Magical shrine to Celtic art part of Open House weekend
Some say that shopping has become the new religion and in certain parts of Ireland intensive development has brought retail and religious life face-to-face That happened in Dun Laoghaire when the Bloomfield shopping centre was being built in the early 1990s on the grounds of a Dominican convent. While most of the order’s buildings were being demolished, a group of people (the likes of whom the world must be ever grateful for) fought for the preservation of a tiny Oratory whose simple exterior hid a large and stunning example of Celtic revival art: a testimony to human spirit, drive and creativity.
The Oratory was built in 1919 at the end of the first World War in thanksgiving for peace and also as a war memorial. It was constructed by Louis Monks, who was responsible for a number of buildings in Dun Laoghaire, and he perhaps even designed this one. The ‘decoration’ in the simple building was limited to a statue of the Sacred Heart, which was brought over from France, taking centre place amid the pale plaster walls and (then) concrete floor. But now this gold icon has become just one element in an elaborate, multi-coloured, melodic medley of interlacing patterns and multiple symbols, including grinning snakes, and birds whose necks and beaks curl to create Celtic rings.