Unlocking The Secrets of the Abbey
I told you Clare Island had a lot to see. Some of its charm is evident as you get off the ferry. Some of its quirks you just stumble upon as you go. And the historic Abbey there is something you show yourself, after you pick up the key in the market next door to it. Seriously, no one has the time to go over and give people tours, they just give you the key and ask that you lock up and return it when you're done. Now where in the U.S would that EVER happen?
The market is the only store on the island. and you just ask for the key and they hand it to you on a little orange key chain. That's right...a little plastic key chain holds the key (literally holds ..the...key!!!) to thousands of years of history and art a half block or so down the road.
It turns out my co-adventurer was a bit lock-challenged so the grand unlocking of time was a little less dramatic than I'd anticipated when I took this picture. And angels didn't sing when the door flew open.
But walking through what has been/ and is being restored of the artwork from monks thousands of years ago was awe-inspiring.
St. Bridget's Abbey is actually a cell of the Cistercian Abbey in County Galway. It was built in the 12th century and then rebuilt and expanded in 1460. It has the best preserved medieval wall coverings and paintings by the monks of all those found in Ireland. They depict dragons, men, birds, music and animals of all sorts. And if they allowed you to photograph them I would have posted the pictures here. Those paintings were discovered under layers of moss and have been restored.
And there is an ornate tomb canopy there that is said to be for Grace O'Malley, also known as Granuaile. (pronounced grahn-you-wale) She was the Pirate Queen who ruled the island back in the day. That's right, she was the woman in charge of the clans there and for a number of other areas in Ireland. She was known and respected for pillaging, plundering and bringing home the rewards where she vehemently protected her people. At one point she negotiated her own freedom with Queen Elizabeth I...you know queen to queen. But that's another story for another time.
A man from the island came in with a few other tourists while we were there and explained a lot of that to us and said I could take the pictures I did. Check out the windows, they look like candles.
And it turned out that man, Oliver O'Malley,(O'Malley...same name as the Pirate Queen and her family) just happened to be the owner of the Bed and Breakfast where we were staying, just none of us knew it at the time. We discovered that having tea that afternoon. And for us it was just another great discovery at a place where real Ireland is alive and well; Clare Island.