Anyone who has traveled any distance in Ireland will know that you don’t have to wander very far before you encounter a Marian shrine or grotto of some variety. These come in all shapes and sizes, pop up in the most random places and often seem to follow some vernacular styling.
Although the ones I pass regularly merge so seamless into the urban/rural fabric that I often don’t even notice them, I do sometimes wonder who owns and maintains them [I have yet to see a run down or derelict shrine] and question their place in contemporary Ireland, especially in light of recent religious scandals and even removals by state agencies.
A resent conversation regarding these road side shrines got me wondering if there was a map of these structures, after an unsuccessful web search I took a look at Open Street Map. Although OSM has a tag there are very few locations tagged with this throughout the country, and even with the ones that are the seem to be wide ranging, from holy wells and mass rocks to memorials to road fatalities and even with these the only data that is available is their co-ordinates and a name, it would be interesting to know what they looked like, so it seemed I was out of luck. 
Then came the realisation that given that the majority of these shrines are ‘road side’ by their nature, their locations and images would have been captured on Google’s Street View.
Over the weekend I put together an interactive map which would allow people to view and add to a map these shrines, and the result…
Ireland’s roadside shrines and grottos as captured by Google Street View
I already have a few ideas that could put this crowd-sourced data to use, or if it is of interest you are welcome to the location data.
So if you know of any sites that are not on the map, please add them by clicking the ‘Add Shrine’ at the top right of the page.
Someone just added a number of shrines in Co. Donegal #16 #17 #18 #19 which are a great example of vernacular design, these are clearly of a similar design and totally unlike anything familiar to Munster.
Eoin o’Mahony made contact, he is currently reading for his PhD at NUI Maynooth on Marian statues in Dublin, and he has compiled a map with the locations of the Marian statues in Dublin.
Ok, it has become clear that trying to capture specific location views like these accurately using Street View is not without it’s issues. What the Street Pew site does is store the latitude, longitude, heading, pitch and zoom for each location, in order to display the view it requests the closest street view panorama for the location. While this works for most it seems that some of these locations change, either that or we have more moving statues !
In addition I suspect that once Google update their street view imagery all of these views could be off, will wait and see…
Photographer Steve Ryan has been documenting these sites as part of his Sometimes they move project which are also available in a book
I have added a heatmap view for the sites which have been added to Street Pew, it would be interesting to see the dispersal if all the site around the country were mapped.
Thank you for this website. I just returned from Ireland and I was delighted to see the roadside shrines. I’m so glad you have made a record of them.
This Article was mentioned on streetpew.vool.ie