The Pope, the Park, and the City: Dublin, 1979

Gary Boyd, Brian Ward

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The 29th September 1979 saw over a million people gathering in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to celebrate the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland. An enormous demonstration of Irish religiosity, the 1979 Papal Mass was the last of a triad of Catholic festivals in the Phoenix Park. It followed the centenary of Catholic Emancipation (1929) and the Eucharistic Congress (1932), both of which also included congregational processions through the city. In contrast, the 1979 events were confined to the park and consequently Dublin and its suburbs were virtually empty.

This paper explores the socio-spatial complexities and connectivities of the two cities created that day: the architecture of spectacle created by Scott Tallon Walker within the park; and the vacated city, depicted as a space of disorder and dissent in subsequent works by William Trevor, Aodhan Madden and Johnny Gogan. Both spaces are fictive. But read together they seem to define a past and future for the island, situating the architectures of the papal visit as the fulcrum of a nation whose secularisation, like its previous religiosity, is at once contradictory and incomplete.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitecture, Festival and the City
EditorsJemma Browne, Christian Frost, Ray Lucas
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780429432125
ISBN (Print)9781138362345, 9781138362338
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2018

Publication series

NameCritiques: Critical Studies in Architectural Humanities


  • festival
  • spectacle
  • event
  • religion
  • Catholicism
  • modern architecture


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