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 Malone on the move

 

Battle of Clontarf 1014

Clontarf today is a suburb on the north side of Dublin City with pleasant views over Dublin Bay and the Wicklow Mountains. However Clontarf is best known as the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Irish history.

This year marks the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf. This battle is widely thought of as the time when the native Irish, lead by Brian Boru, finally defeated the Vikings. Historians however tell us that hostilities began, not between Brian and the Vikings but with Meal Mórdá, the then King of Leinster, who challenged Boru’s claim to be king of all Ireland. As Brian Boru was amassing his armies around Dublin to quell the revolt, Meal Mórdá enlisted the assistance of his Viking cousin Sitric and other allies from Scotland and the Isle of Man. On 23rd of April 1014 the two armies, each numbering about 7,000 men, met at Clontarf.

In the battle that followed Brian Boru lost not only the lives of half his men but also his own life and that of his brother Wolf the Quarrelsome. On the other side 6,000 men were killed and of the leaders of the revolt, only Sitric survived to rule Dublin for a further 28 years. Although Brian Boru’s forces triumphed in battle, the lack of a strong leader meant that the Irish became divided again and descended again into provincial fighting between local chieftains, but the Vikings were never as powerful again. 

 

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!

St Patrick, the patron St of Ireland was born in the 4th century, He was kidnapped and enslaved by Irish raiders when he was about 16.  He was brought to Ireland where he lived a life as a shepherd for 6 years.  He escaped to Britain and became a priest.  He returned to Ireland as a missionary to spread the Christian teaching.  He used the shamrock, which is now the symbol of Ireland, to explain the Christian concept of the holy trinity – that God is at once, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It was alleged that he died on March 17th and the date was made an official Christian feast day in the early seventeenth century.

The celebration of St Patrick’s day in USA began with Irish soldiers who served in the British army.  As more Irish  fled to the US during the famine, celebrating  St. Patrick’s day helped them connect with their Irish roots and with one another, it became a display of solidarity and political strength.  While not a legal holiday in most of the United States, it is widely recognised and celebrated throughout the country. The first parade in New York City was held in 1766.

O’Connell St. Dublin.

While St Patrick’s day has been observed as a religious holiday to remember Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, it has evolved to become a celebration of Irish heritage.  St Patrick’s day is now a festival which aims to show the talents and achievements of Irish people on the national and world stages. Among other celebrations the four day festival includes concerts, outdoor theatre performances, an Irish craft beer and food market, there is also the greening the city where many iconic buildings Go Green, and of course the parade held on St Patrick’s Day.

Trinity College, Dublin on St Patrick’s day

Giant’s Causeway

On the north west coast of Ireland, in County Antrim, is one of the countries most striking landforms and popular visitor destinations, the world renowned Giants Causeway. The Causeway is a rock made of flat-topped polygonal columns that form 40,000 steps.  These geometrical shapes give the impression that the Causeway was not formed by natural forces and it is little wonder that they have inspired ancient tales of giants and mythological beings.

Causeway-code poet-4.jpg

The giant of the most popular of ancient myths surrounding the formation of the causeway is Fionn mac Cumhaill who built it to cross the Irish Sea to meet a challenge to fight from the Scottish Giant Benandonner. The Causeway is not the only evidence for the hand of giants in the landscape and there are many other striking rock formations including the Giant’s Boot, Organ and Granny. In fact the rocks of the Causeway did at one time extend across to Scotland and the same columnar rock formations can be seen on the coast of the Mull of Kintyre.

Giants Boot

The rocks were formed not by the actions of giants but by vast flows of basaltic lava that once covered the entire area. These eruptions occurred 60 million years ago when the European and North American continents separated. The columnar shapes that give the Causeway its characteristic aspect formed as the lava slowly cooled over many thousands of years.

Sunlight Chambers, Dublin 2

On the southern bank of the River Liffey at the corner of Parliament Street and Essex Quay is the Sunlight Chambers, one of Dublins many architectural treasures. The most distinctive feature of the romantic Italianate style building is two highly colourful terracotta friezes that extend across the length of the facade.  The friezes depicts the history of soap manufacture,  with images including farmers tilling fields, newly washed children and ladies at their laundry.

This theme was chosen by  the Liverpool architect Edward Ould who designed the building as the original offices of Lord Lever of Lever Brothers, the laundry magnates and makers of Sunlight soap. Ould also designed Port Sunlight, a village built for workers at the Sunlight factory outside Liverpool.

The charms of the Sunlight Chambers were not always recognized, and although it is hard to understand now, when it was built in 1901 there were many who thought it a blot on the river bank. It was described as the ugliest building in Dublin in the Irish Builder architectural magazine.  In recent years, and especially since the friezes were cleaned in the late 1990’s, the building is one treasured by Dubliners and visitors alike.