Today we’re going to explore The National Museum of Ireland.
Ireland has been collecting her historical artifacts for centuries. The National Museum in Dublin (free to visit) was established in 1877, using collections from several prior institutions. According to the web site, its aim is ‘to increase and diffuse the knowledge of Irish civilisation, the natural history of Ireland and the relations of Ireland in these respects with other countries.’
There are actually four museums that make up The National Museum: Decorative Arts & History, Country Life, Natural History, and Archeology. The last one was the one I visited. Here’s a post I wrote about it.
One of my great pleasures during my trip to Ireland was to visit the National Museum. I saw things there up close that I had only before admired in photographs. One of these objects was the Ardagh Chalice, pictured above.
This magnificent chalice was named for the place it was found in County Limerick in 1868. Two men digging for potatoes found it, along with other valuable items. It was made in the 8th century, and that is what amazed me as I gazed at the detail. These ancient craftsmen were every bit as talented as modern craftsmen, and with fewer advanced tools. The cup itself is silver. The decoration is fretwork, scrolls, interlace–it’s beautifully detailed in silver, bronze, gold filigree, and enamel.
Go here to view a closeup of some of the detail. What is sometimes missed by just looking at photographs is that the cup is not large and yet is composed of 354 pieces. It was buried but not encased in anything to protect it. Perhaps it was swiftly buried to avoid the Vikings plundering the treasure, or who knows? Maybe someone not long before 1868 buried it. What is amazing to me is just how old it is, and yet so beautiful. So much like many of the things I saw in Ireland.
But What About St. Brigid?
Brigid lived during the time of precious books, the golden age of monasticism.
If you’ve read my book Enya’s Son, you’ll be interested in knowing that THE book referred to as the Cathach, is held at this museum. The shrine made for the book is from a later time period, but also a marvel to see.
There are many more things to see at just this one museum. There are many Viking artifacts as well as early Christian pieces. Even the building itself is a piece of art and history. I realize that not everyone is interested in museums, so if that’s you, don’t worry. There are plenty of other attractions in Dublin. For me, I love museums!