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The Hall of fame

Perched on a steep rise on the left side of Dame Street with a commanding view down Parliament Street towards the Liffey, City Hall is an imposing presence.

Built using Portland stone, the outside of this beautiful Georgian neo-classical building is even more spectacular on the inside.

Admittance to the circular entrance hall or rotunda is free and you cannot fail to be impressed by the large echoing, light-filled space – with its 12 large columns set in a circle and interspersed with marble statues of Thomas Davis, Daniel O'Connell, Dr Charles Lucas (a member of the Lower House of the City Assembly who was sentenced to prison for stating that Ireland was oppressed by a foreign power) and Thomas Drummond (best known for the Drummond light, a special type of light used in lighthouses, that could be seen in mist and fog).

mosaic

In the centre of the magnificent marble floor, there's a colourful mosaic of the coat of arms of the city of Dublin – three castles with flames leaping out of them (representing the zeal of the citizens of Dublin in defending their city). To the left is a figure representing Law, holding a sword and to the right, is Justice, holding an olive branch and a pair of scales.

Below is the city's motto in Latin – Obedientia Civium Urbis Felicitas (happy the city where citizens obey) Maybe something we could pay more attention to today.

Above, the magnificent domed ceiling is decorated with gold leaf and 12 colourful murals depicting St Patrick baptising the King of Dublin; Brian Boru, High King of Ireland addressing his troops before the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 AD; and a Parley between St Laurence O'Toole and Strongbow outside Dublin in 1170 AD.

This beautiful rotunda is available for hire and, not surprisingly, is a popular spot for civil marriage/civil partnership ceremonies, launches, fashion shows, receptions and banquets.

Though originally the building was the Royal Exchange, where merchants discussed business, City Hall has played an important part in Ireland's history. Daniel O'Connell made his first public speech here in January 1800 and the funeral of Charles Stewart Parnell was held here.

The building was garrisoned by rebels during the 1916 Rising, and in 1922, it became the temporary headquarters of the Irish Provisional Government under Michael Collins.

From the beautiful rotunda, a circular glass lift whisks you down to the lower level where you can visit the Story of the Capital exhibition.

This is a pleasant surprise – a series of interconnecting airy vaults take you on a journey of Dublin's history from the arrival of the Vikings in 837 to the modern day.

exhibition

With its low lighting, cool stone floors and gentle music, it has the atmosphere of a five-star spa. A film gives an overview of the exhibition, which is divided into three sections – Medieval, Georgian and Modern.

Throughout the exhibition, semi- circular seating pods enable you to sit, relax and enjoy The Birth of the City, Cultures of Conflict, The Rare Auld Times (in which Dubliners share their memories of time gone by), Dublin in Days Gone By (with some great footage of Dubliners enjoying St Patrick's Day parades and the Dublin Horse Show) and more seriously, The City in Turmoil, dealing with the dark days of the Civil War.

I liked the exhibit on Georgian Dublin about The Wide Streets Commission, which was set up to improve the city. One of its first projects was to create Parliament Street to connect Essex Bridge with Dublin Castle.

Before you leave, take time to take in the outstanding map of Dublin by David Lilburn, full of clever, funny and sometimes grotesque detail.

A good summing up of Dublin itself.

Entrance to the Story of the Capital Exhibition is €5 (this includes a cup of tea or coffee in the Tir na nOg Cafe)


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