Silver chalice,(The Ardagh Chalice) Reerasta, Ardagh, Co. Limerick

Ardagh Chalice

8th century AD

NMI 1874:99

The Ardagh Chalice is one of the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church. It is part of a hoard of objects found in the 19th century by a young man digging for potatoes near Ardagh, Co. Limerick. It was used for dispensing Eucharistic wine during the celebration of Mass. The form of the chalice recalls late Roman tableware, but the method of construction is Irish.

The bowl and foot of the chalice are made of spun silver. The outer side of the bowl is decorated with applied gold, silver, glass, amber and enamel ornament. The underside of the foot is also highly decorated and contains a polished rock crystal at the centre.

Ardagh Chalice (underside)

The bowl is attached to the stem and foot by a bronze pin. The names of eleven apostles and St. Paul are inscribed below the band of gold filigree and studs encircling the bowl. The letters are seen against a stippled background. Incised animal decoration can also be seen below two handle escutcheons, which are decorated with elaborate glass studs and filigree panels.

The Ardagh Chalice represents a high point in early medieval craftsmanship and can be compared in this regard to the Tara Brooch and the Derrynaflan Paten.

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