Armagh - Irish Pictures (1888)

From Irish Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil(1888) by Richard Lovett

Chapter IX: Belfast, Armagh, and Londonderry … continued

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Belfast is a capital centre for trips to noted towns and districts in Ulster. Armagh, one of the oldest towns in Ireland, and the seat of the most ancient Irish archbishopric, is only a few miles distant. The town occupies the slopes of a hill which is very finely crowned by the handsome pile of the Cathedral. The Roman Catholic Cathedral is also magnificently placed on Banbrook Hill. The narrow streets with their ancient appearance harmonize with the great antiquity of the place. They are clean and neat, and the whole town wears an air of prosperity and extreme respectability. Dr. Reeves, a great authority on ecclesiastical affairs, writes: 'No city is so rich in historical associations, and yet has so little to show, and so little to tell in the present day, as Armagh. St. Patrick's first church is now represented by the Bank of Ireland; the Provincial Bank comes close on St. Columba's; St. Bride's shares its honours with a paddock; St. Peter and St. Paul afford stabling to a modern rus in urbe; and St. Mary's is lost in a dwelling-house.'

No city in Western Europe has been burnt or plundered more frequently. In very ancient days it was noted for Emania, the seat of Ulster sovereignty and of the Knights of the Red Branch, and later on for the Damhliag Mor or Great Church, built by Patrick, the great school or university, and the royal cemetery; but except the first none of these have left any traces. The present cathedral, in all probability, stands on the site of the stone building which St. Patrick founded, and was begun about 1268. It has undergone many vicissitudes, and has been restored within comparatively recent years. It is well worth careful study, and it stands upon a site that for fourteen centuries has been consecrated to Christian worship. The Archbishop of Armagh is Primate of Ireland, and such men as Ussher, Hoadley, and Robinson have held the office.

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