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The History of Claddagh and Galway City

The home of The Claddagh ring, Galway and the Fishing village of The Claddagh have changed much throughout the years but still retain the charm of times past.

The charm of Galway City streets on a moonlit night.

To take a stroll along the medieval streets of Galway down throught the Spanish Arch to the fishing village of Claddagh nestled by the banks of the River Corrib, is like taking a wonderful walk through times past. Much has changed over the past thirty years, but the echoes of the past still resonate throughout The City. Today Galway is a confident modern city busling with commerce and tourism. Full of character, with great restaurants and a lively nighlife, and the natural beauty of Connemara just a short drive outside The City, Galway is a lovely place to spend a couple of days. With its beguiling personality you will end up wishing you could stay longer.

Thatchecd cottages and traditional dress capture the character of Claddagh Village at the turn of the last century.

The settlement of Galway first developed as the Fishing village of The Claddagh at the mouth of the River Corrib where it empties into Galway Bay. The town thrived as a Gaelic settlement until the arrival of the Normans led by Richard De Burgo in the thirteenth century. The Gaelic traditions and language were preserved until modern times within the Claddagh fishing village. The Normans built city walls and began to develop the medieval city we know today. Remnants of the old city walls can still be seen today down by the Spanish Arch.

A view across The Corrib river to the village of The Claddagh.

The strategic position of the City on the west coast in shelter of Galway bay brought trade and prosperity to its citizens. Galway became a wealthy trading port with trading connections with France, Spain and Portugal, bringing all manner of exotic fare to the City. Galway is often know as, ‘The City of The Tribes’ in recognition of the 14 clans who ruled the city. Names like, D’Arcy, Blake, Joyce, Kirwan and Lynch are still synonymous with The City today. The City prospered for centuries until the arrival of Cromwell’s Army in 1651 precipitated a long period of decline.

Historical photograph of Claddagh fisherwomen wearing traditional Galway shawls.

There is much to see and do on a trip to Galway. You can stroll the streets enjoying the buskers and street performers, stopping off in Neachtans or The Quays for a pint and a bit of craic. On sunny days, you could take a bracing dip in The Atlantic from the beaches at Salthill or take a trip out to enjoy the beauty of Connemara or The Burren. The city streets come alive at night with traditional music sessions in many of the city pubs and a host of nightclubs to be found around Eyre square.

The emblem of the city is commemorated with the iconic traditional Claddagh ring. Learn more about Claddagh rings and where the traditional began.

Is Saint Valentine Really in Dublin

It is hard to beat the romantic gesture of presenting a Claddagh ring as a token of your affections on Saint Valentine’s Day. The heart, hands and crown that feature in this famous Irish ring give meaning to any relationship, regardless of whether a couple have been married for years or yet to go on a first date.  Although the Claddagh Ring is widely regarded as the most romantic irish icon, it is a little-known fact that Saint Valentine can now also be claimed as one of our own.

Saint Valentine in Dublin

Follow the sign to visit the remains of St. Valentine in Dublin

That’s right, the remains of St. Valentine are to be found in the crypt of a little known church in Dublin.  The story of St. Valentine goes back to the Roman rule of Emperor Claudius II. Saint Valentine was a kind-hearted Roman priest who married young lovers against the wishes of Emperor. St Valentine became the patron saint of love because, despite the orders of Claudius II who banned marriage for any of his soldiers to stop them leaving the ranks, Valentine secretly still blessed the marriages of these soldiers. He was caught and beheaded on February 14 around 270 AD.The patron saint’s remains were given to an Irish Priest, Fr John Spratt by Pope Gregory XV as a token of esteem.

On Father Spratts return to Ireland’s capital in 1836, St Valentine’s remains were brought in a procession through the streets of Dublin to Whitefriar Street Church. Large crowds turned out to witness the remains being received by the Archbishop of Dublin.

Relics of St. Valentine in Dublin

The remains of St. Valentine in Dublin.

To honor the patron of love a special side altar and shrine were built to house St Valentine’s remains. People and lovers from all over Ireland come to pay their respects and to pray before him. It is a known fact that many come to pray to the saint to help them find their significant other. The Shrine is also visited throughout the year by couples who come to pray to Valentine and to ask him to watch over them in their lives together.

The black casket which contains St Valentines remains is kept in a niche under the altar which is secured by a gate. On top of the casket is the coat of arms of Pope Gregory XVI inscribed with the words “This Shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus (Valentine) the Martyr, together with a small vessel said to be tinged with the saints blood.”

Silver Claddagh Ring

Irish Claddagh Ring, with Love, Friendship, Loyalty engraving

If you can’t make it to Dublin for Saint Valentine’s Day, you can still celebrate the occasion in a uniquely Irish way with a Claddagh ring from our store.

In this infographic we explore why the Irish can claim to be the most romantic people in the World.

Romance and The Irish

Buffy and Her Claddagh Ring

My people… Before I was changed… They exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty… And the heart… Well, you know… Wear it with the heart pointing towards you. It means you belong to somebody. Like this. Put it on.”

With these words, the character of Angel played by David Boreanaz presented a Claddagh ring to Buffy, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the hit TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. In the plot line, Angel presents Buffy on her 17th birthday with the claddagh ring as an Irish friendship ring which he got from a retro store. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty and the heart represents love. Although well-intentioned, the gift wreaked emotional havoc on Buffy as the significance of the Claddagh is revealed.

Buffy, Angel and his Claddagh Ring

Angel’s Claddagh Ring takes center stage in this romantic scene between between Buffy and Angel.

Although many celebrities, from Mia Farrow to Jennifer Aniston, wear Claddagh rings, the appearance of the Claddagh ring on the show sparked a surge in popularity as fans of the show sought out their own version of the ring to wear.

ladies silver claddagh ring

A ladies silver Claddagh ring, just like the one from the show, is available from our store

Credit for the introduction of the Claddagh ring to the show’s plot line goes to to Buffy actor Boreanaz, who off camera wears one given to him by his girlfriend, with the inscription, ‘Without you my love’.

The detail of the Heart, hands and crown of the Claddagh are visible in this close up shot of Angel’s Claddagh ring.

We wonder what Richard Joyce, the creator of the original Claddagh ring some 300 years ago would make of this celebrity endorsement.

You can choose your very own Claddagh ring from our selection of ladies silver Claddagh rings at our store.

Here is the YouTube clip from the show – Season 2., Episode, The Surprise.

The Royal County – Where Halloween Began

County Meath is known as the Royal County for good reason. The seat of`the High King of Ireland is located at the center of the County and at one time the kingdom was powerful enough to rival the other four provinces of Ireland as the fifth province of Mide. The county has a richness of archaeological treasures the envy of the rest of Ireland.  Along the banks of the River Boyne, worshiped as a goddess in Celtic times, can be found the Norman Castle at Trim, The Royal Hill of Tara, and the spectacular 5,000-year-old burial Mounds at Bru Na Boinne. To the north of the county are the sacred  hills of Loughcrew, Ward, and Uisneach.

Ancient Ramparts on The Hill of Ward

The Pagan Celtic Calendar

Many of the traditional pre-Christian days of the Celtic calendar were celebrated at sacred spots throughout the county. The winter solstice is marked in spectacular fashion at Newgrange when the sunken chamber of the burial mound is lit up by the rays of the rising winter sun.  Bealtaine, the first dawn of May, is celebrated at The Hill of Uisneadh, Meanwhile, the summer solstice was celebrated on The Hill of Tara. Lughnasa, marking the end of Summer was held at Teltown, on the banks of the River Boyne. The September equinox is celebrated at Loughrew, followed by Samhain at the Hill of Ward.

Torchlit Procession to Tlachtga

Celtic Druids and Sacred Bonfires

Samhain is the ancient Celtic Festival that we now call Halloween, is a Celtic festival whose traditions go back more than 3,000 years. The festival has its home at the top of the Hill of Tlachtga, now called The Hill of Ward, situated just outside the picturesque village of Athboy.

Samhain marks the end of the old Celtic year and the beginning of the new year. The Celts believed that this was a time of transition when the veil between our world and the next came down and the spirits of people who had died since the Oiche Samhna (Night of Samhain) moved on to the next life. One of the main spiritual centers of the ancient Celts was located on the top of the hill of Tlachtga, now called The Hill of Ward,  The druids felt that this world and the other world were closest at Tlachtga and it was here on the festival of Samhain that the sacred fire was kindled and Halloween began.

It was the custom of the druids to assemble on Tlachtga on the eve of Samhain where a bonfire was lit and offerings made. From this sacred fire, torches were carried to seven other sacred hills in County Meath, including Tara and Loughcrew and then on to light up the countryside.

The Seven Wonders of Fore

The island of Ireland is packed full of wonderful places to visit. Of course most visitors do not venture off the beaten track, visiting the most popular attractions like the The Guinness Brewery, The Cliffs of Moher or the Blarney Stone. However, it is on the road less traveled where you are most likely to discover the magic and beauty of our beautiful country.

A view of the ruins of the Benedictine Abbey at Fore on a sunny day.

One such place is the Abbey at Fore in County Westmeath. If you are fortunate to visit the Abbey at Fore on a sunny day, you will be rewarded with a wonderful and unexpected experience. Nestled in a verdant valley surrounded by wooded hills are a number of monastic buildings, some of which stretch back to the early days of Christianity in Ireland. Among the remains, visitors can see St Fechin’s church, built about 900. They will also find one of the 18 Fore crosses, which are spread out on roadways and in fields around the Abbey.

The hawthon tree by the holy well.

The name Fore comes from the Irish word Fobhair meaning ‘water-springs’. The valley was first settled by Saint Fechin in the seventy century. The monastery became a great center of learning where, it is said, up to 2,000 monks studied at one time. During Viking times, the monastery was attacked and burned many times. After the Norman conquest, a Benedictine Priory was founded in the 13th century by Hugh de Lacy the Norman Lord of Meath.

A view of fore towards St Fechin’s church from the ramparts of the Benedictine Abbey.

Fore is famous in history and folklore for its seven wonders. The Seven Wonders of Fore are; the monastery in the bog, the mill without a race, the water that flows uphill, the tree that won’t burn, the water that won’t boil, the anchorite in a stone and the lintel stone raised by St Fechin’s prayers.

Coins are hammered into the holy tree as votive offerings to bring good luck.

The Celtic monastic tradition of learning and craft lead to a flourishing legacy of Celtic Art in the middle ages. Our Celtic shield range of Celtic wedding rings capture the beauty of these forgotten craftsmen.

Summer Solstice Celtic Traditions

In the times before Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, Pagan beliefs and traditions held sway. Celtic pagan festivals were celebrated throughout the year according to the cycles of The Sun. The spring and fall equinoxes and of course the shortest and longest days of the year held particular significance.

Traditionally bonfires were lit in celebration atop the sacred hills of Ireland, the most important being on The Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

Beautiful sacred Hill of Tara from above looks out over the stunning Meath countryside.

Here at Claddagh Rings with our latest infographic we take a closer look at the Celtic traditions associated with the Summer Solstice, 21 June, the longest day of the year.

Celtic Summer Solstice Traditions by Claddagh Rings

A to Z of weddings

Our infographic below covers weddings from A-Z. There is so much involved in a wedding and this infographic has most of what you need to be mindful of when organising one. A wedding is a momentous occasion in a person’s life so it’s important that it runs smoothly. This infographic will help you be organised!

A to Z of weddings

Sweet Molly Malone

‘In Dublin’s Fair City, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone’ is the opening line of the song about an iconic character in the history of this city of characters. Molly Malone lived in Dublin city centre during the 1600’s.  According to the song she sold cockles and mussels from her wheelbarrow in Dublin’s city centre by day. By night she is said to have plied a second trade suggested by the nickname the Tart with the Cart. She died of a fever, thought to be cholera in 1699.

Although there is no evidence of the true identity of Molly Malone, the song in which she is remembered has become an anthem for Dublin and its sports teams.  She is also remembered by a life size statue depicting her pushing her cart down Grafton Street, her revealing neckline suggesting her other occupation. The statue of Molly Malone was unveiled during the celebration of Dublin’s Millennium in 1988.  Since then she has proved very popular as a tourist attraction.

Many of Dublin’s statues are being put into storage during the works on the new tram/Luas line to prevent any damage being done to them,  but due to the popularity of the Molly Malone statue, she will be wheeling her barrow from Grafton Street to a new location in Dublin.  She will return to her original place when the works are complete.

Molly on the move