I’ll be leaving Downpatrick tomorrow morning. After a relatively short ride to Belfast, I’ll board a ferry that will carry me over to Scotland. Before I make that journey, however, I wanted to share photos from the two sites I visited yesterday: Inch Abbey and Saul Church.
Although Inch Abbey has been the host of a Christian presence since approximately 800 AD, the ruins that remain on the site date “only“ from sometime around 1180 AD. What makes them somewhat fascinating, however, is the way that they tell a story about the nature of community life in an ancient monastery. Although it’s hard to tell from these pictures, the site contains the foundations of many different structures. There’s the church itself, where the daily cycle of prayer and worship would’ve taken place. Immediately adjacent to and connected to the church are other spaces in which the monks would have lived, worked, studied, and conducted the business of the monastery. And then there are several other structures—buildings that have been identified as an infirmary, a bakehouse, and even a guesthouse, where the monks would offer hospitality to anyone who came seeking it.
I’m not sure that many (if any) of us would be up to the rigors of monastic life as it was practiced in the Middle Ages. But a lot of authors that I’ve read reflect upon the power of having “A Rule of Life”—a set of commitments that shapes our life together as a Christian community. And being in a place like this invites one to consider how powerful it must’ve been (and perhaps still would be) for outsiders to see a group of believers living together with single-hearted devotion to the Lord.
Saul Church is really a small chapel built on the site where Saint Patrick established his first church in Ireland back in 432 AD. Obviously, this building isn’t anywhere near that old. But it’s kind of inspiring, I think, to step inside and realize that you’re in a spot where Christians have been worshiping together for almost 1600 years.
After attending worship this morning at Saint Patrick Cathedral, I took a leisurely stroll on the foot path that leads by the Quoile River. My walk included a stop at a site that was once used in the filming of “Game of Thrones.” I’ve never watched the show. But if you do— and if you remember the episode where Lord Hoster Tully was given a river burial by having his boat set ablaze with a flaming arrow—perhaps you’ll recognize the location.