28 July 2014

Exhibition in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
marks centenary of World War I

Poppies springing up in the grit, the soil and the grass ... World War I began on 28 July 1914 (Photograph: Patrick Cometrford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

On 28 July 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Although Britain did not declare war on Germany until 4 August 1914, today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. “Lives Remembered” is a new exhibition at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, exploring the Cathedral’s connections with World War I.

The exhibition is being officially opened this evening [Monday 28 July 2014] by the author Jennifer Johnston, and remains in place for the four years that mark the centenary of World War I until 2018.

The exhibition, located in the north transept of the cathedral, looks at how the congregation was affected by war, those remembered in the monuments and windows in the cathedral, and at the role Saint Patrick’s Cathedral plays in remembrance of those lost to conflict.

At the centre of the exhibition is a new monument, the Tree of Remembrance, a tribute to all affected by conflict. This sculpted steel tree is surrounded by barbed wire as a reminder of the ugliness and brutality of conflict.

The Tree of Remembrance was designed by Andrew Smith, the cathedral Education Officer and curator of the exhibition, and was executed by Bushy Park Ironworks. This monument differs from the other monuments in the cathedral in that it is inclusive. Plaques in different languages around the base of the monument invite people to leave messages of remembrance for a loved one affected by conflict, tying on small tags with thoughts, memories or prayers for loved ones.

Andrew hopes that over the next four years the barbed wire will be replaced by a wall of messages of hope.

An audiovisual facility using tablets shows videos of interviews on a number of themes, including the effects 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.

My own contribution is a short interview with Andrew in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, looking at the just war theory and asking whether it needs to be readdressed in the nuclear age.

Fourteen 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 Saint Patrick’s.

There is more information about the exhibition on the website of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

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