A Visit to the National Museum

2 Oct


When I came across the St Manchans Shrine I couldn’t help but just stare and admire the beauty. The workmanship behind such an intriguing piece of work is phenomenal. St Manchans shrine is a house shaped box preserved at the Catholic Church in Boher. The shrine contains bones from St Manchan, who is a 7th century Irish patron and the founder of a monastery Leamonaghan. The shrine is a box made of gilded yew wood with bronze and brass metal work. Most of the ornamental work consist of mixed Irish and Viking styles which date the shrine back to around 1125-1130.  It was made at Clonmacnoise and is approximately five times larger than most shrines. It was originally decorated with about 50 full length human figures, of which only eleven of those figures remain today. The figures were possibly modeled on a cross between the Hiberno Norse and the Romanesque styles. There is much controversy and confusion about the symbolism of the figures. For much time, most sources suggested that the figures represented warriors because they were presented with various fighting tools such as axes and sticks. However recently, research has identified one of the figures which holds an axe as Saint Olaf. Saint Olaf was the King of Norway from 995 to 1030.

There are brass rings at the bottom corners of the shrine which hint that the shrine was pulled by those when it needed to be moved due to its hefty size. For about 800 years the shrine was used for public oaths and many people believed it had the power to cure illnesses. The shrine was kept in Leamonaghan until the church which St Manchan founded fell into ruin in the 18th century. The shrine is one of the largest ancient reliquaries in Ireland. The intricacy, detail, and uniqueness of the metal work is applaudable and left me in awe. This shrine is a masterpiece of Irish Christian art. The National Museum was definitely a trip worthwhile.


-Hiloni Desai unnamed


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