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Sacred Heart lamp, 1960s

The Sacred Heart lamp has been a feature of the traditional Catholic home in Ireland since the 19th century devotional revolution. Originally an oil lamp in a small red globe, it usually hung on a kitchen wall and was kept burning perpetually as a sign of devotion. The image was usually a mass produced print of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, sometimes personalised with the names of the family. They varied in size and compostion, but the lamps usually sat on a bracket or a shelf, sometimes with offerings of flowers. Devotion to the Sacred Heart was very popular in Ireland before Vatican II, with several confraternities dedicated to it.
Rural electrification meant that, along with more prosaic lighting, the Sacred Heart lamp could be converted to electricity. Perpetually burning without intervention, some lamps, such as this one, were plugged into a nearby socket, while others were wired directly into the mains.

Listen to Rosemary Connolly talk about the process of upgrading her family’s Sacred Heart Lamp to electricity:
Rosemary Connolly interviewed by Geraldine O’Connor in Clones, County Monaghan, February 2017


A very modern version of the Sacred Heart lamp, this example has both the image and the lamp mounted onto a wooden back board. Both the wood-effect laminate and the gold edging are typical of 1960s interiors, and give the lamp a very modern update into the 20th century.

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