The new Church History module this year included field trips as part of the residential weekends for Year I students.
“This is a creative way of engaging with Church History,” said the module leader, Canon Patrick Comerford. “It encourages students to touch and see and walk on the very ground of Church History, and to engage with its context and its living consequences.”
During Semester II, the students visited three sites in the Diocese of Ossory where they experienced the full range of history in the Church of Ireland across the generations and down the centuries.
At Saint Lachtan’s Church in the village of Freshford, Co Kilkenny, they visited a church that is built on an ancient Celtic monastic site, and that has a unique Hiberno–Romanesque doorway – the only other comparable doorways are at Saint Brendan’s Cathedral in Clonfert, Co Galway, and at Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel. They also saw the Gothic windows and were invited to comment on the Victorian restorations of the church.
The students were welcomed to Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, by the Dean of Ossory, the Very Revd Katharine Poulton, and the cathedral architect Cóilín Ó Drisceoil.
Dean Poulton explained how the diocesan seat had been moved from Seir Kieran to Kilkenny, and spoke about the development of the Anglo–Norman cathedral, which is the second largest in Ireland.
Dr Ó Drisceoil explained the construction of an Irish High Tower, and explained: “The High Tower in Kilkenny dates from the same period as the Leaning Tower of Pisa … but it hasn’t started leaning yet.”
The students then visited Saint John’s Church, Kilkenny, which stands on the site of a mediaeval Augustinian priory church which was once one of the largest and richest in Ireland. She explained how the church had been restored in the 19th century, and how it was also used by Kilkenny College until the late 20th century.
During a field trip to Co Meath and the Boyne Valley, the students visited the Hill of Tara, the monastic site at Kells, the mediaeval cathedral in Trim, and Saint Peter’s Church, Drogheda, where the Rector of Drogheda, the Revd Michael Graham, told of how an earlier church on the site had once served as the pro–cathedral of the Archbishops of Armagh.
Other field trips included visits to Christ Church Cathedral, the National Museum of Ireland, the National Gallery of Ireland, and the Book of Kells and the Long Room in the Library in Trinity College, Dublin.
Year I Church History students in Freshford and Kilkenny during their field trip in the Diocese of Ossory (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)