Today was a day unlike any others. We went on two guided tours, and learned about the city of Derry, as well as the Bogside Neighborhood and Bloody Sunday, which were very dark topics. The city of Derry, officially named Londonderry, was a Royal Charter established by King James the First in 1613. This land had been acquired by Victoria I during the Nine Years War, and King James, after having taken over for her, began a process called a 'plantation,' where they attempted to displace all of the native Irish population and replace it with English and Scottish settlers. These settlers built the walled city and started the town of Londonderry, though the overall plantation process was fairly unsuccessful for the British. Many of the new settlers were given too big of parcels of land, which they could not handle, and were often forced to house and feed British soldiers with no compensation, draining their resources. The Irish population remained, though they were pushed to the least favorable part of the land, which became known as the Bogside. Over time, the city grew beyond the walls, with the tension between Irish and British growing until the time of the Troubles. More on that in another blog post though.
After having learned about the background of the walled city, our group split up to roam and see new parts of the city. For several of us, the first stop was St. Columbs Cathedral, an Anglican church built inside the city walls of Derry in 1633. The original wall plans accounted for this church being built, with higher walls placed along the side of the wall where it is located. The cathedral was built on the location of an earlier church, the church of Templmore. This older church was destroyed in 1568, during the Nine Years War, and its stones were used to build the walls around the city. After the walls had been built, William Parrot deigned the St. Colbum's Cathedral in the Planter's Gothic style, and it was built where the church of Templmore had once stood. In 1776, the bishop of Derry modified the cathedral, making the spire and tower taller. These 'improvements' began falling apart, however, and in 1802 they were taken down, and just the tower was rebuilt. The spire was added again in 1822. Several other small changes were made to the outside of the cathedral, and in 1861, the entire inside was remodeled, to be made of oak wood. It was somewhat damaged during the Troubles, though a thorough remodeling project in 2011 brought the cathedral back to its former state. It is indeed a very beautiful cathedral, with lots of detailed wooden carvings and a ribbed ceiling. I decided to sit down and draw the inside, and was rather pleased with the result.
After exiting St. Columb's Cathedral, Austin and I exited the walls of Derry and walked up a hill to St. Eugene's Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Derry. The Irish Catholic people of Derry had several laws restricting their rights, prohibiting them from holding seats in Parliament and building Cathedrals. These were given back to the people with the Roman Catholic Relief Act of of 1829. The roman Catholics of Derry began looking to build their cathedral shortly after, and began raising funds for it in 1840. The building of the Cathedral began nine years later, and, in 1873, St. Eugene's Cathedral was opened. Stylistically, this cathedral represents the gothic revival, thereby fitting in with some of the much older architecture of the city. Lack of funds meant that there was no stained glass, bell tower, or spire. These were added over time, with stained glass installed in 1890 and a tower and spire built in 1903. The sheer size of this cathedral is very impressive, and the stained glass and arched architecture are lovely. The was the light from inside and outside came into the room helped emphasize the architecture, and the whole cathedral seemed to glow.
It was very interesting to see both of these cathedrals, of two competing faiths, which were both gorgeous, and, architecturally speaking, very similar. Seeing these two peaceful places associated with a city that has such a violent history was an interesting start to the day.