In 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus purportedly discovered the New World, an incident, with far reaching effects, took place in a chapter house attached to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The incident ended a long running and bloody feud between two of Ireland’s most powerful dynasties, the FitzGeralds and the Butlers. The FitzGeralds, staunch supporters of the fight to remove the English from Ireland, often went to war with the Butlers who swore their allegiance to the English crown.
In 1485, with help from the Butler family, Henry 7th ascended the throne of England as the first monarch of the House of Tudor. His coronation was opposed by many of the Irish Earls, particularly Gerald Mor Fitzgerald, the 8th Earl of Kildare. In 1492, a long running dispute between the two foremost families in medieval Ireland, the Butlers, (Earls of Ormond) and the FitzGeralds, (Earls of Kildare) was resolved by a brave act and an equally brave response.
James Butler (Black James,) the nephew of the Earl of Ormond, while on the run from FitzGerald's soldiers, took sanctuary in the Chapter House of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. Although he was in a superior position and with his army surrounding Black James and his men, FitzGerald decided to put an end to the bloody feud. He pleaded with Black James through the Chapter House's oak door, to come out, meet with him and discuss a peace treaty.
Fearing a trap, James refused and prepared to do battle. After numerous failed attempts, FitzGerald ordered his soldiers to cut a hole in the middle of the door. Then, after explaining that he truly wished to bring peace between the families, FitzGerald put his arm through the hole and offered his hand to Black James. It was a risky move as one of James's heavily armed men could easily have hacked FitzGeralds arm off. Despite the fear and mistrust, James shook hands with FitzGerald and ended the dispute.
Though the Chapter House has long been demolished, it was originally located in the South Transept of St Patrick's Cathedral. The door of the Chapter House is on display in the cathedral's north transept where it is now known as the Door of Reconciliation.
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Don’t Die with Regrets: Ireland and the Lessons my Father Taught Me.
The Journey: A Nomad Reflects.