Dec 1, 2010
The Ardagh Chalice
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.
Here is 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.