THE Irish town of Dún Laoghaire (pronounced dun Leary) has turned to the Côte d'Or to help support its plans to erect a statue to the High King Laoghaire (Ard-Ri Laoghaire), the eponymous founder of the 'dún' (stone fortress) that gave its name to the town.
The town is looking to the statue of the Gaul leader Vercingetorix, which stands on the battle site of Alésia above Alise Sainte Reine in the Côte d'Or, Burgundy as the inspiration for its own.
The proposal is gaining support from Dún Laoghaire's county council, as well as members of the local community association, led by chairperson Michael Merrigan and even the Dún Laoghaire football club whose emblem is the sacred Black Bull of High King Laoghaire.
The statue would stand in the town centre and be ready in time for Ireland's national commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Irish Free State.
Laoghaire reigned as High King of Ireland at the capital Tara from 428 - 461 AD and during his reign Laoghaire is said to have met with Saint Patrick.
Patrick was ordained as a bishop around 432 AD and, with 25 followers, was sent to Ireland. In order to achieve his misson to convert the people of Ireland to Christianity he needed the blessing of the High King Laoghaire. However, Patrick's way of approaching the king was very controversial.
Each year the Irish people would hold a pagan fire festival where bonfires were lit on hilltops throughout the country. The first fire lit would always be that of the High King himself, on the sacred hill of Tara, Teamhair na Rí, "Hill of the King").
Patrick violated this rule by lighting an Easter bonfire on the Hill of Slane, a few miles from Tara. Laoghaire was enraged when he saw the flames and gathered his warriors to confront Patrick.
Patrick calmed and impressed Laoghaire with his message and the High King invited him to Tara. However, he was taunted by the Druids who asked Patrick if he could make it snow. Legend has it that Patrick's response was that only God could make it snow and immediately it started to snow. When Patrick crossed himself the snow stopped.
In awe Laoghaire gave Patrick permission to continue with his missionary work unhindered throughout Ireland and during that period there were no Christian martyrs. Although Laoghaire himself never converted to Christianity his wife, daughters and brother did. The royal court of Tara became Patrick's headquarters.
Vercingetorix was born in 76BC, a member of the Averni tribe in the Avernian city of Gergovia, the present day Lyon, and gave their name ,to the Auvergne region. His father, Celtillus, was murdered by tribal members in his quest to become King.
At the start of Caesar's campaigns to conquer the Gaul tribes Vercingetorix became the tribal leader and managed to get not only his tribe but other tribes to back him.
The last seige and battle took place in September 52 BC at Alésia, above the village of Alise-Sainte-Reine in the present day Côte d'Or department of Burgundy. Vercingetorix and his army retreated to the oppidum, a major town and hill fort on Mount Alésia, of the Mandubii tribe. Caesar ordered a blockade of a circumvallation and a contravallation, around Mount Alésia. Markers of these are still to be found at Venarey les Laumes.
Vercingetorix was unable to bring in supplies for the 80,000 men and the citizens or be aided by reinforcements who were unable to pass Caesar's blockade and the seige ended when Caesar took charge and a weak link was found in the fortification.
Legend has it Vercingetorix rode his horse from the oppidum to Caesar's camp and threw down his arms at Caesar's feet, then stripped and fell at Caesar's feet in supplication. However, Caesar is said to have refuted that and the surrender was less spectacular.
Vercingetorix was taken to Rome and imprisoned at Tullianum, a notorious prison where people spent years on the first floor awaiting trial and sentencing then were moved to the lower Tullianum where they were executed. Six years after he arrived in Rome Vercingetorix was put on display to celebrate Caesar's triumphs and then executed; probably by strangulation in his cell in 46 BC.
In 1865 Napoleon III commissioned a statue to be erected on Mount Alésia on the supposed site of the battle. As no one knows what a Gaul actually looks like the sculptor, Aimé Millet, gave the statue the face of Napoleon himself; perhaps to curry favour?
Around the statue are the words:
La Gaule Unie
Formant une seule nation
Animée d'un même esprit
Peut défier l'univers
Forming a single nation
Driven by the same spirit
Can defy the universe
Plans have been in place since 2000 to create an open archaeological site at Alésia to allow people to understand the history and discover how the people who inhabited the site lived. It is hoped this will be in place by 2011.
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