Mon, Aug
1 New Articles

Monument on mountain ‘could create tourism boost’

Timothy Schmalz’s 100-foot monument could resemble this rough draft which he has released.
Timothy Schmalz’s 100-foot monument could resemble this rough draft which he has released.

Monument on mountain could ‘create tourism boost’

Áine Ryan

A MONUMENTAL statue of Saint Patrick on top of holy mountain, Croagh Patrick could bring thousands of extra visitors to Mayo and even increase Ireland’s overall attractiveness as a tourism destination. Brian Quinn, of Fáilte Ireland, says a proposed 100-foot statue by American sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, ‘has merit’ and should be debated by the many stakeholders with an interest in the holy mountain.
“Croagh Patrick needs to be sold more as an iconic tourism destination that the majority of tourists to Ireland visit and climb. We should, at least, have a discussion about Timothy Schmalz’s proposal to build this giant statue. Of course,   the hard part would be agreeing on what was acceptable,” Brian Quinn said yesterday.  In last week’s edition we revealed Schmalz’s plans for a 100-foot statue on the pyramidal peak. The Mayo News can now confirm that the colossus will cost €10 million and could be ready for Saint Patrick’s Day 2015.
Internationally renowned sculptor, Timothy Schmalz has already created a statue of Saint Patrick for the basilica at Knock, and several other statues in Dublin, including one of ascetic, Matt Talbot, at the Pro-Cathedral. 
Schmalz says he hopes that United States benefactors will pay for the statue, which is comparable in size to Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue (99ft). He has likened the concept to the Statue of Liberty, which was gifted to the US by the people of France in 1886.
“I have already received interest from as far away as the Middle East and Canada, and plan to start work on the model this St Patrick’s Day. I believe Croagh Patrick is the obvious location for the statue since it is one of the most beautiful places on earth and has such a rich association with St Patrick,” he said. 
“Creating a world-class monument there would really make the county visible and boost the economy,” Timothy Schmalz added.
However, he may have to say a few novenas to bring some local stakeholders on side since some reaction to the ambitious idea has been rather muted. As reported in last week’s Mayo News, the renowned sculptor has not yet shared his idea with Mayo County Council, the local authority that will have to process any planning application. While the Catholic church owns the small oratory on the Reek’s pyramidal 765 metre peak, the lands on the mountain are held in commonage and owned by a number of local farmers. This has led to confusion over who is responsible for safety issues on the treacherous path, particularly on the cone. 

Colourful history
IRELAND’S holy mountain has increasingly become a venue for a plethora of colourful events – many of which have no relationship with its rich cross-millennial story that subsumes the seasonal religious rituals of Neolithic, Celtic and Christian festivals. As a result there has been serious concerns highlighted about the safety of the steep pathway but responsibility for its upkeep remains unclear. 
The last time a major construction occurred on the peak of the mountain was when the present oratory was built by 12 local men in 1905, at a cost of €100. Materials for the tiny church were hauled up its steep sides in creels on the back of donkeys.
Various proposals to mine gold on the mountain have failed but a Donegal TD, Joe McHugh, managed to erect his county’s flag at the peak just before the gold and greens beat the Mayo team in the All-Ireland GAA final of 2011. As far as The Mayo News is aware Saint Patrick, who according to legend banished Ireland’s snakes during his 40-day pilgrimage on the mountain in 441AD,  has not intervened so far in any of these rather secular occurrences. Whether he has made a sign about Schmalz’s giant statue remains a mystery.

HAVE YOUR SAY email aineryan@mayonews.ie with your comments