Dublin is one of those friendly, accessible cities that make you feel at home as soon as you arrive, but that doesn’t mean it’s an open book. With a history dating back more than 1,000 years, Dublin has some interesting secrets that are worth discovering.
Hallelujah for Handel
The first public performance of Handel’s Messiah (famous for its “Hallelujah Chorus”) was staged in a music hall on Dublin’s Fishamble Street in 1742. The dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Jonathan Swift (yes, the Gulliver’s Travels author), initially refused to allow his choristers to perform sacred music in a public music hall, but he later relented. The organ that Handel played is still in use in the nearby St. Michan’s church, which is also home to a burial vault where centuries-old bodies remain remarkably intact.
Chancing your arm in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Engaged in a bitter feud with the Fitzgeralds of Kildare, the Butlers of Ormonde took refuge in the Chapter House of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, but the FitzGeralds followed them and asked them to come out and resolve matters. Head of the family, Gerald FitzGerald, had a hole cut in the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. To this day the door of the Chapter House is known as the “Door of Reconciliation” and “chancing your arm” has become a common phrase.
St. Valentine’s in Dublin
Forget Paris for romance: Patron saint of couples, St. Valentine, has a special association with Dublin. A shrine to the saint in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, on Aungier Street, is popular throughout the year, but February 14 is celebrated in a special way. A Blessing of Rings takes place for for those about to be married, and a reliquary containing the saint’s remains is removed from beneath a side altar and venerated.
Dracula Was a Dub
Bram Stoker, the author of the famous novel Dracula, was born in Clontarf, on the outskirts of Dublin city. Stoker attended Trinity College in the city centre, and the title of his infamous book is believed to come from the Irish phrase “droch ola,” which means bad blood.
Phoenix Park is Europe’s Biggest Urban Park
At 707 hectares, the Phoenix Park is the lungs of Dublin City. The park was originally established in 1662 as a deer park for King Charles II, and a herd of Fallow deer has lived among the broadleaf forests and rolling meadows ever since. The park is home to Áras an Uachtaráin, the residence of the President of Ireland, as well as the U.S.ambassador’s residence.
And the Oscar Goes to…
Next time you see a weeping starlet clutch an “Oscar” statuette at the Academy Awards, remember the origins of this sought-after trophy: Designer Cedric Gibbons was born in Dublin in 1823. Dublin continues the Hollywood tradition today, with actors from Gabriel Byrne to Colin Farrell hailing from the city.
The MGM Cub was a Dub
One of Europe’s oldest zoos, Dublin Zoo has had some pretty famous inhabitants. With its excellent reputation for breeding lions in captivity, it was chosen to supply the lion that roars dramatically at the beginning of each MGM film. Cairbre (dubbed “Leo” by MGM) was born in Dublin Zoo on 20th March 1927, and, although a second lion from Dublin Zoo was also filmed to replace Cairbre, the footage may never have been used.
Croke Park Sport Sensation
Croke Park is a place for extremes. For a start, it hosts to the final of the world’s fastest field sport – hurling – every year. Now the fourth biggest stadium in Europe, Croke Park is a carbon neutral venue that was the first stadium in the world to receive the BS 8901 certification for sustainable event management. It also holds the the world record for the largest attendance at a club rugby union match (81,000-plus). A Dublin landmark, its Hill 16 stand was built using rubble from O’Connell Street from the 1916 Rising.
Dublin is famous for literary geniuses, but only one was awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Oscar. In fact, the only person in the world to have done so is George Bernard Shaw, for the play Pygmalion (better known as the musical My Fair Lady)
Are You Going for a Pint or 10 million?
Celebrated in the landmark attraction the Guinness Storehouse, the famous “black stuff” is popular across the globe. So much so that 10 million glasses of the stout are produced daily all over the world.
Photo 1 by Jim Linwood via Flickr
Photo 2 by gordonflood.com via Flickr
Photo 3 by david.nikonvscanon via Flickr