Gothic Ireland explored at Roscrea at the 53rd Roscrea Conf
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A large and appreciative audience from all over the island of Ireland enjoyed the in depth exploration of Gothic Architecture in Ireland from the middle ages to the nineteenth century during the 53rd Roscrea conference at the Cistercian Abbey of Mt St Joseph recently
A large and appreciative audience from all over the island of Ireland enjoyed the in depth exploration of Gothic Architecture in Ireland from the middle ages to the nineteenth century during the 53rd Roscrea conference at the Cistercian Abbey of Mt St Joseph last weekend. The proceedings were really a tour de horizon of the Gothic architecture of Ireland both the early Gothic and the later, known as neo or new Gothick. Churches and castles, abbeys and friaries all were examined and set in context by a brilliant panel of lecturers: some young scholars like Danielle O’Donovan, Caroline McGee and Niamh Nic Ghabhann; and others – almost household names - Peter Harbison, Roger Stalley and Rachel Moss. There too to keep the local flag flying was Birr scholar Margaret Hogan who led the field trip on the Saturday afternoon to Birr Library, and the churches of the Catholic and Church of Ireland communities, all wonderful examples of late Gothic architecture and decoration.
George Cunningham launched the new book Gothic Architecture in Ireland at the recent Roscrea conference. The editor Prof Roger Stalley is to his right and the painting overhead is of Dom Laurence Walsh former abbot of MSJ who also spoke at the conference
The conference delved not just into medieval studies but also into the nineteenth century which was very much to the fore. Excellent presentations were given on church building in the nineteenth century for the various denominations. Did you know that approximately 3000 new RC churches or chapels were built during the nineteenth century in Ireland or that 14000 stations of the cross were bought from over seas firms?
A case study of Charleville Castle Tullamore, a nineteenth-century neo gothic building, was presented by Ms Judith Hill who is also studying the building of the present structure at Birr Castle.
Dom Laurence Walsh ocso welcomed the participants on the Friday evening to the monastery and also gave an illustrated presentation on the building of the Abbey throughout its various stages, and also included phases in the building of the Cistercian college.
The major new book, Gothic Architecture in Ireland, edited by Prof Roger Stalley was launched on the Saturday evening with the conference director George Cunningham doing the honours. All but one of the contributors to that work were present during the weekend. The Saturday colophon by George Cunningham dealt with some rarities and oddities from his own library.
Well up there with the best of the conferences’ was the remark frequently heard at the closing sessions on Sunday. High praise indeed when one considers the quality that has been achieved down the years since the conference’s inception in 1987. ‘53 not out’ is a fair record.
In summing up on the Sunday the Director quoting Seamus Heaney, ‘Time to be dazzled and the Heart to Lighten’ which was indeed an apt quote for the whole weekend.
The conference is run by Roscrea People in association with Roscrea Heritage Society. Book sales at very attractive conference prices were handled by Jerry Cahir. Carmel Cunningham and Maureen Cahir managed registration. Both guesthouses at the Abbey were full up to Friday when unforeseen cancellations happened. Other participants stayed locally and at Birr.
The 54rd Roscrea conference at the end of April in 2014 will concentrate on Women in Early Christian Ireland.