* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Carrickfergus Castle

Photo from Wikipedia
The last day we were in Belfast we had a few hours before we needed to catch the train home.  We are always up for a castle and Carrickfergus was quite near.  My understanding of the history of this area is a bit muddled, US history is so straightforward in comparison, but I'm working on it.  I believe Carrickfergus is one of the oldest if not the oldest castle standing in Ulster (roughly Northern Ireland).  It tended to be fairly well kept since it was often the main foothold of the Normans and English on this rather hotly contested island.

The Keep from Allen's flickr stream
The Keep (the center part of the castle, most heavily fortified and likely where the family lived) was the first part of the castle build by John de Courcy around 1177.  He was a bit of a wildcard taking on the invasion of Ulster without King Henry II's permission.  He then married Affreca around 1180.  She was a princess from the Isle of Mann.  There is a modern statue of Princess Affreca in the window of the inner ward (the wall around the courtyard) "looking off towards her home." (or something to that effect, I wasn't actually taking notes)  I really felt for Affreca.  She was married off to a man she may or may not have even met before, let alone loved.  She was then shipped off to Ulster and while the Isle of Mann isn't really all that far away, I imagine she didn't make it home often if at all.  She never bore any children.  She was likely blamed for that and felt a great deal of guilt about it.  We were there on a sunny, summer day and it was still quite chilly.  There is a strong wind off the sea and the surrounding area is arable but rocky with low mountains all about.  The Castle is built on the very edge of the sea on a rocky shore.  Her husband was the invading force so I can't imagine the locals gave her all that warm a welcome and the castle was new and likely needed rather a great deal of work, from her point of view.  I suspect that Knights, Kings, and Barons leaned towards making things secure (understandably) rather than "warm and homey."  It sort of reminded me of some of Lynn Kurland's books.  She wrote some pretty solid epic medieval historical romances.  They move a little slowly but are nice to read if you find yourself in a rocking chair for 4-6 hours a day with a rather irritable baby.
Chapel behind plexiglass so there is a glare

The other part of the castle that I just found fascinating was the chapel.  It was built around 1250.  The idea that something both so lovely and so old was just striking.  I am sure that it was used for all manner of less than holy purposes (a murder hole is just off to the other side and, later, gunports were added).  But, there was also this wonderful sense that the sun had shone in the same way, through those same stones, on holy promises we still make today in the forms of baptisms and weddings and maybe even a knighting or two.  Vows were spoken, prayers said, hopes were laid and candles were lit for almost a 1000 years, right where I was standing.  Rather appropriately, this is the only carved stonework remaining in situ in the entire castle.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing about Princess Affreca, it is almost sounds like a fantasy story except that it is real!! I have a friend who has a wooden sign in her living room that says "The Keep" :) God bless you on these adventures!