Sitting with St Ignatius
A bronze statue of St Ignatius Loyola was launched in Belvedere College SJ, Dublin City, on Friday 7 October 2022 to mark the 500th anniversary of his conversion. It depicts the Jesuit founder on a modern bench and was created by sculptor John Coll (pictured with a student), well known for his statues of Patrick Kavanagh at the Grand Canal and of Brendan Behan at the Royal Canal. The Board of Management at Belvedere College SJ commissioned the statue two years ago as part of the widespread celebrations of the saint, who experienced a ‘conversion’ moment during his convalescence after being hit by a cannonball at the Battle of Pamplona in Spain.
John Coll, educated by the Jesuits at Coláiste Iognáid in Galway, had a clear concept of the kind of image that he wanted to portray. In an interview with Patsy McGarry of the Irish Times, he said:
“Being a ‘Jes boy’ from Galway I had a bit of an idea on the life of Ignatius Loyola. Further research revealed that his death mask existed in Rome as did his shoes which spoke to me of humility and hard work.
So, with these aspects in mind, I sculpted an older Ignatius, an approachable figure relaxing at the end of the day’s work. So my plan is to echo the past in the figure of Ignatius in bronze and the future in the modern medium of [a] stainless steel bench.”
Like the statues of Kavanagh and Behan, it features the saint sitting on a bench and invites Belvedere students to sit awhile and rest. The statue and bench is now installed in the courtyard of the college on a raised plinth overlooking the yard where students and staff gather every day.
The unveiling of the statue was enjoyed by hundreds of students on Friday morning. John Coll met art students after the presentation to talk about the statue and how it was produced.
Pádraig Swan, Director of Faith and Service Programmes at Belvedere, shared his vision of the statue with the whole school. He said:
“I see the bench and Ignatius becoming an integral part of our community. On match days Ignatius will be adorned in the Black and White colours of the college.
Students will have lunch next to him, take a break and just rest in the sunshine with him, chat with him about their own pilgrimage of life, and for our graduating classes I see the ‘must have’ signature photo of a group of friends and family gathered around Ignatius.
This statue and bench will outlive us all and be a reminder of our Ignatian Year 2021-22. It will serve generations of Belvederians and staff for decades and centuries to come – our children and our grandchildren.
We are deeply grateful to the Board of Management who commissioned this piece, to the talent and workmanship of the artist and sculptor John Coll and Bronze Art Ireland who cast the statue. And we are deeply grateful to Ignatius for his inspiring legacy which sustains us today and everyday.”