1902 Encyclopedia > Architecture > Pointed/Gothic Architecture in Ireland

(Part 95)

Pointed/Gothic Architecture in Ireland

In Ireland the progress of Gothic was very similar to that which we have seen in Scotland; but here may be seen art carried in the train of an invading army to the advantage of the country conquered, just as in England a similar benefit had been conferred by the Normans.
Strongbow’s invasion may be said to have been the introduction to Ireland of Gothic art. He went from South Wales to the south of Ireland. The art in his time in South Wales was to a great extent the development of the monks of Glastonbury. Their influence is visible plainly not only over their own district, but equally at Llandaff and at St David’s. It was a very English influence. The Norman art of Canterbury hardly reached or touched them in a very direct way; and their art was taken directly and unmodified to Ireland.

Among the buildings erected by the English in Ireland, Kilkennny Cathedral and the two 13th century cathedrals of Dublin -- Christ Church and St. Patrick’s -- are the most remarkable, but there are many others. Their style is most plainly that of the Englishmen who followed Strongbow, with no concession to, or consideration of, previous Irish forms of art.

That these forms deserved respect cannot be doubted by those who have examined the existing remains. Cormac’s chapel, which still stands uninjured by the side of the ruined English cathedral on the rock of Cashel, is one of the most interesting relics left. It is a much decorated Romanesque chapel, of two stages in height, groined in stone, and covered with an ingeniously and admirably constructed, lofty stone roof. For ever is a long time, but few buildings have ever been built which seem more likely to defy eternally the ordinary wear and tear of time than this. It is still perfect; and where beautiful design and perfect construction are combined as they are here, the highest excellence of which architecture is capable has been achieved.

The round towers of Ireland are well-known and remarkable erections, but they can hardly be said to have any architectural character. In a mastery of the finer kind of decorative work few workmen have ever equaled the Irish; none have surpassed them. Their ornaments in metal-work and in illuminated MSS. are truly exquisite and marvellous in their ingenuity. But in masonry, the only works in which the same mastery is shown are the beautiful memorial or churchyard crosses which are so well known and so characteristic.

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