‘Ruins are not empty. They are sacred places full of presence’ – John O’ Donoghue

I found this quote at the beginning of  ‘A History of Celbridge’ and I wanted to know what you think of it.

A part of me wants to shout down this quote as stupid. How can ruins be sacred and full of presence? People lived there before and may have been around too, but now they are cold, dark and empty and say or do nothing. It is only people that bring places to life. You don’t see people looking at my disused garage with nostalgia. Most people pass over lesser known ruins. Basically they are not sacred and are most definitely empty.

Another part of me disagrees with this however. I’m the first to admit I really dislike people imposing meaning and importance onto places which in my opinion have none. But what is it that makes me turn my head every time I pass a monument, or an object from the past I’ve spotted hundreds of times? Is it because it is ‘sacred’? Is it because people lived there before or attached importance to it before? There are plenty of ruined cottages in the countryside nobody cares about, but what makes Newgrange, or the Rock of Cashel, Two of Ireland’s biggest tourist attractions, so, well…attracting? If you look at the model of Newgrange in the information centre you see fact, and imagination. Images and models of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle are pictured.People look up inside the tomb and silently (or not )sigh an ‘AH’. They envisage presence, they feel a sacred space.

What do you think? Have you felt sacred space, or presence?
Share your thoughts.

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4 comments on “‘Ruins are not empty. They are sacred places full of presence’ – John O’ Donoghue

  1. geoff says:

    I like your writing style. What sort of visitor do you hope to attract?

  2. Thanks Geoff. I’m not sure really. I’m genuinely open to people’s responses, which is why I shared over the social media too. Your opinion is earerly anticipated….:)

  3. daithi82 says:

    I think it is natural for us to impose some degree of meaning on ruins. Perhaps the reason some attract more attention than others is because of the scale. Thinking about this today I also wondered if some part of our brain recognises when a site held some sort of religious or ritual importance. Even the most cynical would have to admit to feeling some connection with the past when atanding in some ancient ruins.

  4. Agreed, but why? Is it a case that people wonder where they came from…

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