The Domhnach Airgid Shrine

24 Jul

The artifact that drew my attention from the Irish National Museum of Archaeology was a shrine, or silver box that would have been used to house an important catholic religious manuscript. The particular shrine I selected dates back to the 8th Century, and is attributable to one of the most significant characters in early Irish history, Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick is the catholic religious figure widely attributed to spreading Catholicism across Ireland, which is particularly notable, as the religion has had an extremely broad impact upon Irish history. It is believed that this shrine was given to another Irish Catholic Saint, Saint Macartan, to help in the establishment of a new church in county Tyrone.
The artifact itself is a large square silver box, with very ornate carvings. The silver has worn and blackened with age, but it is impressive to see how much of the precious metal was utilized in the creation of something so long ago. The carvings on the box bear the images of Jesus hanging on the crucifix, flanked by 11 other individuals whom I assume are the disciples not including Judas. Each of the figures is outlined in a very detailed manner, holding items and wearing fairly realistic looking clothing considering the age in which this item was carved. The box is framed in an embellished rim that hides the hinge where the box opens. In the center of the box there appears a crest.
This item is significant to Irish history in that it literally embodies the early spread of Catholicism across Ireland. There were a number of shrines in the museum, but this one caught my attention as the most ornate and well preserved. It is thought to have held an early manuscript of the Christian gospel. It is fascinating for me to think of one of the most prominent figures both in the history of Ireland and Catholicism as a whole traveling the countryside and distributing pieces such as these to help establish the movement that would shape Ireland to its core.Shrine


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