Mar 24, 2010

St. Patrick's Bell

photo via creative commons 
From A Social History of Ancient Ireland
P.W. Joyce, 1903

The bell of St. Patrick, which is more than fourteen hundred years and is now in the National Museum, in Dublin: it is the oldest of all; and it may be taken as a type of the hammered-iron bells. Its height is 6 1/2 inches: but projecting from the top is a little handle 1 1/4 inch high, which gives it a total height of 7 3/4 inches. It is made of two iron plates, bent into shape by hammering, and slightly overlapped at the edges for riveting. After the joints had been riveted, the bell was consolidated by the fusion of bronze into the joints and over the surface - probably by dipping into melted bronze - which also increased its resonance. This is the bell known as Clog-an-uudhachta, or the 'Bell of the Will' (so called because it was willed by the saint to one of his disciples), which is much celebrated in the Lives of St. Patrick. A beautiful and costly shrine was made to cover and protect this venerable relic, by order of Donall O'Loghlin, king of(died 1121): and this gorgeous piece of ancient Irish art, with O'Loghlin's name and three others inscribed on it, is also preserved in theNational Museum.....

According to legend, this bell (probably one of many that Patrick had commissioned for the new churches he established) was buried with the saint and retrived decades later by St. Columba and brought to Armagh. The bell is mentioned there in ancient manuscripts. It's interesting that there were special keepers of this bell throughout history, the O'Maelchallans. Late in the 11th century, a jeweled shrine was made for the bell. It also resides at the National Museum today.
photo via creative commons by damian entwistle
The inscription reads:
"Pray for Domhnall grandson of Lochlainn for whom was made this bell. And for Domhnall successor of Patrick in whose house (it) was made and for Cathalan O Máelchalland for the keeper of this bell. And for Cúdúilig O Inmainen with his sons (who) enshrined (it)"

Oh, my. I have way too many ideas swimming in my head for possible novels!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Oh! this is fascinating... I've read about St. Patrick giving such a bell to St. Ciaran, and that he would find his space to build a monastery by the stream when the bell began to ring. Such intriguing tales from the saints.