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The Tree of Remembrance

May 26, 2016  Posted in: Cathedral History

This barren tree seeks to remember all those who have been affected by conflict, anywhere in the world.

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In honour of the World War One centenary, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral unveiled the Tree of Remembrance, the first new war monument in approximately 50 years. While most war monuments in the Cathedral are glamorised and chiefly remember high ranking officers who fought in the British Army, the Tree hopes to remember any and all who were affected by conflict.

War monuments have been added to the fabric of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for hundreds of years. Most remember individuals who fought for the British Army in the 19th century throughout the empire in places such as China, Afghanistan, and Burma. All of these monuments are for men and most for those in the officer class. Many of the monuments in the building represent those whose families have paid to have their relative remembered. These monuments represent a time when war was often glamorised and death through conflict described as “glorious.”

Today, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral takes a very different view of remembrance. Death in wartime is solemnly remembered as a tragic loss of life. Remembrance must be inclusive rather than exclusive. All those who have been affected by violence or conflict are today remembered in the Cathedral. The centenary of World War One prompted us to create a modern monument which reflects this change in perspective. Therefore, in the summer of 2014, the Cathedral unveiled its first new war monument in approximately 50 years – the Tree of Remembrance.

The Tree of Remembrance was erected in the North Transept of the Cathedral. The monument uses a simple, neutral symbol of nature – the tree. However, the tree has been broken and destroyed by war and is made, not from natural materials, but from steel. This is intended to reflect modern industrial warfare. The base of the tree is surrounded by barbed wire, a universal symbol of conflict.

Visitors to the space are invited to remember a loved one who has been affected by conflict by filling out a small leave shaped card and leaving it at the base of the tree. Over time, the tree will be covered with messages of hope.

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