes and hugs and smiles (no tears) … and that left John and Gerry and I. John had spent a lot of time being a good sport with us while we ran errands and took care of business, but he hadn’t really done any sightseeing yet. I planned to change that. We dropped Gerry at his house—he need to take care of some yardwork and other chores—and John and I set off.

Our first stop was Mellifont Abbey—a ruined twelfth-century site in County Louth. It was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, founded in 1142. It’s all a ruin now.

In the foreground, all that remains of the great cruciform church. On the left, the chapter house, which would have been adjacent to the church. The grassy area in the center is the cloister, on which sits the original lavabo. I’m standing next to a site map. (John took this photo.)

In the foreground, all that remains of the great cruciform church. On the left toward the back, the chapter house, which would have been adjacent to the church. The grassy area in the center is the cloister, on which sits the original lavabo. I’m standing next to a site map. (John took this photo.)

That’s the chapter house on the left; it was closed for renovation when Margaret and I were here in 2012.

That’s the chapter house on the left; it was closed for renovation when Margaret and I were here in 2012.

Looking inside the chapter house. Those are medieval-era glazed tiles on the floor that originally were in the church.

Looking inside the chapter house. Those are medieval-era glazed tiles on the floor that originally were in the church.

As is the case at historic sites all over Ireland, this one has changed since I was last here. You can see it if you look at the photos from 2012: what was once gravel has now been paved. This certainly makes an easier stroll around the cloister.

What was once gravel is now paved. The cloister is to the right, the barely there church is straight ahead, miscellaneous buildings on the left. Far in the distance, the towering remains of the original gatehouse of the old abbey. The entrance road formerly led through the archway beneath the tower.

What was once gravel is now paved. The cloister is to the right, the barely there church is straight ahead, miscellaneous buildings on the left. Far in the distance, the towering remains of the original gatehouse of the old abbey. The entrance road formerly led through the archway beneath the tower.

The gatehouse; it’s three stories high.

The gatehouse; it’s three stories high.

The monastery lasted until the Dissolution of the Monasteries, at which time the property was sold and became a fortified manor house (in 1539). The house—property of Sir Garret Moore—was also a focal point of Irish history. The Moores continued to live at Mellifont until 1927. (Interestingly, the abbey still exists, just in newer quarters.)

I’m standing among those miscellaneous buildings now. The river is behind me. In the distance, the dark chapter house. Immediately ahead is the beautiful lavabo.

I’m standing among those miscellaneous buildings now. The river is behind me. In the distance, the dark-doored chapter house. Immediately ahead is the beautiful lavabo.

A capital in the lavabo.

A capital (the decorated top of a column) in the lavabo.

You can really see the passage of time. How beautiful these must have been in their day!

You can really see the passage of time. How beautiful these must have been in their day!

 I don’t know what this is; it’s not identified on the site map. It’s a tunnel, of course, and is in a little structure that lies beyond the lavabo. I had to crouch to walk through it (and I’m short), and I can’t imagine what the purpose of that would have been. And look at that ceiling! Razor-sharp!

I don’t know what this is; it’s not identified on the site map. It’s a short tunnel, of course, and is in a little structure that lies beyond the lavabo. I had to crouch to walk through it (and I’m short), and I can’t imagine what the purpose of that would have been. And look at that ceiling! Razor-sharp!

Here’s a better look at that sharpened ceiling in the little tunnel. Perhaps it was storage? It’s a mystery.

Here’s a better look at that sharpened ceiling in the little tunnel. Perhaps it was storage? It’s a mystery.

We took our time, strolled around, looking carefully at everything. There were wild blackberries everywhere.

It’s a beautiful property.

It’s a beautiful property. (Remember that you can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

After this, we drove to Monasterboice. (I’d been there twice before, most recently in June.) All that’s left, really, of this early Christian settlement (it was founded in the late fifth century) is the graveyard and a round tower.

The round tower at Monasterboice. October 2015.

The round tower at Monasterboice. October 2015.

There are the remains of two fourteenth-century churches, too, but the site is most famous for its tenth-century high crosses.

It is a truly beautiful place.

It is a truly beautiful place.

Since I have been here before, I have taken other photographs, which you can see in those posts. (Both are linked above.) So if you’ve been to Monasterboice, you may or may not find the ones I’ve put here representative of your experience—but the photos in this post are just me looking at different things … differently.

This grave is inside the South Church, which means iut is much newer. I’m guessing Victorian era, since this is an overly sentimental depiction of the Crucifixion.

This grave is inside the South Church, which means it is much newer. I’m guessing Victorian era, since this is an overly sentimental depiction of the Crucifixion.

I just love the colors here … the white and orange scattered on the gravestones … the “blue” hills on the horizon … the tree spreading its arms over the community here.

I just love the colors here … the white and orange scattered on the gravestones … the “blue” hills on the horizon … the tree spreading its arms over the community here.

I often take photos of interesting gravestones.

Like this one, which memorializes fourteen deaths. Are they all buried right here?

Like this one, which memorializes fourteen deaths. Are they all buried right here?

And this one, which mentions the man who erected the stone (Patrick Cooney Nockmontha) and later records his death. Love the little hand-drawn heart, and the way the person who chiseled the words had to really squeeze in Nockmontha. (Was that a village? It looks like a last name but if his parents were Cooneys and he is male … hmmm.)

And this one, which mentions the man who erected the stone (Patrick Cooney Nockmontha) and later records his death. Love the little hand-drawn heart, and the way the person who chiseled the words had to really squeeze in Nockmontha. (Was that a village? It looks like a last name but if his parents were Cooneys and he is male … hmmm.)

On this trip I was quite taken with what lay outside the walls.

The cemetery is surrounded by this high rock wall, with the sharp, deterrent stones along the top. It sits in the middle of farmland.

The cemetery is surrounded by this high rock wall, with the sharp, deterrent stones along the top. It sits in the middle of farmland.

Cows graze on the hill outside the cemetery at Monasterboice.

Cows graze on the hill outside the cemetery at Monasterboice.

But, as mentioned above, it is the ten-century high crosses that people come to see. There are three: the famous Muiredach’s Cross, the Tall Cross, and the North Cross.

The Cross of Muiredach (South Cross)

The west face of the Cross of Muiredach. Just look at all that detail.

The west face of the Cross of Muiredach. Just look at all that detail.

I’m certain it’s just the way these guys have weathered, but they look very Asian to me. “Confucius says …” (Actually, that’s Christ in the middle, giving the parting commission to the apostles.)

I’m certain it’s just the way these guys have weathered, but they look very Asian to me. “Confucius says …” (Actually, that’s Christ in the middle, giving the parting commission to the apostles.)

Two cats at the base of the west face. The inscription behind them reads, “A prayer for Muiredach, who had the cross erected.”

Two cats at the base of the west face. The inscription behind them reads, “A prayer for Muiredach, who had the cross erected.”

At the base of the east face, two animals playing. I assumed dogs, but probably they are lions.

At the base of the east face, two animals playing. I assumed dogs, but probably they are lions.

Also from the east face, this panel shows Eve offering the apple to Adam, and Cain murdering Abel.

Also from the east face, this panel shows Eve offering the apple to Adam, and Cain murdering Abel.

The Tall Cross (West Cross)

This is the east side of the Tall Cross; the central scene represents the Last Judgment.

This is the east side of the Tall Cross; the central scene represents the Last Judgment.

This is the west side of the Tall Cross. Although this is a crucifixion scene, Christ is fully clothed in a long-sleeved garment.

This is the west side of the Tall Cross. Although this is a crucifixion scene, Christ is fully clothed in a long-sleeved garment.

The North Cross
I took photos of this in June, so I spent less time with it on this trip. It’s very plain, and the shaft is not original.

The North Cross, with the Crucifixion on the west face. To the right in the iron enclosure is a sun dial.

The North Cross, with the Crucifixion on the west face. To the right in the iron enclosure is a sun dial.

As the sun started slipping lower, John and I meandered back to Artane to pick up Gerry, and then headed back to the Portmarnock. We fancied a table in the Seaview Lounge for dinner, but were told it was completely booked (though it was mostly empty when we were standing there). We had to go to the bar for dinner—same menu, the staff said, but it was the ambience we were after. The bar was crowded and noisy. After dinner we made an early night of it, to prepare for the five-plus drive to the northwest on the morrow.

* Tiffany and Camille had set off early for Galway with Robert and Phillip; ’Becca and Mike kept their lodging in Dublin City. So we did not see them.

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