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07 December, 2021: National Museum of Ireland Opens New Exhibition Celebrating Life and Artefacts of St Columba – one of Ireland’s three patron saints

‘Colmcille: Sacred objects of a Saint – 1500 years of devotion’ celebrates the 1500th anniversary of the Saint Columba’s birth
Artefacts include Shrine of the Cathach, the Bell of St Columba, and the Crozier of St Columba

For immediate release: 7th December 2021:  The National Museum of Ireland has today launched ‘Colmcille: Sacred objects of a Saint – 1500 years of devotion’ at the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin.
Through a selection of artefacts, the exhibition celebrates the legacy of St Columba, one of Ireland’s three patron saints along with St Patrick and St Brigid, on the 1500th anniversary of his birth.
Colum, (Columba in Latin, and Colmcille as he became known in the Irish language) was purportedly born in Donegal and lived throughout the sixth century. St Columba established the ecclesiastical site of Kells, County Meath, and the hugely influential and prosperous monastery of Iona in Western Scotland.
Prominent objects associated with St Columba are the focus of this exhibition including the Shrine of the Cathach - a book shrine dating from the eleventh century constructed to contain a late sixth/ early seventh century manuscript known as the Cathach, or the ‘Battler’, believed to have been written by St Columba. It was the battle standard of the O’Donnells, Columba’s kinsmen, and is regarded as the chief relic of the family.

Other prominent artefacts include the Crosier of St Columba, the Shrine of the Miosach, and the Bell of St Columba from which it was believed that drinking water from could cure disease. A beautiful embroidery of Columba by Lily Yeats from 1920s is also included to represent the saint’s continued legacy.

Speaking at today’s launch, Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, Maeve Sikora, said “It brings me great pride to be here and help launch this exhibition today, another addition to the proud history of Ireland’s preservation and display of medieval artefacts. These objects on display are both national and international treasures and it’s incredible that that many of which were made over 1000 years ago.
“They are important to so many people from so many walks of life. These objects are symbols of power and devotion. Not only do they survive for us to see today, but often the inscriptions on these objects name those who commissioned the shrine, the keeper who was entrusted with its care, and even the craftsman who made them. Incredibly, we know, for example, that a man named Sitric, made the Shrine of the Cathach in the eleventh century.  I want to encourage anyone interested to come down and have a look at these wonderful pieces of our history.”
Lynn Scarff, Director of the National Museum of Ireland, said “What I find really fascinating within this exhibition is that it not only tells us about the objects, but it also tells the remarkable story of how they came to be preserved. Care of these relics was initially entrusted to the hereditary tenants of church lands, several of whom held the objects for generations until the nineteenth century.
“Many were acquired from these families by the Royal Irish Academy and were later transferred ultimately to the National Museum of Ireland. I think the story of their care speaks so poignantly to Columba’s legacy in Ireland, even today and I am so proud that the National Museum is a part of the history in preserving these treasures for the next generation.”
The Education Department at the National Museum of Ireland will be hosting their final lecture on Colmcille on Wednesday 8th December, 1pm to mark the opening of this exhibition, “Colmcille 1500 Lecture Series: St Columba’s crosier: power and devotion in medieval Ireland”. Crosiers played an important role in representing the power of early Irish saints in medieval Ireland. Dr Griffin Murray will introduce these fascinating objects with a focus on St Columba’s crosier from Durrow, Co. Offaly. To book a place for the live broadcast of this lecture and Q&A, please visit Eventbrite
Photography will be issued from today’s launch by Julien Behal Photography 087 9782542  Julien
Requests for further information/ interviews: Q4 Public Relations

About the National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland is the nation’s premier cultural institution and home to the greatest collections of Irish heritage, culture and history. Admission is free.
The National Museum of Ireland has 4 public sites, and a Collections Repository: 

  • National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology (Kildare Street, Dublin)

  • National Museum of Ireland – Natural History (Merrion Street, Dublin)

  • National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History (Collins Barracks, Dublin)

  • National Museum of Ireland – Country Life (Turlough Park, Castlebar, Co. Mayo)

  • Collections Resource Centre (Swords) (Not open to the public)

Instagram:  @nationalmuseumofireland

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