The Grandeur and Mysteriousness of Architecture

Joyce mentions St. Catherine’s in the story “Little Sisters” when stating that Reverend James Flynn served at the religious institution: “Two poor women and a telegram boy were reading the card pinned on the crape. I also approached and read: July 1st, 1895 The Rev. James Flynn (formerly of S. Catherine’s Church, Meath Street), aged sixty-five years. R.I.P.” (12). In this text, St. Catherine’s is placed in the middle of tragedy, as well as an eeriness due to the fact that readers never know the pastor’s cause of death.

When observing St. Catherine’s Church on Google Earth, it exudes a kind of grandeur and mysteriousness that parallels the tone in Joyce’s text. Even the building’s shades range from a light grey to a darker, somber grey at the top of the church. This upward “ombre” grey shade is present in the windows’ colorings as well. This slight shift in color presents not only some luxury in its design, but its gray tone evokes somberness and eeriness.

Moreover, the church’s doorway is dome-shaped: while this is typical of many high-class architecture landscapes, it simultaneously sparks me to think of Dracula’s home architecture. Though traditional and grandiose, the door is also foreboding. This same foreboding nature is also subtly present in the sharp edges of the chapel’s lines and structure.

These are just a few details that provide a deeper, more impactful context to Joyce’s “Little Sisters.” With this in mind, architecture is powerful in furthering literature’s tones and emotional impact. By mentioning St. Catherine’s in his story, Joyce plays with the blended relationship between literature and architecture.

1 Comment

  1. I really liked your focus on how the architecture communicates Joyce’s themes. I think Gothic architecture is so meaningful and expressive in its ornamentation. I think your emphasis on the door is super interesting. The door is so large that it invites you to come inside, but also says that you should do so with caution. There is a recurring theme about the uneasiness of religious institutions in Joyce’s work that is especially prominent in the character of the priest. I think this building is a great embodiment of that.

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