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.

St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure

The St. Ninian’s Isle Treasure, dating from approximately A.D. 800, is the finest surviving collection of Scottish silver from the period. The hoard was discovered in July 1958, in the ruins of a twelfth century chapel on St. Ninian’s isle, a land-tied island connected to the southwestern coast of the Mainland, Shetland.  The metalwork hoard (mainly silver, some gilt) consists of both secular pieces — penannular brooches and sword scabbard chapes, for example — and ritual objects such a bowls and spoons. The brooches show a variety of typical Pictish forms, with both zoomorphic and lobed geometric terminals, and two of the scabbard chapes and a sword pommel appear to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, probably made in Mercia in the late 8th century; one has an inscription with a prayer in Old English.

Witham Shield

The Witham Shield is an Iron Age decorative bronze shield facing of La Tène style, dating from about the IV century BC. The shield was discovered in the River Witham in the vicinity of Washingborough and Fiskerton in Lincolnshire, England in 1826. The artefact is presently in the British Museum.

The beaten bronze shield was made principally from wood, now perished, to a design later known as a “Gaulish Shield” that originated in the VII century BC. What remains is an almost complete facing that had been made to cover its surface.

Detail of the central boss of the Witham Shield.

Originally a leather silhouette of a long-legged wild boar would have been riveted to the shield around the central dome, as indicated by small rivet holes and staining of the shield. The pattern of discolouration was very clear when the shield was recovered from the River Witham (see 1863 drawing below). Although it is still possible to see the discolouration under certain lighting conditions, the boar design is no longer easy to make out.

Drawing of the Witham Shield made in 1863 by Orlando Jewitt in John Kemble’s book, Horae Ferales, clearly showing the long-legged boar.

Images of several birds and animals are incorporated into the design of the Witham Shield. The roundels at each end are inspired by the heads of birds, which are supported by horses with wings for ears. Birds similar to crested grebes are engraved on the central spine and this completes the engraving work elsewhere.

The British Museum consider this shield to be “one of the best examples of the way British craftspeople adopted the new style of La Tène art.”