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

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