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2008 In the footsteps of Irish Fathers
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“In the footsteps of Irish Fathers”:
June 20 - July 5, 2008

Comprehensive tour-pilgrimage of the important monastic settlements and pilgrim centres of Ancient Ireland. Visits to Ireland’s most famous historical places and natural wonders are included as an additional bonus.

If you are interested in joining this tour or have any questions, please contact us!

The project “In the Footsteps of Irish Fathers” is intended as a pilgrimage and educational tour of Early Christian Ireland. Monastic at its core, the Celtic Church of Ireland survived during the turbulent era of the Western European Dark Ages, keeping the Faith, the Doctrine and literacy. It is out of the Irish monasteries that the great re-Christianization of Gaul and Germany began. For many centuries, the Orthodox treasure and learning of the Early Celtic church remained a hidden secret. In many ways it is unknown even to the present day to both Orthodox Christians of the East, (who are unaware of the precious treasures of faithful courage exemplified by their Western brothers), and to the modern Christians of the West, who in many cases lost the Church historical perspective beyond the late Middle Ages. To the best of our knowledge, the current tour-pilgrimage is among the first comprehensive journeys to all the major and important sites of historical Irish monasticism. Even though most of these sites are in ruins, pilgrims and curious travellers will be given a chance to explore and to learn about those monastic cities and settlements, to venerate holy shrines and to participate in prayers services at numerous places that are of  prime importance to the historical Church. As an additional bonus, we will offer several side tours to the most famous natural wonders and pre-historical monuments of the Emerald Isle. Although this trip is proposed with an Orthodox Christian traveller in mind, it will doubtless be edifying and beneficial to anyone who is interested in Christian monasticism, the history of the Christian Church or the history of Ancient Ireland in general.

ITINERARY:

Day 1, June 20, 2008:  Group meets at the JFK Airport for an evening departure for Ireland 

Day 2, June 21, 2008:  Arrival in Dublin Airport. Transfer to the hotel. Free morning. Tour of the city. Visit to the Chester Beatty Library, beautifully housed within the Dublin Castle complex – the greatest collection in Europe of Western, Middle Eastern and Oriental culture including over 20,000 manuscripts, rare books and miniature paintings.   In the Western European collection, there are fine early printed books, some including engravings by Durer, Piranesi and Bartolozzi & others and a large collection of prints and maps. Continue on to the 16th century Trinity College, founded by Elizabeth I, now home to the famous illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells. There we will also see the current exhibition ‘Turning Darkness into Light,’ featuring large-scale details from the famous manuscripts. Vespers, dinner and overnight in Dublin. 

Day 3, June 22, 2008: We will start the morning with a Divine Liturgy at the local Orthodox Church (Moscow patriarchate). After the service and Lunch we will continue our tour of Dublin and will visit the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology and History in Kildare Street. This museum houses over 2,000,000 artefacts which range in date between 7000BC and the late medieval period. Exhibitions include the finest collection of prehistoric gold artefacts in Western Europe, outstanding examples of metalwork from the Celtic Iron Age, as well as the Museum’s world-renowned collection of medieval ecclesiastical objects and jewellery. The Broighter Hoard, the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch and Derrynaflan Hoard are among the masterpieces on display. The Museum also houses a rich collection of Egyptian material and an historical exhibition which deals with the political background and events which culminated in the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. Dinner and overnight in Dublin. 

Day 4, June 23, 2008: Leaving Dublin we head towards The Abbey of Kells, a former monastery located some 40 miles away from Dublin.  The abbey was originally founded by St Columba in the mid sixth century, and was later renewed in the ninth century by monks from the Island of Iona who were fleeing into the Irish interior away from the Viking menace.  The famous Book of Kells was written and illustrated in the Abbey. From the that Holy place we will continue to Slane and to The Hill of Tara, the seat of the early Irish kings and great open-air assemblies in the early centuries just before and after the birth of Christ.  Before arriving at the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, we travel through the Boyne Valley whose banks are lined with landmarks from almost every phase of Ireland’s past - from the prehistoric passage tombs at Newgrange, to the legendary Hill of Tara, seat of the Irish High Kings as well as monuments from the early days of Christianity. Our tour of the Boyne Valley is completed with a visit to either Newgrange or Knowth burial passages, which were built between 3,500BC and 2,700BC and were used as tombs in which Stone Age men buried their dead.  Leaving the Boyne Valley, we visit Monasterboice, a great learning centre of old, a monastery that was founded by St. Buite in the fifth century. Today, the site houses some impressive church ruins. The round tower, best known for Muiredach’s Cross, is one of the best specimens of a high cross in Ireland, this 17 foot tall cross can be traced back to 922.  O/n Armagh 

Day 5, June 24, 2008: We will start with Armagh, the “spiritual” capital of Ireland for over 1500 years and the seat of both Catholic and Protestant archbishops. Armagh is significant both for its pre-historic monuments and for its association with St Patrick. The hilltop enclosure of Navan was one of the most important of pre-historic ritual centres in Ireland: though it gives the impression of being a fort, the ditch is on the inside of the rampart – less defensive than symbolic. A lake nearby was used for votive offerings and was no doubt also of religious significance in prehistory. In Irish legend of the Ulster Cycle, Navan was the capital of Ulster: Emain Macha, the base of King Conchubhair and the hero Cú Chulainn. No doubt, like at Tara, the proximity of the church at Armagh to this significant prehistoric is not accidental. Following a short tour of Armagh City, we visit Armagh Cathedral. There is little left of the original 13th century cathedral as it was redesigned by the English architect, L.N. Cottingham in 19 century. Some beautiful features of the cathedral include the "Market Cross" that shows scenes from the Old and New Testament. There is also a plaque which records that the body of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, who was killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, lies in the vicinity. Then we will also visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh and will continue to the nearby Navan Centre which tells the story one of Ireland's most important ancient monuments, Navan Fort. Leaving Armagh, we travel east through the Mourne Region and on to Downpatrick, where we visit the Saint Patrick Centre. The Saint Patrick Centre, one of Northern Ireland’s major Millennium Projects, is the first permanent exhibition to tell the story of Ireland’s Patron Saint. Following the visit to the Centre, you will get the opportunity to visit Down Cathedral, in whose churchyard St. Patrick is reputed to be buried. Continuing northward along the east shore road past many fishing villages and along the shores of Strangford Lough we arrive in Belfast, a city that is beautifully ringed by high hills, the sea Lough and river valley.  During a panoramic tour of Belfast, we will pass the lovely City Hall - built around 1903 and dominating the main shopping area.  Half a mile from this area is Queens University, with its mellow brickwork and Tudor cloister.  Free time to explore some of the excellent shops and pubs of the city. We will arrange to meet with the priest from the local Antiochian Orthodox parish and will hear his fascinating account of the Orthodox mission in an area that for so long was a battleground for Protestant and Catholic communities. Dinner and overnight in Belfast.  

Day 6, June 25, 2008: This morning we leave Belfast and travel through the “Nine Glens of Antrim” before stopping at the picturesque ruins of Dunluce Castle, situated on the high cliffs above the Sea. Then we will continue on to the magnificent Giant’s Causeway. This area of hexagonal columns was formed over 60 million years ago by cooling lava and has given rise to many legends, as the basalt resembles giant steps. Before arriving in Derry, we travel to Ness Woods Country Park and to the Ballygroll Prehistoric Complex. This is a remarkable complex of prehistoric stone monuments, still partly covered by peat. Excavations in the 1970’s revealed a considerable variety of prehistoric monuments ranging from a Neolithic court-tomb as well as a wedge tomb, to stone circles, a round cairn and a barrow, probably all belonging to the Bronze Age.Upon arriving in Derry we will take a sightseeing tour of the city which we will complete with a walk along the Walls of Derry. Dinner and overnight in Derry. 

Day 7, June 26, 2008: This morning we leave Derry. From Derry fort we will travel further south to the site of another important centre of Christian learning in Ireland, the monastery on the Devenish Island. The island and surrounding vicinity appear remote today, but back in the time of St. Molaise, the banks of rivers and lakes were populated since the waterways served as a great connection between the inland and the ocean. Pilgrims and travelers were provided with much needed hospitality at the many monasteries and churches in the area. Most important of them all was the Monastery founded by St. Molaise, an Irishman who was brought up in Scotland. Dinner and overnight in Sligo.



Last Updated (Friday, 17 October 2008 10:28)