Saturday, March 22, 2014

Angels of Dublin: The Wingéd Victories & O'Connell's Monument

At the heart of Dublin City centre, at the head of what was in 1882 called Sackville Street — the name was changed to O’Connell Street in 1924 — stands the monument to the glory of ‘The Great Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell.

The monument is replete with figures and symbols of Irish history, and is composed is in three distinct sections of stone and bronze sculptures, with the statue of Daniel O’Connell standing at the very top. The middle section comprises a collection of nearly thirty individual figures in a three-dimensional frieze. Represented here are persons from all walks of life including the peasantry and the professions, the arts and the trades, and of course the Catholic Church.

At the forefront of the ring of figures in the frieze is the Maid of Erin. Her left hand holds a parchment bearing the 1829 Act of Catholic Emancipation, and her right arm is poised above her head with her finger pointing to the Great Liberator, Daniel O’Connell.


Although the monument stands 40 feet tall, with the cloaked bronze figure of O’Connell taking up 12 of those 40 feet, it is the angels — wingéd victories, as they were called at their inception — to which I have always been most drawn. From their places seated around the base of Daniel O'Connell's statue, they have fascinated me since I first laid eyes on them on my first trip to Dublin when I was a child. I feel a special sort of connection to them, because of the memories they evoke in my mind, and because they have stood witness to landmark events in Irish history.

Each one of the angels was crafted to represent a virtue most readily associated with Daniel O’Connell — courage, eloquence, fidelity and patriotism. It is said that each one also represents an individual province in Ireland, the provinces being Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connaught.

Three of the angels bear bullet holes — one in its left arm, two with a wound in the chest — markers of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence. The figure of fidelity has an Irish Wolfhound at her feet, a breed of dog which has existed in Ireland since at least the 4th century. Irish Wolfhounds often appear in nationalist images, possibly because the breed is prized for its noble bearing, intelligence and keen ability to recognize the difference between good and evil.





Great fanfare accompanied the unveiling of the monument on 15 August 1882. Thousands of Irish had already descended on the capital for various celebrations. Over 250,000 came to attend the Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition in the Rotunda Gardens, the principal focus of which was Irish products and industry, while others were in Dublin to mark the centenary of Grattan’s Parliament.

It is said that not only did a great roar rise up from ‘ten thousand throats’ as the veil was pulled revealing the monument, but that rain ceased and the sun broke through the clouds to light the monument and reveal it in all of its splendour. Interestingly, none of the winged victories bronzes was present at the time of the unveiling of the monument. Two had already been cast, but the decision was made not to add them until all four were complete. Finally in 1886, the four angels took their rightful place around the base of the plinth.

Those who donated money in order that the monument might come to fruition ranged from the requisite Esquires and Very Reverends to ‘a true Irishman’ and ‘a Liberal Protestant’, as well as a number of benefactors who wished to remain ‘anonymous’. The subscription list in the Report of the O'Connell Monument Committee is a marvellous document to peruse, and is a great little census substitute, so be sure to have a look at it if you are in search of ancestors. Although many entries fall under 'miscellaneous', quite a number include not only the amount donated but also the name and address of the donor.

Especially striking are those donations made by children, with a donation of one penny being given by ‘a widow’s mite’, and a donation of six pence made by “a little boy, it being his Patrick’s Day Contribution”. Members of the Chimney Cleaners’ Association and the Pawnbrokers Assistants’ Association of Dublin are among those who gave monies, along with Bootmakers, Cabinet Makers, school boys and those in the Silk Trade. The subscriptions listed cross all social classes and income levels, and were drawn from all over Ireland, from townlands and counties near and far, and even from beyond Ireland’s shores.

References:

The Campaign for Catholic Emancipation, 1823-1829, University College Cork Multitext History Project, University College Cork.

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 16 August 1882.

The Very Rev. John Canon O'Hanlon, P.P., The Report of the O'Connell Monument Committee, J. Duffy and Co. Ltd., Dublin, 1888. (via the Open Library)

Thanks to Postcardy for suggesting the theme of statues and monuments for this Sepia Saturday #220. Be sure to stop by the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have interpreted today's theme, and perhaps you'll be inspired too.

©irisheyesjg2014.
Click on images to view larger versions.

24 comments:

  1. Great photo's Jennifer, they really capture the beauty of the monument. I love that you caught the pigeon on Daniel's head.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Dara! Over the last seven years I've taken almost 200 photos of the monument — my Dublin obsession — so I do hope these best express the beauty of it, as you've said. Poor Daniel, at the top of it all but in need of a bronze hat. I wish it were possible to gently shoo the pigeons away, although their landing there does bring a little levity to all of it.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  2. A grand monument with statues upon statues! Truly beautiful.

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    1. Thanks for your comments La Nightingail! I second those sentiments.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  3. What a magnificent monument. I would really like to see it one day. Fascinating about the bullet holes. I think I like the angels best of all too and what they represent.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Alex! I hope you do get to see it one day, and I'm glad you like the angels best too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  4. Despite the pigeon on his head, the monument seems very clean. They must be out there every morning before dawn!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Brett! It is remarkably clean, perhaps due in part to Mother Nature and her salty Irish rain. Whatever the cause, I'm glad for it.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  5. A magnificent monument indeed. Loved the Irish Wolfhound.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Bob! The Irish Wolfhound is a favourite of mine too.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  6. Gorgeous monument -- the tiered design, the wonderful sculptures themselves! Wow!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Deb! I second all of your sentiments.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  7. It is amazing how many people contributed money for the old statues and monuments.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Postcardy, and thanks very much for coming up with the inspiration image for this Sepia Saturday! I'm also astonished by the fact that some people gave their last pennies to see such monuments come into being, with the privileged classes and religious elites compelling the poor to be a part of it. It makes me wonder what lies were told to them.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  8. Can you imagine having to replace it in todays economy? The fortune it would cost.

    I love the angels too. Quite lovely.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Tattered and Lost! It is mind-boggling to imagine the cost. Back when the committee was raising the money for O'Connell's monument, the subscriptions resulted in the collection of £12,361 14s. 6d. (Around £10,500 of that was paid to the artist.), pegging it at around £621,425 (just over $1 million USD) in today's currency. I wonder if they would be able to craft it today for such a price, and if so would there be the will to build it? Interesting to contemplate.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  9. All excellent statues, and interesting story, my favorite statue is the one with a dog, very nice.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Karen! The Irish Wolfhound is my favourite as well.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  10. I couldn't help but think what an expensive statue this must have been - so grand - and how far that money could have gone in the Ireland of that time!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Jackie! You make a very good point which speaks to the fact of the Class System in place in the 19th century. Sadly, there would have been little thought of using the money for the greater good, in a time when the privileged classes and the Church could compel the poor to donate to such projects, with no thought of the fact that it would not in any meaningful way benefit them.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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  11. I know so little of Irish history, so this post is especially interesting. I'm always amazed at the thought and planning that go into such complex monuments. If I have no tour guide or guidebook, I miss the point, so thanks for being my tour guide~

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    1. Thanks very much for your comments Wendy! As a historian of Irish history, I am glad you've found the post especially interesting.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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    1. Thanks very much for your comment Little Nell! It is indeed wonderfully detailed.

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

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Cheers, Jennifer

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