We’re back with another stop on our tour of all things Finn McSpool. Finn, damn it, stop hogging the keyboard. Sorry, about that. That should read, another tour of all things Ireland. While Kilkenny is a gorgeous little town that I could nestle into for a month or more, one morning Mr Husband and I decided to take advantage of the easy connection from Kilkenny to Waterford via Dublin Coach.
We checked outside. Just a bit of rain, maybe it’ll pass by the time we finish breakfast. At the mere mention of the word “breakfast” Finn was charging down the stairs on his stubby, stripey legs and tucking into a lovely portion of pancakes….MY portion of pancakes!
Apparently breakfast does nothing to drive away the clouds, so we grabbed our umbrellas and trekked off to the bus stop. Bus rides also do nothing to improve the weather and by the time we got to Waterford there was a steady rain coming down. Luckily, we’d planned an indoor activity: The Treasures of Waterford Medieval Museum.
Finn got all excited when he heard the word “treasure” (not as excited as hearing the word “breakfast”, but…), so we bought our tickets and were directed toward this thing.
Finn, not using his inside voice, shouted “What in the world is that?” then dashed over to it and began exploring.
Turns out, it’s the remains of a 13th century spiral staircase. Don’t worry this doesn’t go to dizzying heights like the round tower at St Canice’s. instead it leads you down, down, down, and puts you out here….
I know, ooooh, especially if (like me) you far prefer exploring underground things than climbing soaring towers.
This was once a cloister hall, built around 1270. But if you keep walking back through the hall, you step up into something more up my alley: a 15th century wine cellar!! And not just any old wine cellar, the oldest wine cellar in Ireland (Waterford imported HUGE amounts of wine back then). Unfortunately, it was super dark in there, so no photos, but you can take a peek on the museum’s website here and read a bit more about the cellar, if you like.
After imagining a bunch of drunken choristers belting out their tunes, it was time to hit the other two floors of the museum. Besides a gob of religious relics, one of the treasures of the museum is the Great Charter Roll of Waterford (notice the capitals, that means it’s super official). This document, which asserts the English control over the port of Waterford, measures a whopping 4 meters long (that’s about 13 feet for you non-metric-minded folks). Besides a bunch of legal jargon, the roll is decorated with illustrations of the kings of England from Henry II to Edward III.
The charter dates from 1373 and is in pretty good shape for its age, but there’s still some shabby bits. To bring the illustrations to life, the museum has made 3-D panels of each of the portraits, even matching that pesky medieval lack of perspective.
Finn took a liking to this guy but was a little disappointed to find out he couldn’t get the horse to go anywhere.
Another of the treasures in the museum is a collection of cloth of gold vestments that date from the 1460s. I’m not religious, but I can appreciate fine workmanship and a good story. So, here’s the story…
These vestments were made of Italian silk and embroidered in Bruges and really give a good indication of the wealth of the church back then. When Oliver Cromwell showed up in the mid-1600s, he wanted to do away with any ostentatious religious display. The church wasn’t about to let these lovely capes be destroyed so they buried them. Cromwell charged through Waterford doing his thing (killing and destroying), but the treasure trove was never found….for 123 years! Yeah, after burying the vestments, the church basically forgot about them. Then, when a portion of the cathedral they’d been burned under was being demolished, the workers found the vestments! Finders keepers, right?!!
Even though there was a pretty cool animated cartoon to tell the story of the vestments, Finn was getting a little bored (maybe if the vestments had been made of Irish wool, he’d have been more interested). So we set off in search of something more exciting: weapons! With Waterford being such a wealthy port, there was plenty of need to defend it and some of that defense came from archers…
And of course, Finn, tapping into his inner Robin Hood, wanted to try his paw at archery. Um, Finn, that might not be where you want to sit…
Phew, with all that horse riding and archery learning, Finn was thirsty. He trotted over and asked for a drink, but these wenches seemed to be too busy to serve him. Luckily, I snagged him before he caused a ruckus with those wine barrels.
Museum touring complete, we thought of exploring more of Waterford. Seems that, like breakfast and like bus rides, visiting museums does not improve the weather. In fact, it makes it worse. The wind was lashing and the rain was coming down sideways at this point. We tried to stick it out, but it was simply too miserable so we caught the early bus back to Kilkenny.
By the time we returned, the rain had let up and we were able to do a little more exploring. That final bit of exploring means there’s one more post to get to about Kilkenny, but you’ll just have to wait because….
Next week we’ll take a little break from the Tour of Ireland and check in with one of the newest members of the Beastie family. Unlike Finn, he’s been put to work. But just like Finn, he’s found some trouble to get up to. See you then!!