10 Unmissable Objects from the Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin Exhibition
1. The Banagher Sword
This Viking sword was discovered by divers in the river Shannon at Banagher, Co. Offaly, in 2012. Conservation work has revealed silver inlay on the pommel, an inscription on the blade and the survival of much rarer features including scabbard fragments and binding on the handle.
2. The Lough Derg Sword
Recovered from Lough Derg, near Curraghmore in Co. Tipperary in 1988, this sword comes from the heart of Brian Boru’s powerbase. Although it is slightly later than Brian’s time, it is a very fine example of an 11th century sword. It is made of iron and decorated with silver niello and copper alloy.
3. Limerick Silver Neck Ring
This Viking twisted silver neck-ring with spiral terminals was found in Limerick. It is quite a rare type in Irish contexts, being more common in the wider Irish Sea area.
4. The Shrine of the Stowe Missal
The Shrine of the Stowe Missal dates mainly to the mid-11th century and is believed to have held an eighth century Latin mass-book. This image from the side of the shrine shows a warrior figure holding a Viking type sword, with an animal on either side.
An early inscription on the shrine records the name of Donnchadh, Brian’s son, who is described as RIG HEREND ‘king of Ireland’. Recent work has indicated that the inscription must date to between 1026 and 1033. This shows Donnchadh’s ambitions to style himself as high king of Ireland, in the same way as his father, Brian, did.
5. Liathmore Shrine Fragment
One of the very few objects that can be linked directly to Brian Boru is this inscribed fragment from a shrine or reliquary, found at the early monastic site of Liathmore, Co. Tipperary.
The Irish inscription, inlaid in silver lettering, is incomplete but what survives reads: [M]AC CENEDIC DO RIG ER[INN].
Originally it would have requested “A prayer for ..... son of Cennétig, for the King of Ireland”. This can only refer to Brian Boru as high king, who may have been the patron of the shrine.
6. Arrowheads Excavated in Dublin
This selection of arrowheads is from excavations carried out by the National Museum at various sites in Viking Dublin. Arrowheads such as these would have been used by Sitric’s forces at the Battle of Clontarf.
See below for the second part of the selection.
7. Iron Spearheads
Nearly all warriors at the Battle of Clontarf would have used spears – large spears (such as those shown here) for hand-to-hand fighting and smaller spears for throwing at the beginning of the battle.
8. Killaloe Brooch
This silver penannular brooch is based on a traditional Irish form, which was later adopted and influenced by the Vikings. This example, although earlier than Brian Boru, is from Killaloe, Co. Clare, site of Brian’s main residence.
9. Slave Chain
This iron slave chain and collar was found in a dugout canoe near a crannóg in Ardakillen Lake, Co. Roscommon in the mid-19th century. Slavery existed in most early medieval societies, including Ireland. In Dublin, however, it was a very profitable commercial venture.
10. Corrib Axes
These axes were found together in 2013 in a boat in Lough Corrib, and date to the 11th or early 12th century. These classic ‘Viking’ axes almost certainly belonged to Irish warriors, showing how widely the Irish adopted them. The largest axe probably had a long handle for two-handed use. All three handles were carved from cherry wood (prunus).
Clontarf 1014 is kindly supported by the Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.