Archive | January, 2014

National Museum – Bronze Cross

26 Jan


The first object I was drawn to in the National Museum of Ireland was a cross, displayed at the top of the landing after walking up the stairs to the second floor of the museum.  It was simple but its placement is what led me to become interested in it, as it was the only object in the case, and its case placed no where near any others.  It was a small, probably about 2 feet tall or so, made of copper. This cross was not very ornately decorated, just a few designs carved all over the cross, and squares tilted on their sides (also made of copper) attached at the top of the cross, on the two arms and at the bottom of the cross where it met the stand.  The stand was simple, made of the same copper as the cross and fanned out into six petals. 


This cross was believed to be from somewhere in-between 1450-1500 A.D. and was used on a church altar.  It was given to the church by the Madden family, in honor of their mother from Waterford.  It was not made clear if this was from a Catholic or Protestant church, although I would assume it was originally in a Catholic church.  At this time, most everyone in the country was Catholic, however England monarchs were about to begin the Protestant Reformation in 1536, so there may have been some Protestants in the country. 


Throughout the museum there were many other crosses and other religious items, both practical and for decoration, some much more detailed and intricate than this copper cross.  The most striking cross in the museum was definitely the Cross of Cong, much more detailed and gorgeous than the one I chose to describe.  But I think the difference in the crosses throughout the museum showed the evolution of the place that religion took in the Irish’s lives and the different uses for these religious ornaments.  The Cross of Cong was created for the high priest at the time, whereas the cross I chose was a small donation to the church in honor of a lost family member, at a time where there would soon be no more high priests and instead monarchs that governed the churches.  It showed the shift in towards a more secular way of life in Ireland.



National Museum – Dugout Canoe

26 Jan

The dugout canoe was  used in Ireland during the Bronze Age and through the Middle Ages in Ireland. This particular canoe was made from a hollowed oak tree and measures 15.25m in length, which makes it one of the largest in all of Europe. It caught my eye because it was such a long canoe and must have taken a great deal of time for people to make it and how efficiently they used the resources around them in nature.  You can tell by observing the boat that they were smart in making the boat and how to make the design work.  One reason why it’s so long is because it could carry individuals as well as supplies, which was ideal.  According to an article by Fintan O’Toole, the general assumption for what these boats were used for is long-distance travel.  This assumption makes me question how well it traveled long distances and if it was difficult to direct since the canoe was so long?  Also since they did not need a  lot of supplies to construct one – just an oak tree and some sharp tools  – no special necessities were needed.  The Bronze age comes before the Iron Age where ideas and objects became stronger and much sturdier.  Therefore I’m assuming boats evolved more in the Iron Age.

Comparing this to another vessel that was in the museum was night and day as far as the evolution of technology is concerned.  The other boat was a replica of Gokstad Faering that dated back to 800 A.D. and was used as a fishing boat.  This boat differs from the canoe in that it is wider, incorporated more materials besides oak, not as long, and has a strong sail to help with direction.  This makes me think the tools were better and that people learned from previous boats on how to improve and be more efficient.

These boats are similar to technology right now where it just keeps on evolving and becoming better with each year that passes.

Link to Fintan O’Toole’s article –

From the National Museum: The Kavanagh Charter Horn

26 Jan

The Kavanagh ‘Charter’ Horn

One of very few surviving objects known to have been the personal property of an Irish king, the Kavanagh Charter Horn is a ceremonial drinking horn of elephant ivory dating from the early 12th century. The brass mountings were added in the 15th century. It is the only known piece of Irish regalia to survive Medieval Ireland. The Kavangh clan’s bloodline ruled the kingdom of Leinster. The family retained possession of the horn until they decided to donate it to the National Museum of Ireland.

Drinking horns are mentioned in many Irish chronicles. Many were very valuable and passed from generation to generation. They were valuable not only because of their material makeup, but because of the symbolic value.

I’d assume that most of the drinks horns like these would’ve held different alcoholic beverages from the time, primarily beer and wine. Monks brewed virtually all beer of good quality until the twelfth century. Around the thirteenth century, hops (which both flavors and preserves) became a common ingredient in some beers, especially in northern Europe. Ale, often a thick and nutritious soupy beverage, soured quickly and was made for local consumption. (

I guess the pub culture of Ireland goes way back!

The National Gallery of Ireland & The Iveagh Gardens

21 Jan

By Brooke Ballengee

Destination: The Irish National Gallery

I am not a huge art person. Especially when it comes to actually being able to hold a conversation about artwork. My critiques usually range from “Oooooo awesome, pretty” to “Eh I’ll skip this room” to “Yeah, I don’t like this one”. Pretty intellectual right? All that being said I really enjoyed the National Gallery. For logistical reasons, it was free of charge and the perfect size for the average interested student. Speaking to the art, the gallery had a lot of very beautiful pieces.

I found Yeats’ artwork to be particularly inspirational. His unique style alone is pretty impressive. Again, not the art guru over here, so forgive the lack of technical terms. You have to stand back a have the entire paiting in focus to see the picture. Often, there are pieces of black canvas that never met the end of Yeats’ paintbrush. It amazes me how he could create such complex images with such indistinct lines. On top of his style, his pictures tell stories. Below are two works that may help you to understand the style I’m talking about. The first oil painting below is titled Grief. Up close, it’s just blotches of paint, but if you take a step back you can see a mob of people running from a foreboding figure on horseback. In the foreground you can see a mother holding her baby, protecting it. The photo here of course can’t do it justice, so you will have to take my word for it that it’s a beautiful piece of art.


Here’s just another example of Yeats’ art.


The colors are much more vivid in real life.

I’m just saying this is good stuff. Even for uncultured peasants such as I.

Side Stop: The Iveagh Gardens

You won’t find this one in any tourist books or travel magazines. That’s because it isn’t a particularly unique piece of green space in Ireland. Not being unique, doesn’t mean it isn’t breathtakingly beautiful though. I think one thing makes me admire these parks that can be spotted across the cities of Ireland, is the feel of old age and natural beauty that has survived the tests of time. In stark contrast to most parks in the States I have encountered, the plants are full and grown out. The trees haven’t been uprooted and implanted strategically. Things just grow. The stone work seems aged (how aged in reality I can’t say). There are dark gray fountains and walls rather than brick bathrooms and chain fences. I found the Iveagh Gardens to be extremely simple and peaceful. If you catch my drift, I liked the park. I think these kinds of gardens/parks are just one small example of the depth of history that this country has that perhaps the United States just can’t replicate. It’s difficult to build age and history into infrastructure.