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Cathedral’s Armistice installation highlights catastrophic loss of life and futility of war

“We must never, ever give up on praying and searching for reconciliation.” This was the message of the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, at the launch of a temporary installation ‘The Fallen’ which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

‘The Fallen’ was launched in the cathedral yesterday evening (November 1) and continues until December 1. The moving and visually stunning installation is made up of 36,000 leaves suspended on wires from the ceiling. Each leaf represents a life lost in the First World War. The initiative was spearheaded by the cathedral’s education department and supported by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Four years ago a Tree of Remembrance was erected in St Patrick’s marking the centenary of the start of the war. People were invited to leave a message, written on a leaf, in memory of someone who had died as a result of conflict. A total of 220,000 messages were placed on or at the tree – the same number as the number of Irish people who participated in World War I. Of these, 36,000 were randomly selected and a group, led by artist Ciara Ní Cheallachán who came up with the concept, threaded them onto wires.

“These messages were written by people from the four corners of the earth and that for me expresses solidarity from nation to nation among all right thinking people that conflict must be overcome and that peace must be established even in the most unlikely of situations,” Dean William Morton said.

“The sheer visual impact of 36,000 leaves, each representing a life and behind each life there was a family, relatives, friends, communities in mourning. There were hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future that were never realised. In addition there was the heartache of hearing the news that their loved one had been killed. A life lost for every leaf – can we comprehend the horror of such a loss,” he added. “This installation galvanises our resolve that we must never, ever give up on praying and searching for reconciliation even when it is against the odds. It has also drawn our attention to the catastrophic loss of life and the futility of war.”

The launch event was compared by RTE’s Bryan Dobson. Acclaimed writer Jennifer Johnston who wrote the first message on the Tree of Remembrance when it was launched, read a letter written by her uncle from the front at Gallipoli, where he was killed. Historian Turtle Bunbury gave a reflection on the Irish experience of World War I and many of the personalities involved. He mentioned that 31 men from nearby Bride Street were killed in the war. Poets Jane Clarke and Jessica Traynor read from their work. Music came from one of the cathedral’s choristers and organist David Leigh.

‘The Fallen’ can been seen throughout November during normal cathedral opening hours. Normal cathedral admission applies.

  • The Fallen volunteers who threaded 36,000 leaves: Celia Kenny, Monica Baird, Annette Byrne, Ciara Ní Cheallachán (artist), Joan Sugrue, Nuala Cannon, Susan Nasstrom, Gabrielle Gilligan, Tracie White and Meriel Reeves.
  • The Fallen installation as viewed from the Lady Chapel.
  • Dean William Morton.