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 the Mass. The form of the chalice recalls late Roman tableware, but the method of construction is Irish.
This brooch was found not in Tara but near the seashore at Bettystown, Co. Meath, in 1850. Along with such treasures as the Ardagh Chalice and the Derrynaflan Paten, the Tara Brooch can be considered to represent the pinnacle of early medieval Irish metalworkers’ achievement. Each individual element of decoration is executed perfectly and the range of technique represented on such a small object is astounding.
This silver paten, like the Derrynaflan Chalice, is part of a hoard of altar vessels found at Derrynaflan, Lurgoe, Co. Tipperary. Used during the celebration of Mass to hold the Eucharist, patens were common in the later Roman world, but few examples survive from early medieval Ireland.
The Cross of Cong was made in 1123 to encase a fragment of the True Cross that was brought to Ireland and displayed in different places around the country. The cross is so-called because it was kept in the Augustinian Friary at Cong, county Mayo, for centuries.
The NMI Bog Bodies Research Project was established in 2003 following the discoveries of bog-preserved remains in the Irish midlands. The project scientifically examined and documented the remains using a multi-disciplinary team of experts. The exhibition explores the results of this investigation in addition to highlighting how the remains form part of a much broader North Western European tradition of bog bodies.
Of the many remarkable objects preserved in Ireland’s peatlands, butter is one of the most plentiful and most curious. Butter has been found in organic containers including carved and coopered wooden vessels, in leather and in bark or wicker. Radiocarbon dating has shown that people were burying butter in Irish bogs from the Bronze Age to the late medieval period.
The Coggalbeg hoard consists of two gold (sun) discs and a gold lunula (crescent-shaped collar) dating to the Early Bronze Age. They were found in Coggalbeg bog, Strokestown, Co. Roscommon in 1945, but were forgotten about until they were recovered by An Garda Síochána following a robbery of a pharmacy in Strokestown in 2009.
The Faddan More Psalter was a chance find made in a Tipperary bog in 2006 which has been skilfully conserved and preserved in the National Museum’s conservation laboratory. It is a book of Psalms, written in Latin. The pages are made from calf skin and the leather cover has an inner lining of papyrus.
These beautiful lead weights encapsulate much of what we know about early Viking Age Ireland. They are lead weights for trading purposes, but decorated with chopped up pieces of decorated Irish metalwork, probably from church metalwork. They were discovered along with a balance scales, in the grave of a Viking at Islandbridge in Dublin.
This spectacular shield dates to approximately 700BC. It was found in a bog near Lough Gur, Co. Limerick. It is made from a beaten sheet of bronze and has a riveted handle on the back. Prestigious bronze weapons found in Ireland dating from this period suggest the presence of a social elite who had a level of wealth that enabled the commissioning of such finely made objects.