Belvelly Castle owners go for gold with stunning sculpture

Cork’s famous goldie fish is about to get a run for its money thanks to the new kings of this castle.

The owners of historic Belvelly Castle near Fota in East Cork have crowned it with a striking work of art, complete with a golden tree.

The stunning Orla de Brí piece, Quiet Listening, which features a deep-in-thought bronze figure facing the 24-carat gold leaf-plated tree, has been positioned on the roof of the imposing 80-foot high protected structure as the massive castle restoration nears completion.

It is hoped the scaffolding will be dismantled in the coming days to reveal what has been a real labour of love for the castle’s owners, Garry and Anne Wilson, who have spent a small fortune transforming the 13th-century medieval tower house into a dream home.

Meath-based sculptor, Ms de Brí, said she was delighted to work on something so special. “We met at Belvelly over a year ago and they told me all about this exciting project and the history of the castle,” she said.

“I spent a long time thinking about the different lives the castle has had.

“I’m sure it has experienced many happy times but it has also had a history of battles, takeovers, and torture and so I wanted to make a positive and reflective piece.

“I kept thinking about the tree that was growing inside the castle when they bought it; nature had reclaimed it for a while but now the owners were creating a new history.”

Quiet Listening features a patinated, deep-green, three-metre bronze figure standing opposite the gold-leafed five-metre bronze tree.

“These are the colours traditionally used by architects throughout history for roof domes of cathedrals and castles — special for the roof of their new home,” said Ms de Brí.

“When you walk into a castle, more than any other building, you think of your ancestors, and you quietly listen to stories of a different time.

“I wanted to make a sculpture that would reflect that feeling and so I made a human figure contemplating a gold tree.

“The tree is a great symbol of the past and present with roots planted firmly in the past and branches reaching for new beginnings.”

“The tree captivates the figure — there is a visual connection between the two, human with nature, present with past.”

Ms de Brí has worked on many projects before, her work is in several public collections and is much sought-after by private collectors.

She recently installed a seven-metre sculpture for The Sabanci collection in Istanbul.

Her work is predominately figurative and includes the 8.5-metre site-specific sculpture for University of Limerick.

Belvelly Castle is one of the finest surviving examples of a medieval fortified tower house, with its battlements, mullioned windows, a murder hole, and a spiral stone staircase in relatively good condition.

It was built around the 13th century by, and for, the Anglo-Norman Hodnett family to guard the entrance to Great Island.

It was taken over by the De la Roch (Roche) and De Barra (Barry) families in the 14th century before the Hodnetts leased back their lands.

It was used by Sir Walter Raleigh in the early 1580s who described it as “broken down” and had it restored.

Its last occupant was Sir Peter Courthorpe, from 1624 to 1650, and by the middle of the 19th century it was being described as a ruin.

The castle is expected to be able to sleep 12, once the restoration is finished. It will have a sunroom on its roof from where the new owners will be able to overlook Belvelly Channel, a special area of conservation.

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