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‘A development of practical Catholic Emancipation’: laying the foundations for the Roman Catholic urban landscape, 1850–1900

  • NIAMH NICGHABHANN (a1)

Abstract:

The infrastructures of devotion and religious worship in Ireland changed dramatically during the course of the nineteenth century. This article examines the foundation stone ceremonies that marked the beginning of several large-scale building Roman Catholic church building projects between 1850 and 1900, and in particular considers the extent to which these highly visible and ceremonial events prefigured the more permanent occupation of public space by the new buildings. These foundation stone ceremonies were complex events that reflected contemporary political issues such as land rights as much as they engaged with the spiritual concerns of the Roman Catholic congregations in Ireland during this period.

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1 St John's Roman Catholic Cathedral was designed by English architect Philip Charles Hardwicke to replace the earlier St John's Chapel, which was located nearby. The tower spire was designed by the firm of Pugin and Ashlin, with works also carried out by Maurice Alphonsus Hennessy. See Fleming, J., St John's Cathedral, Limerick (Dublin, 1987). The design and building work led by Hardwicke took place between 1856 and 1861, with the work on the tower progressing in 1868. Due to storm damage and the need for continuous repairs, building work on the cathedral continued until the 1890s, with further repairs carried out during the 1920s by various firms and individuals. Information from the Dictionary of Irish Architects, 1720–1940: www.dia.ie, accessed 12 Dec. 2016.

2 Tralee Chronicle and Killarney Echo, 9 May 1856.

3 Ibid.; Limerick Observer, 1 May 1856.

4 The challenges around land acquisition and the purchase of sites for Roman Catholic church building projects are explored in several of the essays in Keogh, D. and McDonnell, A. (eds.), Cardinal Paul Cullen and his World (Dublin, 2011). While this volume focuses largely on Dublin, and to some extent Belfast, the arguments and analyses proposed by the authors are valuable in the consideration of Limerick's built urban Catholic landscape, for example: E. Kane, ‘Paul Cullen and the visual arts’ (99–114), M.E. Daly, ‘Catholic Dublin: the public expression in the page of Paul Cullen’ (130–45), and J. Montague, ‘J.J. McCarthy and Holy Cross Church, Clonliffe: the politics and iconography of architectural style’ (260–76).

5 Several examples of recent work exploring the role of civic procession and the performance of identity in public space in a European context are listed below. Knott, K., Krech, V. and Meyer, B., ‘Iconic religion in urban space’, Material Religion, 12 (2016), 123–36; Knott, K., ‘Geographies of the urban sacred’, in Lanwerd, S. (ed.), The Urban Sacred: How Religion Makes and Takes Place in Amsterdam, Berlin and London (Berlin, 2016), 51–7; Royo, J.A. Mateos, ‘All the town is a stage: civic ceremonies and religious festivities in Spain during the golden age’, Urban History, 25 (1999), 165–89; Vari, A., ‘The nation in the city: ceremonial (re)burials and patriotic mythmaking in turn-of-the-century Budapest’, Urban History, 40 (2013), 202–23; Waal, J. De, ‘The reinvention of tradition: form, meaning and local identity in modern Cologne Carnival’, Central European History, 46 (2013), 495532.

6 Janssen, J., ‘Religiously inspired urbanism: Catholicism and the planning of the southern Dutch provincial cities Eindhoven and Roermond, c. 1900 to 1960’, Urban History, 43 (2016), 135–57, at 138.

7 H.F. Wilson, ‘On geography and encounter: bodies, borders and encounters’, Progress in Human Geography (published online 2016), 1–21, at 3.

8 Goheen, P., ‘Public space and the geography of the modern city’, Progress in Human Geography, 22 (1998), 479–96, at 479.

9 Saint-Blancat, C. and Cancellieri, A., ‘From invisibility to visibility? The appropriation of public space through a religious ritual: the Filipino procession of Santacruzan in Padua, Italy’, Social and Cultural Geography, 15 (2004), 645–63, at 646.

10 The use of the term ‘liminality’ here is aligned with the concept of a ritual of transition, as explored by Victor Turner. According to Turner, liminal events could be characterized as ‘threshold’ events, points at which ‘social order and structure could be temporarily reversed or marginalized’; see S. Coleman, ‘Recent developments in the anthropology of religion’, in B.S. Turner, The New Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Religion (2010), Blackwell Reference Online, accessed 15 Sep. 2016: www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/tocnode.html?id=g9781405188524_chunk_g97814051885246.

11 Saint-Blancat and Cancellieri, ‘From invisibility to visibility’, 646.

12 Smithey, L.A. and Young, M.P., ‘Parading protest: Orange Parades in Northern Ireland and Temperance Parades in antebellum America’, Social Movement Studies, 9 (2010), 393410, at 395–6.

13 Giesen, B., ‘Performing the sacred: a Durkheimian perspective on the performative turn in the social sciences’, in Alexander, J.C. et al. (eds.), Social Performance: Symbolic Action, Cultural Pragmatics and Ritual (Cambridge, 2006), quoted in Brüggemann, K. and Kasekamp, A., ‘Singing oneself into a nation? Estonian song festivals as rituals of political mobilization’, Nations and Nationalism, 20 (2014), 259–76, at 260.

14 Butler, J., Notes toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (Cambridge, MA, 2015), 18.

15 Gráda, C. Ó, ‘Irish agriculture after the Land War’, in Engerman, L. and Metzer, J. (eds.), Land Rights, Ethno-Nationality and Sovereignty in History (London, 2004), 131–52, at 131.

16 Giesen, ‘Performing the sacred’, quoted in Brüggemann and Kasekamp, ‘Singing oneself into a nation?’, 260.

17 It is important to note that sources for the ceremonials are limited, and that regional and national newspaper reports contain the most extensive coverage of events. Further sources include diocesan records and personal letters and memoirs, or commemorative pamphlets produced following the occasion. In the main, diocesan records contain limited functional information around decisions. Newspaper reports, while reflecting the bias of their owners, writers and readership, reflect the action of the crowds and the visual appearance of the urban environment, as well as the details of the sermon and the dignitaries present.

18 Alexandrakis, O., ‘Introduction: resistance reconsidered’, in Alexandrakis, O., Impulse to Act: A New Anthropology of Resistance and Social Justice (Bloomington, IN, 2016), 115, at 7–8.

19 The Roman Catholic building boom during this period must be considered in the larger context of religious building across denominations. For an overview of ecclesiastical architecture throughout the nineteenth century, see Wilson, A. and Campbell, H., ‘Catholic churches and cathedrals in the nineteenth century’, in Carpenter, A., Loeber, R., Campbell, H., Hurley, L., Montague, J. and Rowley, E. (eds.), Art and Architecture of Ireland, vol. IV: Architecture, 1600–2000 (Dublin and New Haven, 2015), 292–5.

20 Grimes, B., ‘Funding a Roman Catholic church in nineteenth-century Ireland’, Architectural History, 52 (2009), 147–68, at 147.

21 Sheehy, J., ‘Irish church building: popery, Puginism and the Protestant Ascendancy’, in Brooks, C. and Saint, A. (eds.), The Victorian Church: Architecture and Society (Manchester, 1995), 133–50; and Sheehy, J., J.J. McCarthy and the Gothic Revival in Ireland (Belfast, 1977).

22 Larkin, E., ‘The Devotional Revolution in Ireland, 1850–75', American Historical Review, 77 (1972), 625–52; Keogh and McDonnell (eds.), Cardinal Paul Cullen and his World.

23 Scholarship on Roman Catholic architectural culture during the nineteenth century includes Grimes, B., Majestic Shrines and Graceful Sanctuaries: The Church Architecture of Patrick Byrne, 1783–1864 (Dublin, 2009); Rowan, A., ‘Irish Victorian churches: denominational distinctions’, in Kennedy, B.P. and Gillespie, R. (eds.), Ireland: Art into History (Dublin, 1994), 207–30; Sheehy, ‘Irish church building’; and Sheehy, J.J. McCarthy and the Gothic Revival in Ireland.

24 R. Loeber, K. Whelan and A. Mullin, ‘Burnham Catholic churches in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’, in Carpenter et al. (eds.), Art and Architecture of Ireland, vol. IV, 290.

25 McBride, I., ‘Religion’, in Bourke, R. and McBride, I. (eds.), The Princeton History of Modern Ireland (Princeton, 2016), 292319.

26 Wilson and Campbell, ‘Catholic churches and cathedrals in the nineteenth century’, 292.

27 Coakley, J., ‘Religion, national identity and political change in modern Ireland’, Irish Political Studies, 17 (2002), 428, at 10–11. Aspects of elite culture in Ireland during the nineteenth century have been explored in O'Neill, C., Catholics of Consequence: Transnational Education, Social Mobility and the Irish Catholic Elite, 1850–1900 (Oxford, 2014).

28 Godson, L., ‘Charting the material culture of the Devotional Revolution: the Advertising Register of the Irish Catholic Directory 1837–96’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 116C (2016), pp. 265–94, at 276; Lennon, C. and Kavanagh, R., ‘The flowering of the confraternities and sodalities in Ireland, c. 1860 – c. 1960’, in Lennon, C. (ed.), Confraternities and Sodalities in Ireland: Charity, Devotion and Sociability (Dublin, 2012), 7696.

29 Godson, ‘Charting the material culture of the Devotional Revolution’, 5.

30 The wearing of confraternity medals in a later period is explored in L. Godson, ‘Display, sacramentalism and devotion: the medals of the archconfraternity of the Holy Family, 1922–39’, in Lennon (ed.), Confraternities and Sodalities in Ireland, 110–25. The role of public ritual in Roman Catholic life during the twentieth century is also considered in de Cléir, S., Popular Catholicism in Twentieth-Century Ireland: Locality, Identity and Culture (London, 2017).

31 Godson, ‘Display, sacramentalism and devotion’, 4, 14–15.

32 Wilson, A., ‘The building of St Colman's Cathedral, Cobh’, Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, 7 (2004), 233–56; Grimes, ‘Funding a Roman Catholic church in nineteenth-century Ireland’.

33 Nenagh News, 2 Jul. 1898.

34 Ó Gráda, ‘Irish agriculture after the Land War’, 131.

35 The decision to construct the new cathedral is outlined in some detail in Fleming, St John's Cathedral, Limerick, 42–8.

36 Freeman's Journal, 7 Apr. 1858.

37 Nenagh Guardian, 5 Nov. 1892.

38 Fleming, St John's Cathedral, Limerick, 42.

39 In her work on emotion, political rhetoric and the Land War, Anne Kane has explored the importance of emotions within large-scale political gatherings, and has emphasized the mobilization of emotions such as shame, indignation and anger as part of the social movements during this period. This analysis reflects the use of emotional language within the foundation stone sermons. Kane, A., ‘Finding emotion in social movement processes: Irish Land Movement metaphors and narratives’, in Goodwin, J., Jasper, J.M. and Polletta, F. (eds.), Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements (Chicago and London, 2001), 251–66.

40 Freeman's Journal, 31 May 1880.

41 Hayley, B., ‘A reading and thinking nation: periodicals as the voice of nineteenth-century Ireland’, in Hayley, B. and McKay, E. (eds.), Three Hundred Years of Irish Periodicals (Mullingar, 1987), 2948; Kearney, R., Transitions: Collected Irish Essays (Dublin, 2006), 76; Inglis, B., The Freedom of the Press in Ireland, 1784–1841 (London, 1954).

42 Larkin, F.M., ‘“The old woman of Prince's Street”: Ulysses and the Freeman's Journal’, Dublin James Joyce Journal, 4 (2011), 1430.

43 The position of national and particularly provincial newspapers during this period is considered in Legg, M.-L., Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850–1892 (Dublin, 1999). The role of the sermon as a vehicle for political expression and controversy is explored in Whelan, I., ‘The sermon and political controversy in Ireland, 1800–1850’, in Francis, K.A. and Gibson, W. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the British Sermon, 1689–1901 (Oxford, 2014), 169–82.

44 Limerick Chronicle, 3 May 1856. The Limerick Chronicle was one of the oldest provincial newspapers in Ireland, founded in 1766. Horgan describes it as part of a relatively small landscape of Protestant-owned newspapers; see Horgan, J., Irish Media: A Critical History since 1922 (London, 2001), 6.

45 Limerick Chronicle, 3 May 1856.

46 Despite the introduction of the national school system, which was planned as a secular system, in 1831, by 1850 over 90% of schools were under religious management. Hyland, Á., ‘The multi-denominational experience in the national school system in Ireland’, Irish Educational Studies, 8 (1989), 89114. The participation of children and young people in sodalities is discussed in C. Begadon, ‘Confraternities and the renewal of Catholic Dublin, c. 1750 – c. 1830’, in Lennon (ed.), Confraternities and Sodalities in Ireland, 35–56.

47 Nenagh Guardian, 5 Nov. 1892.

48 Freeman's Journal, 31 May 1880.

49 Freeman's Journal, 1 Jul. 1852.

50 The use of a silver trowel by King Edward VII during the foundation stone ceremony at the Royal College of Science on Dublin's Merrion Street in 1904 is described by Dixon, F.E., ‘Civic museum acquisition’, Dublin Historical Record, 37 (1984), 147.

51 Irish Examiner, 13 Mar. 1857. The ‘Quam Delecta’ or ‘Quam Dilecta’ refers to psalm 84 which refers to the beauty of the house of the Lord. It is often sung at the laying of a church foundation stone, and is listed by the Anglican Church of the Province of New Zealand as part of the form for a foundation stone ceremony: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/NZ/part1.htm, accessed 11 Dec. 2016, and was part of the foundation stone ceremony for the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, Kenton in 1935: www.stmaryskenton.org/church-history/st-marysconstruction, accessed 11 Dec. 2016.

52 Irish Examiner, 13 Mar. 1857.

53 Freeman's Journal, 7 Apr. 1858.

54 Ireland, A., ‘Glendalough: the RSAI's contribution to its preservation, examination and illustration’, in Doherty, C., Doran, L. and Kelly, M. (eds.), Glendalough: City of God (Dublin, 2011), 332–48.

55 Limerick Chronicle, 3 May 1856.

56 Kerry Evening Post, 10 May 1856.

57 Ibid.

58 Photographs of decorated streets during the Dillon family wedding celebrations in Ahascragh, Co. Galway, in the Clonbrock Photographic Collection (CLON161) (National Library of Ireland) reflect the kinds of street decorations, usually made from plants or fabric flags and banners, described as forming part of the foundation stone ceremonies. I am grateful to Richard Butler for supplying this reference.

59 Freemans's Journal, 31 May 1880.

60 Potter, M., First Citizens of the Treaty City: The Mayors and Mayorality of Limerick, 1197–2006 (Limerick, 2007), 64.

61 Ibid.

62 Leerssen, J., ‘Monuments and trauma: varieties of remembrance’, in McBride, I. (ed.), History and Memory in Modern Ireland (Cambridge, 2001), 204–22, at 210; Lefebvre, H., ‘The production of space (extracts)’, in Leach, N. (ed.), Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory (Abingdon, 1997), 133.

63 The role of procession as a tool of resistance by groups with less power in society is explored in Busteed, M., ‘Parading the green: procession as subaltern resistance in Manchester in 1867’, Political Geography, 24 (2005), 903–33. While the Roman Catholic church as an institution occupied a very powerful position in Irish society at this time, with membership drawn from a broad range of social classes and backgrounds, Roman Catholics for the most part did not occupy the most powerful positions in society; see O'Neill, Catholics of Consequence.

64 Smithey and Young, ‘Parading protest’, 393–410. In this article, Smithey and Young explore the ‘stickiness’ of symbolic practices associated with power, and the ways in which their institutional position can be adopted and used by groups who desire to claim that power for themselves.

65 Limerick Chronicle, 3 May 1856.

66 The attention of the content of the toasts reflects contemporary sectarian toasts by Grand Juries during and after Catholic Emancipation in 1829. d'Alton, I., ‘Remembering the future, imagining the past: how southern Irish Protestants survived’, in Larkin, F.M. (ed.), Librarians, Poets and Scholars: A Festschrift for Donall O Luanaigh (Dublin, 2007), 212–30, at 217. I am grateful to Richard Butler for suggesting this reference.

67 Kerry Evening Post, 10 May 1856.

68 The concept of a ‘boundary object’ providing a space of shared concern between disparate communities of interest is outlined in Star, S. Leigh and Griesemer, J.R., ‘Institutional ecology, “translations” and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology’, Social Studies of Science, 19 (1989), 387420.

69 Whelan, ‘The sermon and political controversy in Ireland, 1800–1850’, 169–82.

70 Nenagh Guardian, 5 Nov. 1892.

71 The contentious role of the ruined medieval church during this period is explored in more detail in NicGhabhann, N., Medieval Ecclesiastical Buildings in Ireland, 1789–1915: Building on the Past (Dublin, 2015).

72 Ibid.

73 Freeman's Journal, 31 May 1880.

74 Ibid.

75 Nenagh Guardian, 5 Nov. 1892.

76 Freeman's Journal, 31 May 1880.

77 Cultures of religious expansion and conversion in the context of the Anglican church provide a useful context for Roman Catholic culture during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Bremner, G.A., Imperial Gothic: Religious Architecture and High Anglican Culture in the British Empire, c. 1840–1870 (New Haven and London, 2013), 350–63.

78 Morash, C., A History of the Media in Ireland (New York, 2010), 50.

79 Godson, ‘Charting the material culture of the Devotional Revolution’, 28.

‘A development of practical Catholic Emancipation’: laying the foundations for the Roman Catholic urban landscape, 1850–1900

  • NIAMH NICGHABHANN (a1)

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