Transatlantic threads

Cuala Workshop, 133 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin c. 1932 (The Sixth Station, The face of Jesus is wiped by Veronica, is visible in the background).

 

 

The discovery of a set of embroideries from 1932 highlights a period during which the new Irish State was presenting a religious and ancient identity to the outside world, writes William Shortall

A set of embroideries commissioned by Nobel laureate William Butler Yeats and executed by his sister, Lily, for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress has recently come to light in America. This rare needlework tells a story of Irishness, religiosity and a transatlantic arts and crafts journey.

The 1932 Eucharistic Congress, a celebration of Catholicism and the Eucharist (Christ’s presence in Mass), was the largest spectacle ever held in the Irish State. The religious celebrations also commemorated the arrival of St Patrick to Ireland in 432 AD, adding a uniquely Irish angle to the international event. Its acme was the celebration of mass by the Papal legate, Cardinal Laurie, in the Phoenix Park, which was attended by over one million people. The Irish Free State government, across a variety of departments, indirectly provided ‘considerable’ funding and fully endorsed the event.

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