Croagh Patrick, also known as the Reek and, in Irish, Cruach Phádraig, is a mountain located in southwest Co. Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. Evidence suggests that it has been a site of religious significance since at least Neolithic times, and it became an international destination for Christian pilgrims in the Middle Ages, as references in historical records to fasting by pilgrims on its summit in the 12th century attest.
Of central importance to the mountain's Christian significance is its association with Saint Patrick, who is said to have visited the mountain and fasted there for 40 days in the 5th century. He is also believed to have fought demons and serpents on the mountaintop, ultimately banishing them from Ireland. In the 19th, the site had evidently declined in popularity, only to experience a strong revival in the late 1800s. By the 20th century, it had regained a powerful visibility as a religious destination in Ireland, a role supplemented by its popularity for recreational visits. In the 1990s, the discovery of commercially viable gold deposits in the mountain raised the specter--not realized, for now--of mineral extraction at the Reek, a highly controversial prospect.
The aim of this course project will be to research and assemble a composite spatial understanding of four major themes associated with Croagh Patrick. One, historical, will look at its human use (including construction of churches and its revitalization in the 19th-20th centuries); another will assemble a spatial view of its mythological meaning in folklore. A third will look at its economic fortunes, including ownership of the land in the area and recent mineral controversies. Finally, a fourth will look at its use as a Christian pilgrimage site, mapping out its religious geography as used in the past 200 years.
Approach and Plan
Students will be divided according to their interest in working on each of the four research projects noted above (historical, mythological, economic, religious). We will meet as a class throughout the semester (every 3rd week) to discuss this work, suggest resources, and review findings. Students will be assessed individually based on their research notes and final write-ups of the information they've uncovered, along with the creativity and detail offered in their approach to the spatial depiction of their findings. That spatial picture will take the form of a GIS-based website that will display the class findings in an interactive map form, using toggled layers to move among our four landscapes. Students need not have any technical expertise, although we will all compile ideas on how to design and complete the web page.
Grading and Assignments
Students will need to turn in two items for assessment. The first, a detailed research plan, will consist of a thorough annotated bibliography, a written sketch of the content to be included in their map layer, and a list of spatial points to be included on their map. The second item to turn in, due at the end of the semester, is the completed web content (minimum: 3,500 word count) to be added to the site.