Archive | January, 2014

Coins at the National Museum of Ireland

29 Jan

National Museum of Ireland

Among the many shiny and bright artifacts in the National Museum of Ireland, a display of coins from the 920s and 990s caught my eye. I can’t even fathom how long ago that was or what the world would have been like. Seeing the coins, which is something that is so common for us, made that old world a little more real for me. It is so interesting to think about what types of people made and used these coins just as we do today. Some were whole coins and some were just fragments but it is amazing that they staid in tact so long. Even the markings on the coins are still there and were pretty clear and easy to see.
Some of the coins were discovered in the Dunmore Cave hoard. They were Anglo-Saxon and Arabic coins, as well as coins that were made by the Vikings of York. Others were discovered in the Lough Lene hoard and date back to the 990s. The coins show that people even as long ago as that were using the same monetary system as we are today. Their ideas and inventions are what shaped the world we live in today and influenced that way the world developed. If it were not for people creating a system of trade, our history would be very different.
The design of the Irish coins today were based off of the design on these ancient coins. The significance of these coins to Irish history is that the Vikings who created these coins were part of the creation of a monetary system that would be used forever in Ireland. Money and coins were a new way of trading without just exchanging objects. Money allows someone to buy something of their choice later on instead of immediately giving an object away and getting something in return. It is an amazing invention that we take for granted today.


The Tara Brooches at the National Museum of Ireland

29 Jan

Out of all the artifacts that I saw in the National Museum of Ireland, the one that caught my eye the most were a series of brooches. One such brooch is called the Tara Brooch which is a Celtic creation in 700 AD. These brooches are recognized as the most important works of early Christian Irish Insular art. The brooch has a pseudo-penannular form that can be made with silver, amber, copper, glass or gold, all of the highest quality. They were also elaborately decorated on the back and the front. The Tara Brooches did not contains motifs of either Christian nor pagan religions. They were most likely made for wealthy male patrons who wanted an expression of their personal status. The Tara Brooches may be one of the best preserved of several dozen different high-status brooches that were found in Britain or Ireland. However, these brooches were mostly found in Ireland. Although the main shape of every brooch is in the same style, each is embellished with a completely individual design. Another important detail of the brooches is that the metals used are all Precious metals, but when decorated with stones only semiprecious stones are used. The brooch is named after the Hill of Tara, which is traditionally seen as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. However, the Tara Brooch has no connection to either the Hill of Tara or the High Kings of Ireland. The brooch was supposedly found in August 1850 on the beach at Bettystown, near Laytown, County Meath, some 30 miles north of Dublin. The finder, was a peasant woman, or possibly her two sons, claimed to have found it in a box buried in the sand. Though there are many that believe the brooch was found inland, and in order to avoid a legal claim by the landowner, she claimed to have found in on the beach. It was then sold to a dealer, then to a Dublin jeweler named George Waterhouse who was already producing Celtic Revival jewelry. He renamed it the “Tara Brooch” to make it more appealing.Image

Visit to the National Museum of Ireland – The Ardagh Chalice

29 Jan

One of the first artifacts I noticed during our visit to the National Museum of Ireland was the Ardagh Chalice. The Ardagh Chalice was found by two young men, named Jim Quinn and Paddy Flanagan, who were digging for potatoes near Ardagh, Limerick in the 19th century. The chalice held other items and was covered by a piece of stone. This makes it believed that the artifacts must have been buried in a hurry. The owner probably planned to return for them at a later time. The brooches that were found with the chalice show that it was most likely not buried until the Viking period. It is one of the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church and was originally used for distributing the Eucharistic wine.  The Ardagh Chalice represents a high point in early medieval craftsmanship. It is often compared to the Derrynaflan Paten and the Tara Brooch. The main form of the method of construction for the chalice is Irish. However, the form of the chalice recalls late Roman tableware. The chalice is decorated with applied gold, amber, glass, silver, and enamel ornament. The foot and the bowl of the chalice are made of spun sliver. The center of the underfoot is made of polished rock crystal and is exceptionally decorated. Inscribed below are the names of St. Paul and the eleven apostles in the band of studs and gold filigree encircling the bowl. The letters are placed against a spotted background. Also seen below, are two handle escutcheons that are engraved with animal decorations. They are decorated with elaborate glass studs and lace panels. The chalice is thought to have been made in the 8th century AD and ranks with the Book of Kells as one of the best-known works of Celtic art.


Leinster House

29 Jan

Early Friday morning the FIE group gathered, to explore the exciting nooks and crannies of the Leinster house.  Personally I was not all that thrilled about this early morning adventure when we first arrived.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the end of the trip.  I had some new stories of Irish history, and the Leinster house was actually a beautiful building.  It was a Friday though so the little bit of Imagegovernment action that I was able to see was pretty boring, since there were only four men reading off their speeches.  The debate was over censorship in Ireland, which I know very little about so that did not help me pay attention to the speeches that were being given.  In one of the hallways there were portraits of high-ranking political figures from the past.  The tour guide began to tell us about all of their stories, and they all sounded very similar to me.  It wasn’t until the last man he talked about that he grabbed my full attention.  He stated how the background of one of the portraits was painted in a light blue and that this was because of his favorite Imagesport team, Leinster.  This was really just a fun fact, rather than something that was important to know.  I am pointing it out because I can relate to having a full dedication to a sports team at home.  And this fun fact told me a lot about the Irish culture that I had looked over since I have arrived in Dublin, and that is that the Irish love their sports.  Being in the same boat of loving sports it made me feel more at home, knowing that I share a love of sports.  Now all I have to do it learn all of the rules of Rugby and Hurling.  Overall The Leinster tour was a fun and I learned some new facts that told me about the Irish culture and government.


Visit to the National Museum

28 Jan

While exploring Dublin’s National Museum I came across a Ogham stone. I remember talking about this in class about it being the earliest form of writing in Ireland before the Roman alphabet. It’s appearance was extraordinary in that if I hadn’t know it was for writing I would’ve thought ‘well hey there’s a stone with some carvings on it…cool’. The Ogham displayed in the National Museum was very tall and had quite a few markings on it. It was also interesting because it wasn’t surrounded by glass like other artifacts in the museum. I liked how it wasn’t put behind glass because it was much easier to see in the darkened room and the spot light on it to show off its engravings. It’s amazing how well preserved it’s stayed and the markings on it are very distinct. According to its description below, Ogham stones can still be seen around in England and Scotland to show the existence and heritage of Ireland. I remember in class we discussed how they were used to mark boundaries or even more commonly for tombs. The way to transcribe Ogham is to refer to The Book of Ballymote. Depending on the number, position, and direction of the notches can identify if it’s a consonant or a vowel. The notches can consist of one to five strokes to or across a line in the center. The Ogham alphabet is composed of 25 “letters”. I think it’s interesting that they used these stones to mark their families’ names and only used up to five lines to create essentially a language of only 25 letters. It’s almost like a secret for those who can translate it. I hope when I make a trip to Southern Ireland I can maybe come across some of these Ogham stones.

IMG_0661 IMG_0660

National Museum- Saint Patrick and the Church

28 Jan

Going to the National Museum this past Friday was a very interesting and perspective-inducing experience. Learning about the fighting and controversy Ireland endured while sitting in a classroom is very different from walking around and seeing bashed in skulls and skeletons that used to be people crouching in small places. Though that was a tempting path to follow in terms of what I wanted to further look into, the persisting issues with the Catholic Church, especially in Ireland, has what’s been capturing my attention since I’ve arrived. I fully intend to further study the more recent controversial issues, however to better do that I thought it might be best to start with some research into what the Church consisted of at the height of its power and influence. In addition, I intend to study its origins better and will therefore be incorporating some artifacts pertaining to Saint Patrick as well.

Since my group and I will be presenting on Saint Patrick’s Day in a few weeks, I have been keeping my eyes open for anything in particular relating to him. Needless to say I was excited to see there was the “Shrine of Saint Patrick’s Tooth” in the museum. According to the excerpt included underneath the artifact, it is composed of different pieces from different objects and the shape of it indicates that it is from around the middle of the 14th century. Upon some further research I came across a story in which Saint Patrick’s tooth fell out upon the doorstep to Saint Brone’s Church in Sligo, Ireland. As he was deeply respected and a pillar in the Christian faith, his tooth is now still commemorated. Saint Patrick did very much to promote the Christian faith that there are still myths about his greatness circulating today. An intricate, beautiful, detailed shrine was built for Saint Patrick’s tooth, which demonstrates how seriously he was taken. In this modern day it would be unlikely to make something so profound for a Saint whose tooth fell out. The shrine is quite beautiful and incredibly detailed. There appears to be a cross in the middle of it, breaking it into four sections each dedicated to a different story. This shrine represents the time period Saint Patrick came from because he was a notable leader. The 14th century was a very difficult time in history due to the Black Death and the Little Ice Age. It was a very tough time for the English (and most of Europe) because the Black Death was taking place, however it gave the Irish an opportunity to reclaim certain territory that the English had taken.

We learned in class that Saint Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to others. I thought of this when I came across statues of three men that used to all be at the same church despite having different sculptors, (which was Fethard, Co. Tipperary) and in locations that were dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The figure on the right depicts John the Baptist holding a lamb, which is symbolic of the words spoken during mass, “This is the lamb of God.” The middle figure represents God the Father, and though this is no longer the case, he used to be holding Christ’s crucified body in his arms with a dove on top of the body. The dove represented the Holy Ghost. I think it is remarkable how a sculptor could create something that depicted the Holy Trinity so clearly and remarkably. It was very detailed and yet not overwhelming to look at.

By: Alyssa Ashleen Danilow

Skeletons, Skulls, and Weapons – Viking Style

28 Jan

IMG_5278The artifact in the National Museum that drew my attention the most was the skeleton in the Viking Exhibit. Morbid, I know, but there’s something about skulls and skeletons that really draws my attention! This particular skeleton was unearthed in 1934 and appeared to be a soldier of sorts as it was buried with a sword and dagger, which was shown with the skeleton as well.  This skeleton dates back to the 9th century.  IMG_5257Another skull was also shown in the Viking exhibit, showing a large hole in the head which was made from a sword or axe.

The skeleton was displayed promptly at the beginning of the exhibit and is the first thing you see when you walk in. It seems to display a fierceness which exemplifies the Vikings to a ‘T.’ The sword and dagger in the skeleton exhibit were extremely similar to other swords, daggers, and other weapons that were displayed throughout the exhibit as well. The skeleton and weapons were displayed prominently throughout the exhibit, suggesting the importance of warriors or soldiers to the Vikings and the early founding of Dublin.

IMG_5271Other weapons Vikings used included axes, spears, bows and arrows, and wooden shields. As wood easily breaks down overtime, the museum held mostly swords, axe-heads, spearheads, and arrowheads. According to this website, status was important in the type of weapon a Viking warrior used. The higher the status, the more iron used in the weapon so a sword would be used by a wealthy warrior and so on.