Master's Oral Exam - Camille Harrigan, Individualized Program (INDI)
STORIED STONES: ST. PATRICK’S BASILICA
History, Identity, and Memory in Irish Montréal, 1847 - 2017
This thesis will explore the history of a segment of the Irish Catholic population of Montréal by engaging in a micro-study of St. Patrick’s Basilica, one of its religious meeting grounds.
In researching St. Patrick’s as a historical, diasporic, ethnic and memory space, this thesis will examine the past and the present incarnations of a community that has dealt with evolving notions of identities and memories.It is the experiences of Irish Montrealers outside Griffintown, the “lace-curtain” Irish,which will be under analysis here. An investigation into the particulars of St. Patrick’s Church - now a Basilica - provides the perfect nexus to glimpse how this Irish community “above the hill” was formed, fractured,and evolved over the course of a hundred and seventy years.
From attempts at procuring a church in the 1820s to the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in 2017, episodes of institutional construction at St. Patrick’s illustrate how identities and memories were formed and transformed “above the hill,” within the storied stones of St. Patrick’s.
In researching the Basilica’s history, one inevitably contends with its role in fostering Irishness in the city. An analysis of the Church’s prominent role in fashioning the ethnic and class identity of its constituents will form a large segment of the analysis. Irish identities in ideological transition, from Irish-Canadian to Canadian-Irish, will also be uncovered by unveiling the Basilica’s history. This thesis will finally focus on the church as a physical manifestation of Irish presence in Montréal. Despite the changing demographics, and the arrival of new English-speaking Catholics in Québec, the enduring presence of St. Patrick’s Basilica as an Irish landmark in Montréal speaks to its importance as an ethnic monument and a place of pilgrimage for generations of Irish-Quebecers.
The church can therefore be read as a memory scape revealing of the changing identities of the Irish community of Montréal. Exploring the church as a lieu de mémoire, this research will uncover how the Irish community of Montréal has reflected and remembered itself over time.