The Ardagh Chalice

Object Number: IA:1874.99

The Ardagh ChaliceReerasta Rath, Co. Limerick. 8th Century A.D. This two-handled chalice is an elaborate construction of over two hundred and fifty main components. The bowl and foot are made of beaten, lathe-polished silver, the stem is cast gilt-copper alloy. It is decorated with gold filigree, granulation, multi-coloured enamels, a large rock-crystal, amber, malachite, knitted cast, stamped and openwork metal objects.

A girdle of ten filigree panels of animal ornament and interlace encircles the bowl between the elaborate handles. Below it, incised on a dotted background are the names of the apostles in an elegant script familiar from contemporary manuscripts. Animals and a design of human heads, lightly engraved, spring from the lower border of the inscription below the handles and medallions. The medallions, one on each side, in the centre of the bowl, are cast bronze frames in the form of a cross of arcs within a circle, embellished with gold filigree scrolls, simple coiled serpents in beaded wire on gold foil and enamels. The stem is elaborately decorated with La Tène designs, animal ornament, fret patterns and a honeycomb-like interlace in cast gilt-copper alloy. The foot of the chalice is large and is decorated on both the under and the upper surfaces. A great roundel of cast ornament, filigree beasts and a rock crystal with a surround of amber glued with a malachite paste, decorate the interior of the foot and conceal the end of the large pin which holds bown, stem and foot together.

The chalice is a calyx ministerialis, that is one made to dispense Eucharistic wine to the congregation. Its design, even at the time of its manufacture, was somewhat old fashioned and harked back to the common forerunners of both Byzantine and western chalices.

It was found in a hoard consisting additionally of a bronze chalice and four gilt-silver brooches ranging in date from the 8th to the 10th century A.D. The hoard, which was discovered in Reerasta Rath near Ardagh, Co. Limerick, in 1868, is likely to have been concealed during the 10th century A.D. The chalice stands 17.8 cm high and is 19.5 cm in diameter excluding the handles.

Collection: Irish Antiquities Division - Antiquities Collection

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