18 Sep

Upon my arrival at the National Museum of Ireland, I was immediately overwhelmed with the wide variety of artifacts that museum had to offer. From ancient swords, to dead bog bodies, the museum truly encompasses all aspects of Ireland’s rich history. However, after walking through the entire exhibit my attention was caught by the museum’s collection of brooches due to the wide variety and intricate details of each design.

The Celtic brooches, also referred to as the penannular brooches, are circular pins with a gap in their hoop. Associated with the early Medieval period in Ireland, these brooches were worn by both men and women for both decorative and practical uses, as well as functioning as a status symbol that represented the wealth and rank of the owner. Men wore a singular brooch at the shoulder whereas women wore the pin on their chest and used them to function as an early version of a safety pin.

I found myself focusing on one specific type of Celtic brooch, the Tara brooch (also known as the silver-gilt annular brooch).  This brooch was discovered near the seashore at Bettystown County, Meath in 1850 due to wave erosion from collapsing cliffs. However, the brooch’s origin was attributed to Tara because it was the official residence of the High kings of ancient Ireland and doing so would increase its value. The brooch is made of cast and gilt silver, with an ornamented front decorated with gold panels that depict various images. Additionally, it is an annular brooch because its ring completes a full circle and closes in on itself.  


Similarly, the museum also contained other types of brooches that I found myself comparing with the Celtic brooches, such as the 9th century Viking oval brooches. Unlike the Tara brooch, these brooches were made out of iron cast copper and worn predominantly by women for the purpose of tightening shoulder straps on dresses.


Victoria D’Ambrozio


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