If you’ve visited Ireland, you’ve probably missed them, and that’s the point.

Hidden paths winding throughout the country recall a time – not all that long ago – when the repressed Catholic majority was forced to worship in secret.

Now, some of these paths have been documented by Irish photographer Caitriona Dunnett years in her project ‘Mass Paths,’ featured in an article this month by Anika Burgess in Atlas Obscura.


“I photographed it and remembered learning about the penal times at school,” she told Atlas Obscura. “It inspired me to research and find other penal paths to photograph.”

Starting in the late 1600s, a Protestant-controlled local government and the English parliament enacted strict penal laws banning Catholics – who constituted 90 percent of Ireland’s population – from voting, speaking their native language or serving in the army, among other things. Bishops were banned from the country, as were excess priests – only one priest per parish was allowed, and was forced to register with the government. A few years later, priests were told to sign an oath of loyalty to the Queen. Only 33 signed the oath, forcing any remaining priests on the island into hiding.

These Mass paths tell the story of these hidden priests, who would hold Mass in secret in order to avoid being arrested.

Read more on these Mass paths and what Dunnett learned while working on the project at Atlas Obscura. To view the whole project and more of Dunnett’s work, visit: http://www.caitrionadunnett.com/