Sacred Heart

Location: The Liberties, Dublin, Leinster, Ireland

This structure was originally a Victorian drinking fountain, number 20, manufactured by Walter Macfarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Scotland and bears little resemblance to the original casting.


A horse trough and drinking fountain were erected in 1884 at the intersection of Reginald and Gray Streets. The cost of the fountain was paid for by subscriptions from the Corporation of Dublin, The Fountain Committee, and the Artisans Dwellings Company (established by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness to build housing for the working class.)

During the War of Independence the eagle finial at the top of the dome was destroyed with a shot from the Tans (the Black and Tans were a force of temporary constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence.)

The drinking font was replaced with a statue of the Sacred Heart in 1929 to commemorate the Centenary of Catholic Emancipation as recorded in the base of the Sacred Heart statue. ‘Erected By / The Parishioners./ Of / St. Catherine’s, / To The Honour And / Glory Of God / And / In Commemoration / Of The Centenary / Of The Emancipation / 1929.’ A cartouche on the front arch displays the year of the statue’s installation.

The fountain once again changed form when a furniture lorry collided with the structure. It remained in a state of ruin until it was restored by replacing the open fretwork canopy with a solid copper dome in preparation of the Papal visit in 1979. It was rededicated as recorded in a second engraving in the base of the statue: ‘Restored / To Mark The Visit Of / Pope John Paul II / To The Liberties / 29th Sept. 1979’. At this period in history the location of the shrine was used to recite the Rosary each night, and the annual celebration of Corpus Christi (a moveable feast between May and June) is still celebrated there.

The structure has been listed on the Record of Protected Structures #3326.

The canopied drinking fountain is design number 20, an elaborate 18 feet by 4 feet fountain, sold by Walter Macfarlane & Co, and manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland. Seated on a double octagonal plinth, the open filigree canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which are positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases.

The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings. Cartouches contained within each lunette displayed alternate images of cranes and swans and offered shields for memorial. On each side arch faceplates provided a flat surface for an inscription using raised metal letters; often the useful monition, Keep the pavement dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains.

Doves and flowers offered decorative relief, and the internal capitals contain flowers. The ribbed dome was open filigree with an eagle finial at the apex.

Under the canopy stands the font (design number 18.) A circular shaft, ornamented with water lilies, rests on a wide base with canted corners. Four lion jambs support four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. Rising from the centre is a pyramid shaped stanchion decorated with swan and bird decoration. The most common terminal was a kylix-shaped lamp with four consoles offer drinking cups suspended by chains.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; lions are symbolic of guardianship; owls are symbolic of guardians of the afterlife, and eagles represent immortality.



  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Cartouche, a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Griffin, winged lion denotes vigilance and strength, guards treasure and priceless possessions
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Kylix, a Grecian style drinking cup
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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