Disestablishment 150 exhibition at Christ Church Cathedral

Chief Herald Colette O’Flaherty presents Christ Church Cathedral’s coat of arms to Archbishop Michael Jackson. They are pictured with Dean Dermot Dunne, Heraldic Artist Philip Mackey and Herald of Arms Micheál Ó Comáin.

Christ Church Cathedral has a new coat of arms which was unveiled following Choral Evensong in the cathedral on last Friday evening (January 31). The Chief Herald of Ireland, Colette O’Flaherty, presented the Grant of Arms to the Archbishop of Dublin.

Following the same service, the Dublin & Glendalough Disestablishment 150 exhibition was launched. The exhibition, which features a fascinating array of items associated with Disestablishment, runs in the cathedral until April.

Up until now the cathedral has not had a coat of arms. Having a coat of arms indicates the cathedral’s unique identity in the heraldry of Ireland. The coat of arms depicts a wounded Christ in the centre of the shield. It also depicts the heart of St Laurence in a shield covered in vine hearts, a symbol of Christ and a staff indicating the episcopacy of the saint. The grant is bilingual in Irish and English. The cathedral’s crest of the Holy Trinity has also been noted by the National Library which has officially entered it into the annals of the library as a unique library entry. The Grant of Arms will be on display in the crypt.

Herald of Arms, Micheál Ó Comáin, provided assistance to the cathedral in devising the coat of arms and writing the patent to the cathedral. He said the Christ Church coat of arms was particularly interesting, not least because nowhere in European Heraldry is there a depiction of Christ on a coat of arms. The Heraldic Artist was Philip Mackey.

In his sermon during Evensong, Archbishop Michael Jackson, said the Grant of Arms spoke about the cathedral’s identity.

“The Grant of Arms locates us in a continuum of expression of identity and in a fresh expression of identity. It gives us a particular form of official belonging within the tradition. What is Christ Church? It is a sacred foundation with a Godly imprint in a secular society,” he said. “The Grant of Arms depicts the Wounded and Ascended Christ dressed in simplicity and in ready openness to greet those who come here – for whatever reason. This image, this voice is the image and the voice chosen by the Dean and Chapter to represent officially the cathedral and it is, therefore, positive and political: it is the clarion call of welcome, of hospitality, of inclusion. As we approach a General Election, these words: simplicity and openness are precious and yet easily diminished but they are surely words of God in the City. This is entirely appropriate to a diocesan cathedral in a capital city.”

He added that the depiction of the Heart of St Laurence O’Toole encased within the staff of service enabled history, mythology and the call of the contemporary to coalesce. “They are there in the Grant of Arms and it connects directly with The Ascended Suffering Christ ready to serve his people here and now, today and tomorrow – with open–handed generosity and acceptance in Christ,” he said.

Launching the exhibition, which is part of Dublin & Glendalough’s commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, Archbishop Jackson congratulated the cathedral on hosting the event. He said the exhibition pointed to the trauma of the Church of Ireland’s transition from one state, or one status, to another, in what was then the Second City of Empire.

“We now need to grasp and to use the freedom offered in 1870 to be ‘Free to shape our future’ as the expression of our Disestablished identity in 2020,” he stated. “Respect for all generations; leniency for the alien, the fatherless, the widow and all whom they carry and represent; a remembering that, however much we think of ourselves, we were slaves in Egypt … It may not be a pretty picture but it is an honest and an honourable place to begin.”