I frequently forget, due to my extensive amount of exposure to Italian Churches and Italian Catholicism, that other varieties of Catholicism exist. The term “Irish Catholic” is something very well known in the U.S due to the massive amount of immigrants that came during the devastating famine of the 1800s, but I never really thought about what that meant. Over the years after the English religious Reformation under Henry VIII, Protestants and Catholics have been at constant odds. Irish Catholics were forced to change their Church practices in the 1600s as well as endure endless persecution under the English. Violent unrest due mostly to religion has marred the island for centuries, only ending in a ceasefire between the north and south in 1994. An interesting result of this can be seen in the emphasis on “peace” within the Irish Churches. For example, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on the back of a prayer bench there was written the saying “may peace reign on Earth” and every morning at the cathedral there is a prayer for world peace in an old corner.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the church dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint, is located next to a lovely park in which lies the traditional spot thought to be where the well exists from which St.Patrick baptized many local celts thus leading to Irelands Catholic identity today. The church decorations have a lot of pagan and Celtic influence, especially in the floor tiling and use of animals in church decorations. I thought this was a fantastic treat. I get so caught up in the classic Italian churches that I forget other places approach their churches differently. I love that though there is only one Catholicism, every culture still puts itself into its practice of their religion. The Celtic influence, the pride in their past, was really interesting in Ireland. The result is this beautiful deep hodgepodge of pagan tradition and catholic religion that can't help but interest you.