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Architect of the biggest Mass ever seen in Ireland - The Irish News
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Lives Remembered

Architect of the biggest Mass ever seen in Ireland


AT the beginning of August 1979, Ronnie Tallon received a call from the Archbishop of Dublin asking him to prepare an outdoor venue to celebrate Mass for more than one million people.

The Church had just had confirmation that Pope John Paul II was coming to Ireland in eight weeks' time and an architect was urgently needed to design and build a setting in the Phoenix Park.

Tallon, the most celebrated architect of his day, wanted a fitting focus for the historic occasion and decided on a towering Papal Cross which would be visible from the furthest reaches of the vast congregation.

The 30-ton, 125-foot-high steel monument, requiring 5km of welding, was the largest possible structure that could be erected by the biggest mobile crane in Ireland and was set on a podium covered by a one-acre carpet from Co Antrim delivered in three lorries. Tallon then made all other arrangements for a quarter of the population of Ireland to be safely brought together on September 29, receiving a Papal knighthood for his efforts the following year.

It was just one of many awards showered on the intensely modest Dubliner during an illustrious career which saw him recognised as one of the greatest architects in Irish history. The son of a shopkeeper,

Tallon was interested in art as a boy and began his career with the Office of Public Works, before joining the practice that would become Scott Tallon Walker in 1956. He was soon playing a leading role in building the new Ireland of the Lemass era.

His flat-roofed glass church at Knockanure in Co Kerry was the country's first completely modern church. Other significant buildings included the Carroll's factory in Dundalk, the Bank of Ireland headquarters in Dublin, the Lisney offices on St Stephen's Green, and the

RTE campus at Donnybrook. One of his last designs was the Aviva Stadium at Lansdowne Road.

In 2010 the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland presented him with a lifetime achievement award, saying that "more than any single architect, he created the image of modern Ireland, helping to usher in a new era and mould its evolving character with idealism."

Ronnie Tallon died aged 87 on June 22 and is survived by his wife Nora, five children and 22 grandchildren.

Lives Remembered
Irish News
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