Edmund Rice Icon

The Icon

The Edmund Rice Icon by Desmond Kyne is a modern interpretation of aspects of the story and vision of Edmund. In the main panel Edmund is portrayed as a compelling figure, his compassionate eyes reaching to the horizon.

Enfolding Edmund's head is a dramatic intimation of the beginning that never was and the ending that never shall be. It is expressed in the spiral, the ancient Celtic symbol of divinity/infinity. God the Father is symbolized in a great, wheeling circle afire with the flame of love. Edmund is enveloped in the mystery of the Trinity, above him the Father, beside him the Son, within him the Holy Spirit.

In a daring transformation of the traditional, the artist depicts Jesus looking directly at Edmund.

The many presences of the Holy Spirit - more than twenty throughout the icon - indicate how profoundly Edmund has allowed the Spirit to move through his being and his action.

The image of Mary, in reflecting many images - the Eastern Church, Chestokowa, the Celtic tradition - gives a fresh understanding of Mary as mother. Her position in the icon suggests her special place in Edmund's life.

There is darkness in the icon in the malevolent spirit which hangs threateningly over the goodness of the people and their land. And there is fear, too - the serpent symbolises the power of evil.


Edmund's left land caresses his handicapped daughter, Mary, and draws her close to him. She is a central figure in the mystery and meaning of brokenness and suffering.


With his right hand, in a gesture of response, Edmund extends his fatherliness beyond his family to a distressed boy who represents a multitude of poor, illiterate and disadvantaged children. 
The power of God working through Edmund is symbolized by the lightning.

At Edmund's feet are the symbols of spiritual blessing: the seven- tongued flame of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Lamb of God, an image of serenity and sacrifice.

In the background of the main panel are (clockwise): the four provinces of Ireland; Edmund's home in Callan and his early instruction in spiritual things; the importance of the support of Bishop Hussey; the site of his business activities in Waterford; Mount Sion, its lighted windows symbolising hope; and the seven stars representing his early companions in mission, as exemplified by the community established in North Richmond Street, Dublin.

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