Added on 22/07/2014
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is creating a space where all of the people of Ireland, as well as international visitors, can come to remember people who have been affected by conflict. The ‘Lives Remembered’ exhibition will be officially opened on July 28, the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war by Austria–Hungary on Serbia, by Irish author Jennifer Johnston. It will remain in place for four years.
St Patrick’s has been an important centre of remembrance for hundreds of years. Nearly two hundred plaques and monuments throughout the building remember individuals or families. In the past, those remembered in the cathedral were confined to members of the aristocracy or from a particular niche of society. Those remembered who died as a result of conflict were generally male officers who fought in the British Army.
The new exhibition examines its role in remembrance in the past and presents a new vision for the future. At the centre of the new exhibition there is a new monument called the ‘Tree of Remembrance’ (pictured) which is a tribute all those who have been affected by conflict. This sculpted steel tree is surrounded by barbed wire and will serve as a reminder of the ugliness and brutality of conflict. Visitors to the Cathedral will be invited to tie small tags with thoughts, memories or prayers for loved ones affected by conflict. Over the course of time the barbed wire will be replaced by a wall of messages of hope.
The exhibition, which is located in the cathedral’s North Transept, comprises three main elements. An audio–visual facility via tablets positioned around the space, shows videos of interviews on a number of themes including the affects of World War I on the cathedral’s community and remembrance. Another tablet contains Ireland’s memorial records detailing the names of almost 50,000 Irish people.
Meanwhile, 14 panels look at the issues of conflict and remembrance. On one side of the North Transept the emphasis is on outreach and response to World War I and conflict within the cathedral’s walls over the centuries. Other panels focus on the Church and war and the history of remembrance in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The third element is the Tree of Remembrance, which was designed by Andrew Smith, Education Officer and Curator of the exhibition and executed by Bushy Park Ironworks. This new monument differs from the other monuments in the cathedral in that it is inclusive. St Patrick’s education assistant, Caoimhe Leppard, explains that there are plaques around the base of the monument in different languages inviting people to leave a message of remembrance for a loved one who has been affected by conflict.
‘We wish to encourage Irish people to come to the cathedral so that everyone in Ireland has a place to come to remember – no matter what their faith or gender or which conflict they were affected by,’ she says.
The exhibition will be launched by Irish author, Jennifer Johnston, on Monday July 28 at 6.30 pm in the cathedral. This year marks the 40th anniversary of her book How Many Miles to Babylon, the complex tale of the affects of World War I on two men who had been friends since childhood.
All the information contained on the exhibition panels can also be viewed online on the cathedral’s website at http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/Lives-Remembered.aspx.
Photo above: Edward Bisgood of Bushy Park Ironworks, cathedral administrator Gavan Woods, Dean Victor Stacey and education officer Andrew Smith at the new ‘Tree of Remembrance’ in St Patrick’s Cathedral.