My posts have digressed more and more away from the idea of the blog, so I'm returning to square one: the Axis Mundi. More specifically, the physical one.
Joseph Campbell once said that an effective rule of thumb for determining who controls a region is to ascertain what the the tallest building is. In the middle ages, the tallest structure was always the church, from the Hagia Sophia to the village parish. In the industrial revolution, the tallest structures became the buildings of the state. Now, the tallest buildings are the skyscrapers, the centers of finance.
Campbell had an unfortunate tendency to overgeneralize, but in the case of the Axis Mundi of the of the French, he is 100% correct. As for the Axis Mundi of the Irish, he's utterly, dead wrong.
The Axis Mundi of the French world is the easiest.
What were you expecting, a giant metal frog?
The Eiffel Tower from its construction to this day has been the tallest structure in Paris. Aside from a few transmitting towers and a bridge, it is the tallest structure in France. It is interesting to note how vigorously the French have defended their Axis Mundi from any possible contenders. The Tour Montparnasse, the lone skyscraper in the city limits of Paris (and still shorter than the Eiffel), was so hated that laws were passed forbidding any future skyscraper construction within the city limits.
The Axis Mundi of Irish Catholicism, and by extension most of Irish history, has been St. Patrick's Cathedral. Though not the tallest, the largest church in Ireland has been deaned by Jonathan Swift. Handel's Messiah saw its premiere in this building. The city with arguably the 2nd largest population of Irish in the world, New York, has its own.
St. Patrick's, lookin' feckin' majestic an' all that bollocks
A comically oversaturated image of St. Patrick's in New York.
It's interesting to compare the two by height. Dublin's dominates its landscape (the picture's a bit misleading, it's in a city), as Irish Catholicism dominated the country up until only the last generation or two. New York's is a midget, lost in the ocean of buildings and people that comprise Manhattan.
Still, the height issue does have some significance. An observational tower is the tallest building one has access to in Dublin today. The second-tallest? The pub atop the Guinness Storehouse. And many hackles are being raised by Bono of U2's plan to make his new recording studio the tallest building in the entire country.