St. Luke Portrait from the Lichfield Gospels

Portrait of St. Luke (perhaps also representing High King of Ireland, Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, r. 728-734 (723-729), † 765), Lichfield Gospels, p. 218.
Portrait of St. Luke (perhaps also representing High King of Ireland, Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, r. 728-734 (723-729), † 765), Lichfield Gospels, p. 218.

Grave Slabs at Keills

Two grave slabs at Keills, Knapdale, Plate LVII from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
Two grave slabs at Keills, Knapdale, Plate LVII from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

The grave slabs here represented are in the ruined chapel at Keills, Knapdale. Both of them are early and interesting specimens of the class to which they belong. In each case the two-handed sword is obviously a portrait of the real weapon. On the first there appear on one side of the sword a harp, comb, shears, and mirror, besides an object which may be a case or cover, and a smaller figure which may be meant for a box containing some toilet appendage. A surrounding inscription is almost entirely defaced.

The second slab has on one side of the sword an inscription, and on the other a deer-hunt and some grotesque creatures, with a galley at the bottom.

Keills Chapel, Knapdale.
Keills Chapel, Knapdale.

The simple, rectangular Keills Chapel, dedicated to St. Cormac, served as the parish church of Knapdale until the parish was split into two in 1734. It is one of few churches from the 1100s and 1200s surviving in Argyll. What sets it apart is what it contains: a sculptural feast of almost forty carved stones, ranging in date from the 8th to the 16th century. Pre-eminent among them is the 8th-century Keills Cross.

Brecbannoch

The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.
The Monymusk Reliquary, Plate 11 from Sculptured Stones of Scotland, Volume II, Aberdeen: printed for the Spalding Club, 1856.

BRECBANNOCH. Between the years 1204 and 1211, King William the Lion granted to the monks of Arbroath “custodiam de Brechbennoche,” and “cum predicta Brachbennoche terram de Forglint datam Deo et sancto Columbe et le Brachbennache,” on the tenure “faciendo inde servicium quod michi in exercitu debetur de terra ilia cum predicta Brachbennache.” This grant is recited in the charter of Arbroath, passed by the same king in 1211-1214; and substantially repeated in a confirmation by King Alexander II. in 1214-1218. In 1314 the convent grants to Malcolm of Monimusk “totam terram nostram de Forglen que pertinet ad Bracbennach cum omnibus pertinenciis suis una cum jure patronatus ecclesie ejusdem terre.  . . . Dictus vero Malcolmus et heredes sui facient in exercitu domini Regis nomine nostro servicium pro dicta terra quod pertinet ad Bracbennach quociens opus fuerit.” From the Monimusks the lands of Forglen, with the custody of the Bracbennach, passed by inheritance to the Urrys and the Frasers, in the latter of which families they were found in 1388. In 1411 they were surrendered to the convent, and about 1420 they were conferred on Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. In 1847 [sic; perhaps 1478?] they had passed to his grandson, who held them of the abbot and convent by service of ward and relief, “ferendi vexillum de Brekbennach in exercitu Regis,” and the payment of the annual rent of 40 shillings. In 1481 Alexander Irvine did homage for these lands and purtenances to the abbot, who “dixit et constituit ut tenentes regalitatis dicti monasterii de Aberbrothoc ubicumque existentes cum dicto Alexandro ad exercitum domini nostri Regis sub le Brecbennoch videlicet sub vexillo dictorum abbatis et conventus meabunt et equitabunt cum requisiti fuerint per dictum dominum abbatem et conventum dicti monasterii et suos successores pro defensione Regis et regni.” In 1483 Alexander Irvine had a charter of the lands of Forgone, the the advowson of the church “faciendo in exercitu domini nostri Regis servicium de le Brekbannach debitum et consuetum.” And lastly, in 1494 it was found that Alexander Irvine was the lawful heir of Alexander Irvine of Drum, his father, in the lands of Forglen, with the advowson of the church, held as above. From these notices we learn that this reliquary was a banner, and held so sacred in the beginning of the thirteenth century that it was named in the dedication clause of the earliest charter. Also, that it was coupled with St. Columba’s name, not because the abbey of Arbroath was under his invocation, for it was under that of St. Thomas of Canterbury; nor because he was patron saint of the parish, for St. Adamnan was reputed to be so; but, as we may conceive, because this banner was in some way connected with St. Columba s history, either by use or blessing. Possibly it was like the Vexillum Sancti Cuthberti, so fatal to the Scots at Neville’s Cross.

Ther did appeare to Johne Fossour, the Prior of the Abbey at Durham, a vision commanding him to take the holie Corporax Cloth, which was within the corporax, wherewith Saint Cuthbert did cover the chalice, when he used to say masse, and to put the same hole relique, like unto a Banner, upon a spare point.

The name Brecbannach seems to be formed from breac beannaighthe, “maculosum benedictum,” and denoted something like the bratacha breac-mergeada, pallia maculatorum vexillorum, which were carried in the battle of Magh Rath. The Brecbannach probably served a double purpose, being, like the Banner of Cuthbert, “shewed and carried in the abbey on festivall and principall daies,” and also “presented and carried to any battle, as occasion should serve.” Whence King William obtained the reliquary is not stated. Probably it had been kept in the parish of Forglen by the hereditary tenants of the church lands. Between 1172 and 1180 the king granted to the Canons of Holyrood the rights, tithes, and obventions of four churches in Cantyre, which had previously been enjoyed by the abbey of Hy; and his grant of this reliquary, with its appurtenances, to Arbroath, may have been a transfer of a like nature.

— Dr. William Reeves in the Introduction to his translation of St. Adomnán’s Life of Saint Columba, 1874.

 

Derrynaflan Paten

This composite silver paten, was discovered on 17 February 1980, near Killenaule, County Tipperary, as part of the Derrynaflan Hoard, a collection of five liturgical vessels, including a silver chalice and bronze strainer, dating from the VIII to IX centuries. The paten was assembled from more than 300 pieces. The dish is made of beaten silver which is soldered and stitched with wire to a bronze rim. Twelve curved gilt-bronze frames on the rim each contain two gold filigree panels and a central decorative stud. These frames are attached to each other by bronze rivets, the heads of which are concealed under twelve glass and enamel studs. Some of the filigree panels have abstract patterns, and human and animal motifs are also seen. A number of panels depict pairs of kneeling men placed back to back. Derrynaflan, the site of an early Irish abbey, is a small island of dry land situated in a surrounding area of peat bogs, in the townland of Lurgoe, Co. Tipperary, northeast of Cashel.

Relics of Patrick

The Bell of St. Patrick and its Shrine; Armagh, Ireland.
Shrine of the Bell of St. Patrick’s Will; National Museum of Ireland.

The relics of Patrick were enshrined sixty years after his death by Columcille. Three precious reliquaries were found in the tomb, sc. the Cup, the Angel’s Gospel, and the Bell of the Will. The angel directed Columcille to divide the three reliquaries thus: the Cup to Down, the Bell of the Will to Armagh, the Gospel of the Angel to Columcille himself. And it is called the Gospel of the Angel, because Columcille received it at the Angel’s hand.

Annals of Ulster, U553.3,
copied from a chronicle called the Book of Cuanu.

La Tène Bronze Head

Bronze figure of a man's head from a Late Iron Age (middle to late first century B.C.) cremation burial at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England.
Bronze figure of a man’s head from a Late Iron Age (middle to late first century B.C.) cremation burial at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England.

One of three, tiny, moustachioed heads discovered in the rich Belgic grave at Welwyn, Hertfordshire, it bears affinities with a group of late La Tène, anthropoid-hilted short swords, one found at Ballyshannon Bay, Co. Donegal, and another at North Grimston, North Yorkshire, both perhaps originating in southern or southwestern Gaul and dating from late in the second century B.C. The three heads originally adorned a wooden bucket likely resembling the specimen recovered at Aylesford Cemetery, outside Maidstone, Kent, in 1886.

Ardagh Chalice

The Ardagh Chalice is a large, two-handled silver cup, decorated with gold, gilt bronze, brass, lead pewter and enamel, which has been assembled from 354 separate pieces; this complex construction is typical of early Christian Irish metalwork. The main body of the chalice is formed from two hemispheres of sheet silver are joined with a rivet hidden by a gilt-bronze band. The names of the Twelve Apostles are incised in a frieze around the bowl, below a girdle bearing inset gold wirework panels of animals, birds, and geometric interlace. Techniques used include hammering, engraving, lost-wax casting, filigree applique, cloisonné and enamel. Even the underside of the chalice is decorated. The Chalice was discovered in 1868 in a potato field on the south-western side of a rath (ring fort) called Reerasta beside Ardagh, County Limerick, Ireland, along with a much plainer stemmed cup in copper-alloy, and four brooches, three elaborate pseudo-penannular ones, and one a true pennanular brooch of the thistle type, together the Ardagh Hoard.

Galician Torc

Torc from Burela, Galicia. Museo Provincial de Lugo.

Corpus-Cotton Gospels: Folio 1 Recto

Folio 1 recto from Corpus Christi College, MS 197B (Otho-Corpus Gospels); the Eagle of St. John. The Otho-Corpus Gospels is a badly damaged and fragmentary 8th century illuminated manuscript. It was part of the Cotton library and was mostly burnt in the 1731 fire at Ashburnham House. The manuscript now survives as charred fragments in the British Library (MS Cotton Otho C V). Thirty six pages of the manuscript were not in the Cotton collection and survived the fire. They are now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (MS 197B).

Gutenberg Boar

Bronze Boar, likely a votive offering, Gutenberg Deposit, 4 cm height; I to II Century BC; Liechtenstein Landesmuseum and Celtic Collections; (Photo Sven Bham).

Torc from Vix Grave

Torc from the Vix Grave in northern Burgundy, France; 480 BC.

Stone Head from Mšecké Žehrovice

Stone head from Mšecké Žehrovice, Czech Republic, wearing a torc, late La Tène culture.