There is something tormenting about reading a book on fine architecture when the only buildings we can currently look at are our own homes, and the local supermarket on our permitted excursion. But it is also an opportunity to study what is out there and to make notes for when our house arrest is over, and we can travel freely again; to imagine visiting places where we can admire the builder’s art once more.
I last had a look around Cork三级成人视频 more than 20 years ago, despite being a frequent visitor to Ireland; and a very fine place it is, too. How fine, exactly, I had forgotten, until the arrival of the new Pevsner Architectural Guide, Cork: City and County (Yale, £45). The Buildings of Ireland series is some way behind those of England, Scotland and Wales but, slowly, architecturally significant areas of the country are being investigated and catalogued. The volume on Dublin, now 15 years old, is one of the most rewarding in the whole four nations’ series, and I noted the Central Leinster volume here recently. Frank Keohane, a native of Cork, has done a magnificent job with this new work, and to read his introduction and browse the gazetteer is to have one’s eyes opened to a wealth of architectural treasures one had perhaps not realised Cork and its environs, from Bantry and Skibbereen up to Youghal, contained.
The city of Cork dominates the volume. Keohane gives a learned history of the place, reminding us the city was built on marshes and that the very name derives from the Irish word for marsh, corcach. The Vikings founded the city, but it was an Anglo-Norman settlement after 1171 that began the development of Ireland’s second city. Sadly, the great buildings of medieval Cork have left little trace, thanks mainly to the fervour with which the dissolution of the monasteries was carried out in the 16th century. A notable exception is the crossing tower of the Red Abbey, an Augustinian friary from the late 13th century. The tower, 64ft high, probably dates from 1420.
三级成人视频Although the city’s garrison declared for Cromwell in 1649, thereby sparing it bombardment, the arrival of William of Orange’s forces in 1690 led to serious destruction. The fine buildings of Cork the visitor sees today are predominantly from the Georgian era, with a smattering of Victorian classicism and, in the shape of St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, a spectacular example of the gothic revival. Bessborough House, the Mercy Hospital and the Crawford Art Gallery – formerly the Customs House – all show developments of the 18th-century style. Classicism is represented by the old County Jail and the Court House.
Cork’s churches of St Mary and St Patrick, both of the 1830s but with massive porticos added a decade or two later, epitomise the confidence of the Catholic Church after emancipation in 1829. But in my view, the two most remarkable examples of architecture in the city, also both ecclesiastical, come a little later. The first is St Fin Barre’s, which seems to share something with the cathedral at Périgord (and with Sacré-Coeur in Paris, which was inspired by it). Keohane calls the building “an impressive gesture of defiance to the impending disestablishment of the Church of Ireland” when it was begun in the 1860s. Its architect was William Burges, an English gothic revivalist who died quite young and whose major commission this church was. The author says that Burges “created a complete work of art, designing the decorative elements as well as the architectural features” – so all the mosaics, sculptures, stained glass, furnishing and metalwork are his, too.
三级成人视频The other remarkable church is Barry Byrne’s Christ the King, built between 1928 and 1931. It is an art deco masterpiece unique in Ireland, and of a style rare in Britain. Keohane calls it “arguably the most important building of interwar Ireland”. Byrne had trained with Frank Lloyd Wright in Illinois and the church mixes tradition with innovation. The Catholic hierarchy hated it; 90 years later, it is hugely admired, and rightly so.
Outside the city, there remain a few good country houses, and fine medieval castles in various states of repair abound, such as Bantry House and Longueville, near Mallow, which is now a hotel. The author points out that this beautiful part of Ireland was once rich in ascendancy houses from the Georgian period, around 50 of which were destroyed a century ago in the fight for independence. But this remains a rewarding part of the world for the architectural enthusiast to tour around, not just Cork itself: Cobh, Bantry, Kinsale and especially Youghal are filled with buildings of charm and beauty. All that now remains is for us to be allowed to visit them.