Giant’s Causeway

 Ireland and the Catholic faith of the Emerald Isle pt. II


The Legend

If you have grown up in an Irish family, you may have well heard of the exploits of one Finn McCool, the Celtic warrior whose exploits match Hercules, Sampson of the Bible, and Paul Bunyan of the Northlands. One of his most noted feats was his duel with the Scottish giant, Benandonner, who, when threatening Ireland, lodged bits of stone from his homeland in the northern coast of Ireland into the sea to build a bridge of sorts to defend his home, then quickly realizing that he was outmatched by the Scot, destroyed the bridge – a causeway – leaving behind the remnants of his ill-planned construction.

The legends may be fantastic, but the truth behind them is every bit as real today as it was centuries ago, for they are based on the spectacular geographic formations known as Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.


The Cause of the Causeway

Over sixty million years ago, a volcanic fissure eruption on the northern coast of Ireland created 40,000 basaltic prism formations in towering form. Most of the formations are of a distinctive hexagon form, but many are seven or eight-sided. The erosion by the elements has also created a great uniqueness of patterns, designs and shapes so that they themselves have become features of any tour to the Causeway. Some of the largest formations reach nearly 40 feet in height, earning names such as “The Chimney” for their outstanding presence in the landscape.  

The region is also home to a wide range of flora which create a haven of delight for any botanist. With the backdrop of the sea, the Causeway is indeed a rare treasure of Irish nature, and is protected by the National Trust.  

Yet it is also an important cultural heritage, as the site is central to the great tradition of Celtic mythology and story-telling, which helped preserve indigenous Irish heritage and identity during centuries of suppression of Irish national identity. While not a site associated with the Catholic faith, Clochán an Aifir, as it is known in the traditional Irish Gaelic language, is a spot to stop and reflect on the natural beauty of the land that God bestowed up on the Emerald Isle, and the great tradition of Celtic mythology that helped prepare for the coming of Christianity through the work of many saints.  


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Brynne TurnerComment