One of my favorite things about studying at Pitt is the Cathedral of Learning, our beloved Cathy. Walking through the first floor to secure a study spot on an uncomfortable wooden bench or walking along the second floor, peering over the edges to the bottom is enough to make one feel like they are in a magical castle, Pittsburgh’s very own Hogwarts. The outside of Trinity, with gray stones and impressive architecture looked beautiful and reminded me of my favorite place on campus back home.
Throughout the trip from friends and loved ones I was bombarded with the same question: “Have you seen the book of Kells yet?!” Seeing the book of Kells and joining a tour was definitely in my plans but I left my visit until the end of my stay in Ireland. The farewell dinner had come and gone, and I was now without classes and classwork. I had my last days packed with activities, including a trip to Trinity.
We learned a ton from our tour guide, a sophomore who is fluent in Italian (and two other languages) and gives tours in Italian as well. This fact amazed me. While I studied German at Pitt, I couldn’t imagine giving a tour of Cathy to native German speakers. Although, several Germans I met through my travels complimented my German and said I knew more than I thought. I think they were being nice, but anyway…
Trinity is a large campus with its main entrance right next to tram lines and near busy shopping districts and government buildings. The main entrance is a large wooden door and once through that door, you are met by the open campus, with green grass, people galore, and more lovely architecture.
The tour guides stand at a little booth next to the greens taking visitor after visitor for tours or selling tickets to see the library and book of Kells. They wear brown robes that strike an image of Harry Potter robes, and in fact, our tour guide made that very same joke. She explained that all tour guides wear them, and it was expected until I believe the 1970’s, that all undergraduates would wear their robes at all times on campus.
Much of the tour discussed the architecture. One of our group’s favorite facts regarded the payment of architects. Three times those in charge of planning/building did not pay the architects who drew extensive building plans. They are beautiful buildings! Poor architects.
My personal favorite fact, which horrified the Americans on the tour (me included), involves the graduation ceremony. In the States, we are lined up alphabetically. At Trinity, they are lined up based on highest to lowest exam scores, which means everyone knows the first and last student at graduation by means of score. I’ll stick to alphabetical order, thanks.
The student body is a very superstitious group. We were told of several superstitions while on our tour. A bell tower sits between two large green spaces on the campus. If a student passes under it while it rings, the superstition goes that they will fail all of their exams.
My tour coincided with a strange time at Trinity. The two lawns next to the bell tower were roped off, a large tree stump protruding from the green grass around it. I knew this before the tour as I kept up with Irish news. In June, a 170-year-old Oregon Maple tree collapsed and crashed onto the lawn. This was a sad occurrence for locals and students. The tree was a common sight, the lawn normally open to students, now closed off as the tree was removed and the other maple on the opposite lawn examined for diseases. I had visited the campus very briefly at the beginning of my program to take a peek and saw the lawn before it had collapsed. Sadly, I didn’t take a photo of the lawn as I had planned to come back. There was a collective mourning at the loss of the familiar tree. Our tour guide explained that all students received an email about the loss of the tree and the sadness was shared among students, faculty, and staff. You can see the stump in my photos as well as its sister tree on the other lawn, what it would have looked like before its demise.
Once the tour concluded, we thanked our tour guide and continued on our way to line up for the entrance to the Book of Kells. Photography is allowed intermittently through this area of the library. The room in which the Book of Kells sits is off limits to photography. I strictly follow museum rules regarding photography. It is a privilege to shoot, not a right. There were a handful of people who seemed ready to break this rule, but the room has a permanent guard to watch the guests crowded around the glass table to get a glimpse of the ancient book.
Since I don’t have an image of the Book of Kells, I’ll explain a little about it. It is an illuminated manuscript which contains four gospels of the New Testament. It is believed that the book was created around the 9th century. The book is believed to have been created on Iona, a small island off of Scotland, and brought to Ireland during a Viking raid to preserve it.
I quite enjoyed the book for its beauty and history.
After squeezing in between the multitude of people to get a good, long look at the book, I left the room to visit the long room, a massive library containing 200,000 old books. The room is a dark wood with book shelves on multiple levels. Lining the shelves are busts of famous academics and important historical figures such as Shakespeare, Socrates, and Robert Boyle. The room bears a striking resemblance to the Jedi Archives in Episode II of Star Wars.
I loved the long room but hated how many people used flash photography, which is prohibited. Several times people had to be told to stop taking flash photos. It’s my pet peeve as you can see.
Countless photos later, I left the long room and took more pictures of the campus before leaving.
The statue pictured below is of George Salmon provost of the college from 1888-1904. He actually paid for that statue to be built. He is known for the decision to allow women to begin studying at Trinity despite his very strong personal opinion that women should not study or be admitted. He only agreed under pressure. He died before he had to see women study at Trinity, as in 1904, after his death, the first women were admitted. His own daughter ended up studying at Trinity. There is a bit of tradition for the graduating women at trinity to take pictures sitting on his lap, leaving lipstick kisses on his cheek.
My suggestion: Go to Trinity and enjoy a nice tour and the beauty of the library. You won’t be disappointed.