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.

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