The Chester Beatty Library & Dublin Castle, 3.10.10
Posted by Lisa Hill on October 4, 2010
After lunch, we set off for Dublinia (a museum about Viking Ireland) but we were waylaid by Dublin Castle. We were walking right past it and it was open – how could we not go in?
It’s in excellent condition, and all open to the public except for the interior for which one has to book a tour. After our long walk from our hotel and then the Trinity College tour we were too tired to hang around for that so we contented ourselves with wandering the grounds and visiting the Chester Beatty Library…
The British had some sort of castle here from the 12th century, though what we see now dates mostly from the 18th. They held on till handing it over to Michael Collins and the provisional government of Ireland in 1922, probably never imagining that they would end up relinquishing their entire Empire by the end of the 2oth century…
In amongst the grounds there is one of Dublin’s great treasures: the Chester Beatty Library. Beatty was an American mining magnate who liked collecting Oriental art and books, and when he died he left most of it to the city of Dublin because he spent most of his retirement years here. It’s an amazing collection, one of the best we’ve seen.
On the first floor there was an exhibition of his artworks from the Mughal Empire in India (before they were conquered by the Iranians) and the illuminated manuscripts have the same charm as the medieval ones that were exhibited at the State Library of Victoria last year. Texts were surrounded by exquisitely detailed pictures of everyday life, and the princes were shown engaged in all kinds of princely activity from riding elephants to loafing about on decorated chairs. The colours were fresh and alive as if they were painted yesterday, and the originals are augmented by excellent computer generated closeups on the walls.
Upstairs, the Sacred Traditions gallery showcases Beatty’s collection of religious texts and artworks. To see the 2nd and 3rd century papyrus of the gospels is a wonderful experience; I love all forms of ancient texts whether they are on scraps of Babylonian clay or the Rosetta stone. They all represent a supreme moment in human history when man moved on from the oral tradition to writing his ideas and memories down so that they could be passed on to future generations.
There was much else: Beatty collected from all the great religions and there are texts from Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and so on. Definitely a must see attraction for anyone visiting Dublin, but by the time we reached the roof garden at the top my ankle was causing major grief and it was time to head back to the hotel.
PS WordPress is jumping around all over the place tonight and moving my pictures and text about without any instructions from me, but I am too tired to mess about with layout!