SYMBOLS Stories of cultural life.

Workshop with Brothers of Charity in Limerick city

Deeper knowledge, learning and new small exhibition.

On Thursday 24th November 2016, a group of people with disabilities visited St. Mary’s Cathedral cemetery in Limerick city. The Cathedral of Saint Mary Blessed Virgin has had a long and eventful history. It was founded in 1168 on the site of a palace donated by Donal Mor O'Brien King of Munster. Experts believe that parts of the palace are incorporated into the present structure of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral has seen many changes as the city expanded around it and it remains today the oldest and most historic building in Limerick. The cemetery features many elaborate graves featuring both above ground and below ground burials; these are rich in symbolism, featuring angels, anchors, urns, shamrocks, a pelican and even a monstrous Hydra.


The participants were aged between 40 and 55. They are part of a group called Brothers of Charity in Limerick city, who work and assist people with special needs and learning disabilities. The group were told about the SYMBOLS project and had the option of joining the activity.

The group were asked to bring cameras to record any of their findings at the cemetery. Upon arrival the group met with Dr. Tracy Fahey, Head of Department in the Limerick School of Art and Design. The group were given information packs, which consisted of images and meanings of the symbols in the graveyard. Dr. Fahey then gave the group a tour of the cemetery and encouraged the participants to use the information packs as a ‘seek and discovery’ resource. Dr. Fahey explained the different symbols on the graves and gave a history of their individual meaning. She also encouraged the group to give their thoughts and opinions on the symbols.

The group then walked from the cemetery to the LSAD campus, approx. 10 minutes’ walk. They met with artist and previous SYMBOLS residency participant in Aviles, Gemma Dardis. She talked to the group about the workshop they would be doing, a process of ceramics called ‘Paper Clay’. They looked at photos they had taken and did some drawings of the symbols they had seen. They were then given a slab of plaster to engrave the image into using a variety of tools. Once completed they used pulped porcelain clay to apply to the carving. When dry the clay is pulled back to reveal an impression of the image. This process was repeated several times. The clay was then put in the kiln and fired at a high temperature. The finished piece is a porcelain plate.


The outcomes for the group was a deeper knowledge of symbols and their meanings. Also, learning a new technique they had never used before to visually describe symbols. We plan on having a small exhibition of their work in their learning facility in the near future. 

The group thoroughly enjoyed the experience. One participant was overwhelmed by the cemetery and found it a very sad place, but enjoyed the activity of making the paper clay pieces. The overall sentiment was very satisfied by the experience as a whole. Rich in engagement and learning outcomes.


Linked guides and points map