The Door of Reconciliation

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself…” 2 Corinthians 5:19

In 1492, two Irish families, the Butlers of Ormond and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare were engaged in a bitter and bloody feud. Both families wanted one of their own to hold the position of Lord Deputy.

The tension broke into outright warfare and after a skirmish outside the city walls of Dublin, the Black James Butler and his men sought refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

As the Fitzgeralds followed in hot pursuit, their leader, Gerald Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare, realised the fighting was out of control. Through the closed door he pleaded with Black James to accept a truce.

Suspecting treachery, Black James refused to let Fitzgerald inside.  Fitzgerald ordered his men to hack a hole in the solid wooden door and thrust his arm through as a pledge of his good faith.

The daring gesture was enough. Seeing that FitzGerald was willing to risk his own arm, the Butlers reasoned that he was serious in his desire for peace. The two leaders shook hands through the door and as the Butlers emerged from the Chapter house, the warring factions made their peace with one another. Today this door is known as the "Door of Reconciliation" and is on display in the cathedral's north transept. Some believe this event was the origin of the English expression, "To chance your arm" (to take the initiative or to take a risk).