Dublin Castle is one of the most unfortunately recognizable buildings in all of Ireland. Variously described as an eyesore, a color palette, and “No… just no way,” the Castle has stood – in one form or another – at the center of Irish political life for centuries.
It also looks like this:
“Well, that’s not that bad,” you may say. If you said that, you probably also favor the finer things in life like consuming cyanide-laced Awfulex® Brand Horrible Pills and staring at the sun. But, just in case you did, here’s another angle.
When not being used as the backdrop for the Frank Lloyd Wright thriller “Eye of the Compass 2: Back to the Sawing Board,” Dublin Castle actually hosts many state functions. The State Apartments, an 18th-century complex, once served in part as the residence of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the official representative of the English monarchy during its occupation of the country. That’s pronounced “Leftenant,” by the way, because yes, that word can apparently be pronounced more bizarrely. The Apartments currently host the Presidential inauguration every seven years, and until recently served as the official chambers for visiting dignitaries. Margaret Thatcher was the last such person to stay there.
Now that we got the obligatory history lesson out of the way, have another look:
In case it wasn’t evident from looking at the thing, Dublin Castle is the result of a thousand-year experiment to see if one can build a landmark the same way Dr. Frankenstein builds a person. The earliest settlement on the Castle’s hill was probably a prehistoric rock fort, and part of a 10th-century Viking fortification is on display in the Undercroft. However, the oldest remaining part of the complex is the Record Tower, which is the medieval-looking bit between the 19th-century Chapel Royal and the State Apartments.
King John (of Robin Hood fame) commissioned the Tower in 1228. Most of the modern-day structure dates to the 1700s, replacing former buildings lost in a fire a century earlier.
Remember that Art Deco pride festival of a facade? That deliciously awful jumble of colors next to the State Apartments? Well, according to my tour guide (a friend I’d made who I’m convinced was a leprechaun – more on that later), the man who decided these antique buildings really needed a bit more pizazz was one clever S.O.B. The fellow didn’t ask anyone if he could get the buildings painted, because he didn’t have to. In addition to being crazy, part of his job description was approving superficial changes to the Castle. Like painting it. He literally asked himself for permission.
Given how nuts this guy was, I’m half surprised he didn’t turn around and deny his own request.
Seriously, look at this mess. They didn’t even finish the job:
The really cool thing about Dublin Castle is that, like a city that’s been lived in for thousands of years, the current incarnation lies on top of countless layers of history. Beneath the towers and colors and fields lie the remains of structures from prehistoric to early modern times. Even today, people walking the grounds still discover relics not seen for hundreds of years. And nobody knows how much is below the surface.
It gets even more bizarre: Given Dublin’s archaeological track record, the next Presidential inauguration could take place just a few meters above a history-shattering discovery. And you know what? The bloke to dig it up just might be you.
I’m no good with motivational speech. Have some snakes in the grass.