advertisement

This magnificent cathedral was designed to be seen from the river, so walk to it from the riverside in order to truly appreciate the size. It dates from 1038, when Sitric, Danish king of Dublin, built the first wooden Christ Church here. In 1171, the original foundation was extended into a cruciform layout and rebuilt in stone under the leadership of the Norman warrior Strongbow. The present structure dates mainly from 1871 to 1878, when a huge restoration took place—work that remains controversial to this day, as much of the building’s old detail was destroyed in the process. Still, magnificent stonework and graceful pointed arches survive. (There’s also a statue of Strongbow inside, and some believe his tomb is here as well, although historians are not convinced.) The best way to get a glimpse of what the original building must have been like is to visit the 12th-century crypt, which has been kept untouched. An intriguing side note: Christ Church once displayed what was believed to be the preserved heart of St. Laurence O’Toole (1128–80). However, in 2012, the holy relic was stolen in an audacious nighttime raid. Nothing else was taken, including items of much higher value, leading police to surmise that the heart was stolen to order for a macabre collector. It is still missing.