Last month we visited Lusaka, Zambia. From there our Small World takes us northwest to Cork City, Ireland and the second largest city in this country. The island of Ireland is the twentieth-largest island on Earth and is comprised of two politically divided areas: the Republic of Ireland in the south; and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. Cork City is in the Republic of Ireland, located at the mouth of the River Lee at the head of Cork harbor in the southeastern portion of the island.
Originally a monastic settlement founded by Saint Finbarr in the 6th century, Cork was granted charter by King John in 1185 A.D. Once a fully walled city, the municipality’s government was dominated by 12-15 families for much of its early existence. In 1349 A.D., half the townspeople succumbed to the plague known as the Black Death. The plague is estimated to have killed 30-60% of Europe’s population, with its peak between 1348 and 1350 A.D.
The city is often called “Rebel Cork” because it was a center of the 19th century Fenian movement. The Fenian Brotherhood’s goal was independence from British rule. The movement was under the impression that London was doing as little as possible to aid the Irish. In 1858, James Stephens formed the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Dublin, while John O’Mahony formed the Fenian Brotherhood in America, alongside Irish expatriates who had fled after the Great Famine. These organizations came together and fought against British rule for many years, and this struggle led to the Home Rule which essentially allowed Ireland more autonomy and say in their governance.
Cork has many notable places of interest. The Red Abbey is a 14th century Augustinian abbey which takes its name from the reddish sandstone used in its construction. Today, the only remaining element of the structure is the central bell tower. It was occupied by the friars until the rebellion of 1641 which led to the Irish Confederate Wars between the Irish Catholics and the English and Scottish Protestants. Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a place of worship of the Church of Ireland. Completed in 1879, it is known as much for its organ as its beautiful architecture. The organ was originally built in 1870, and has been played by some of the world’s most famous organists, many of which played it for decades.
Cork has vibrant culture, music, theatre, and food festivals that are some of the major aspects of their local flavor and tourism industry. Due to immigration, the city is very diverse in its demography. This has led to a wider array of arts and restaurants in the town, and thus an influx of people from different parts of the world. Many of these restaurants and events center on St. Patrick’s Street in the city’s center. Known for its curved road and beautiful architecture, St. Patrick’s is an excellent place to start should you ever choose to visit this part of our Small World.