BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas


by Denis O'Donoghue


2. Sailors on back of whale (from mediaeval

Bestiary) ..... Title paye

3. Plans of Cathedral of St. Brendan, of its

Chapels and Chantries . . To face paye xiii

4. View of Cathedral from South-east . „ xxi

5. Early monumental effigy, in niche of choir . „ xxviii


TIHE group of ecclesiastical remains at Ardfert is one of the most interesting and instructive now existing in Ireland, The ruins of the ancient Cathedral of St. Brendan, and of its annexed chantries and detached chapels, form a very complete reliquary of Irish ecclesiastical architecture, in its various orders and ages, from the plain but solid Damhliag of the seventh or eighth century to some late and most ornate examples of mediaeval Gothic. In this respect Ardfert-Brendan may rival the glorious group of architectural relics on St. Patrick's Eock, at Cashel of the Kings; and in common with that invaluable reliquary of Ireland's ancient faith and fervent "love of the beauty of God's house," it enjoys the singular privilege, not shared at present by any other mediaeval Irish cathedral, of being once more the property, as a national monument, of the Irish Catholic nation, and no longer the appanage of an alien worship, like so many of our sequestered Catholic churches.

The massive cathedral, in its naked majesty of outline, crowned with its coronet of clustering battlements, must impress everyone approaching it from any direction with its grand architectural features, even though it has none of those accessories of "wood, or lake, or mountain," that invest other ecclesiastical ruins in Kerry " with beauty, even in decay," to enhance its attractions. The noble east window, with its central lancet, 30 feet high, is not surpassed in lightness and grace by any work of the kind in Ireland, and its singular arcade of nine lanceolated windows, popularly known as the "Nine Choirs of Angels," on the south side of the chancel, presents a feature of architectural beauty that is rarely to be seen anywhere.

The cathedral, as it now stands, or rather as it stood before it was finally dismantled in A.d. 1641, was, in its diverse component parts, the outgrowth of many centuries, and the result of the zealous labours of many successors of St. Brendan to enlarge and beautify it during those centuries; and it will be interesting to trace the course of this gradual enlargement and improvement by the aid of the Plate, showing the plans of the various buildings, that illustrates this paper.

On the plan of the cathedral is shown some ancient masonry (marked A). This was incorporated into the north wall, about 46 feet from the west end, and extends 38 feet, being 14 feet high. The style of this masonry is quite different from the rest of the work, being formed of large blocks of limestone, some of them 8 feet long, and very massive; and it is sometimes called Cyclopian or Pelasgic, from its resemblance to the earliest style of building among the ancient Greeks. This is a remnant of an early Damhliag, the abbey-church or cathedral, built probably towards the close of the seventh century or in the early years of the eighth, in succession to the primitive oratory of St. Brendan's foundation, which had already proved too small for the increasing community of monks there, as well as unsuitable for the functions of the resident bishop. This ancient church was probably 25 feet in width, being that of the present cathedral, and should have been, therefore, more than 50 feet in clear length, according to the proportions observed in the dimensions of such churches at that age; and all that remains of it at present in situ is this portion of the north wall of the cathedral that is composed of the Cyclopian masonry.

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