The evenings are getting darker, the weather colder but there are still plenty of places to go galavanting in Ireland. Me and Ali made a trip up to Co Louth last weekend to visit some of her family. After an epic fry up on the Sunday morning, Josh- a very enthusiastic 3 year old declared we should visit Ollie’s head in Drogheda. For those of you that are worried, he meant the head of St Oliver Plunkett. The stunning St Peters church in Drogheda town is home to the relic of the head of St Oliver. It may sound a bit strange but the church was dedicated as a memorial to St Oliver Plunkett back in the late 1800’s. St Olivers head was originally in the Siena convent in Drogheda but the Archbishop of Armagh requested that the head be transferred to St Peters Church. The nun’s weren’t too happy about this as you can imagine.
Oliver Plunkett was born in 1625 in Oldcastle in Co Meath. In 1647 he went to Rome and was ordained a priest in 1654. In 1669 he returned to Ireland and was appointed archbishop of Armagh. In 1679 the English suspected Plunkett of being invloved in the French Invasion of Ireland and he was arrested. In 1681 he was hung, drawn and quartered in London. His friends present at his execution though managed to salvage most of his body from the fire. It seems like a pretty horrendous way to go but it was common for Irish priests to be persecuted in this way in the 1600’s.
St Peters Church is situated on west street in Drogheda. We had parked up our car in the car park for Drogheda town center and made the short walk through the center to the Church. Our galavanting partners for the day were Emma, Andie and the very well behaved Josh! A perfect family day out! The outside of the church is quite impressive with a number of sweeping steps leading up to the massive front door. Just inside the door you will find a Medieval Baptismal Font. On entering the main hall of the church you are greeted by amazing marble pillars and arches. The main altar is surrounded by stained glass windows and smaller altars on both sides.
Josh knew exactly where he was going (we had a very cultured 3 year old in our midst) and he lead us down to the left hand side of the church. This entire side of the Church is dedicated to the memory of St Oliver Plunkett. The door of St Olivers prison cell is on display here and you will find lots of pamphlets and books on the saint. Don’t forget to leave a donation! Turn to your right then and you will see the relic right in front of you. St Oliver’s head is displayed in a glass case and is in pretty good condition. A doctor examined the relic in the late 20th century and was amazed how the spinal marrow was still intact and was in quite perfect condition. This for a head over 300 years old!- that’s a miracle in itself I think. There are other objects of interest in the Church too. The seat where Pope John Paul II sat is on the high altar (I’m not sure if you are allowed sit on it though) and the amazing Willis organ towards the front of the Church. This is a pretty spectacular view from the front of the Altar of the church and there is apparently a fantastic male voice choir in the Church also. Check out their facebook page for a list of concerts. All in all it was a very educational day out in St Peter’s Church. You do need to remember that it is a church and visitors are asked to maintain a respectful silence. Its a beautifully calm place to sit and take a few minutes to say a wee prayer or have a think. Drogheda is a destination with lots more interesting places to explore so we are looking forward to a trip back up the country for another galavant.
I have attached a few helpful links below if you ever decide to take a trip. As always- Happy Galavanting! x