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Ardfert Cathedral (Co.Kerry, Ireland)

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Cathedral located in the town of Ardfert in Co.Kerry.

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      22.12.2009 16:44
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      worth a visit or a small detour if you are in the area

      We are driving to Dingle on a rainy morning after a brief visit to Carrigafoyle Castle. There are several seemingly interesting sites on the way, and it's hard to choose, but we can't see everything so we pick Ardfert Cathedral, because of its ancient connections to semi-legendary St Brendan. The Cathedral is located in the middle of a small village of Ardfert, in the middle of the country-lane criss-crossed area west of the R556 back road from Tralee to Listowel: not an easiest place to find, but worth a bit of searching for. It was originally a site of a monastery and a bishopric founded by St. Brendan "The Navigator" in the 6th century. In fact, St Brendan was born and educated in Ardfert around 500 AD - it is a ancient place and has had more history thrown at it than it is perhaps fair, but then the same could be said of Kerry in general, and perhaps of the whole of Ireland. The town and monastery were repeatedly destroyed by fire and change hands many times as the local warlords fought over their domains. The bishopric survived until 1660, though the cathedral was damaged during the Irish rebellion of 1641. It was partially restored in later on in 17th century, when its south transept was turned into a Protestant church, but the roof was again removed when a new Protestant church was opened. Now the Cathedral is a historical monument manage by the Office of Public Works, with a visitors centre with informative, imaginatively prepared information panels on history of the cathedral, Ardfert and St Brendan. Entrance costs a bargain 2 Euro per person and considering the significance and interest of the building, it's excellent value. A door from the visitors' information centre leads directly to the roofless nave of the main building, a large and impressive structure containing stonework dating from the 12th to 17th centuries. Particularly good is its west portal, a finely patterned Romanesque arch , as well as a 13th century east window with two effigies of ecclesiastical figures mounted on either side. There are 15th century battlements on the site as well as two other churches, 12th century Temple Na Hoe and less special but most complete Temple Na Griffin, from the 15th century. The adjoining graveyard has an ogham stone and several early Christian and medieval tombs. All in all, it's an attractive and interesting site, and well worth a visit or a (smallish) detour (you'd need about an hour, or if you are like your reporter or her DH, and intend to read every information panel and discuss half of them with the people manning the place, more like an hour and half). Ardfert has also a Franciscan priory, which is apparently a rather attractive site, but we didn't have time to visit so I can't comment on that.

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