John Lavery, Irish, 1856-1941
Title: Saint Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg
Medium: Oil on canvas on board
60.5 x 50.5 cm
Signed: lower right: 'SAINT PATRICK'S PURGATORY' With many compliments/from John Lavery/29th April 1939/to Monsignore Vance
Credit Line: Purchased, 1999
Object Number: NGI.4666
DescriptionSt Patrick spent forty days fasting and praying on an island near Donegal, now known as St Patrick's Purgatory. Pilgrims have come since the 6th century and over 20,000 still visit today during the main season from June to August. Its fame is shown by being one of the few non-coastal features on the earliest modern map of Ireland, Martin Waldseemüller's in 1513.
A day of fasting is followed by three days of prayers, walking barefoot around the crosses laid out on the island and an all-night Vigil in the Basilica, the only sustenance tea and toast. Lavery was there, and allowed to keep his boots on, in 1928, when there was summer weather. He later gave this memento to Monsignore Vance, which is more suggestive of the ususal wind-swept experience, as figures gather at the crosses.