Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Sligo, Ireland--Another Day, Another Abbey
Our drive from Westport to Sligo was unremarkable except for the always beautiful Irish countryside. I don't think I could ever have tired of the lush green fields, the purple heather, the sheep roaming everywhere, hillsides full of grazing cows, quaint cottages--some with thatched roofs, and spectacular skies that were ever shifting and changing their mood. Oh yes, there were some more modern areas that resembled our American shopping centers but they were few and far between.
For some reason, Rick Steves does not include Sligo or the area around it in his travel guide. Surprising since this area is famous for William Butler Yeats having spent some of his early years in Sligo and is buried in Drumcliff, just up the road. After many unflattering comments about Steves and his guidebook from those associated with the tourist industry in the Ireland we had already visited, I can't help but wonder if there wasn't a good reception for him there and he chose to keep it out.
The city of Sligo was actually quite nice I thought. There was a river running through it out to the Atlantic Ocean and several bridges that spanned it were very picturesque. We ate in a little cafe where the waitresses were excited to see Americans or foreign tourists for that matter. The farther north we traveled, the more we were a welcome sight. But more of that in posts to come.
We made our way over to the Sligo Abbey. Sligo also had a castle at one time but it did not survive the test of time. The Abbey has and part of that is due to the fact that the O'Conor Sligo family (obviously someone important) had made it the family burial place.
I was surprised to find a rood screen in stone here (the three small arches in the picture). We have run across rood screens in other old churches my first awareness of them being at a church in England where it was pointed out to me. I found that the rood screen was used as a way to separate the clergy from the laity.
There were quite a few graves in the floor of the Abbey and markers that stood as well marking places where people were buried. I have never quite understood how people concentrate on worship as the step over graves in the floor (Westminster Abbey is a good example).
The Dominican Friary that ran the Abbey was founded in the mid-13th century and the high sculpted altar that sits behind the rood screen dates back to the 15th century.
While I wouldn't go so far as to say "If you've seen one ruined Abbey, you've seen them all," but I had lost count of how many we'd been to. Not being an archaeologist or a historian, it all begins to blend together. I was beginning to get a better grasp on Irish history though and how religion played a part in dividing people politically. Sad that what God intended to bring people together could tear us apart so much--even today.