A wonderful rainy day, with a later start at a more civilized hour, 8:30am. We walked down O’Connell Street and across the River Liffey, onto Westmoreland Street, arriving at College Green and Trinity College for a tour of the campus. Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, the site was originally an Augustinian monastery. Students were struck by the sheer beauty, elegance and architecture of this place – so different from our gritty, perhaps not so elegant urban university. Our student guide, Marcus, was a new graduate and the ideal pilot for our journey. He was wicked smart and hilarious (and very tall with a lovely, quiet, and quite posh baritone voice), and the students immediately warmed to his perfectly crafted stories, dry wit and charm. We started in Parliament Square, not quite as beautiful as on my many previous visits – workmen are laying new walking stones and there is mayhem, barricades and construction equipment everywhere.
We are lucky – Marcus is one of the few Trinity students to have a regular assignment in the chapel, and so, has a key. There are very few visitors to Trinity that ever get to see the chapel; today, we do. It is lovely and Marcus regales us with a lively mix of historical facts and entertaining hoopla about shenanigans that have happened here down through time. He has us all laughing in the rain and happy to start our second day of Maymester in such a delightful manner.
He points out the few student rooms available on the campus – rare and coveted (won through a system of earned grades, senior status, service, letter-writing and self-promotion to the powers that be) – and explains, at the entrance to the Dining Hall, the centuries old tradition of the Scholars (these students that have jumped through many hoops) and the Fellows (senior faculty) having dinner together once a week (I have seen the Dining Hall and it is reminiscent of Harry Potter and Oliver). When the Provost is done eating and his (of course, it must be a ‘his’ and not a ‘her’) spoon hits the table, the meal is over – regardless of where anyone else might be in the trajectory of their own meal! This gave us all quite a bit to discuss. Take a look at a most recent Provost’s Address at the April 7, 2014 Scholar’s Dinner.
We walk through the arch of the campanile (a 30-foot bell tower built in 1853 by Sir Charles Lanyon – the architect of Queen’s University in Belfast (where we’ll be next week). Trinity has a fraternal sporting organization called The Knights of the Campanile – established in 1926, with the “primary objective of entertaining visiting teams, particularly those from Oxford and Cambridge”. We walk alongside the red brick building (known as the Rubrics) on Library Square which houses students (who must exit one set of doors in the morning in order to enter another set of doors to take a shower, quite the unhandy plumbing solution), past the beautiful 1982 sculpture, Sphere within a Sphere (there are a dozen other versions in cities across the world), by Arnaldo Pomodoro, ending at the queue in front of the entrance to the Old Library and the Book of Kells.