Simon Schama, the very erudite British historian, is responsible for one of my favourite quotes,
"...landscape is the work of the mind. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock".
For me, this also applies to the built environment us city dwellers live in. The way we build and shape our cities is entirely influenced by our culture and beliefs. I would even go so far as to argue that the dominant ideologies of the day design a city’s buildings as much as the architect who actually draws the plans. This isn’t a new theory with many photographers, such as David Goldblatt from South Africa and Paul Seawright from Northern Ireland, exploring different aspects of this process.
Since arriving in Dublin almost 18 months ago I’ve become very interested in how Ireland’s Catholic past (and to a much lesser extent its Catholic present) has influenced the creation of the city and how it functions today. Part of this interest focuses on the myriad of religious statues and shrines that dot the city. Very often these structures have been built on publicly owned land and make clear how present the Catholic church was in all spheres of Irish life.
This statue is not on public land and is instead on the grounds of St Teresa’s Church on Wicklow Street. This is a busy street that runs parallel to Grafton Street, and is part of one of Dublin’s most exclusive shopping areas, at most times the street is a reflection of a more secular Ireland with besuited office employees, tourists and shoppers wandering past completely oblivious to the institution and its contents.
This image illustrates a different reality. When I wandered past it during my lunch break it coincided with one of their weekday Mass times and it quickly became apparent that no matter how secular Ireland may be becoming there is still a distinct Catholic backbone to the country.
In this image an elderly man leaves Mass at St Teresa’s holding a bag emblazoned with Pope Francis’s visage. The bag is from Veritas, a religious bookshop, and was part of a range of memorabilia created and sold to commemorate Pope Francis’s visit to the Republic earlier this year.