12 January 2010

Health and Happiness: The Ardagh Chalice

The Ardagh Chalice is considered one of the premier examples of Insular or Hiberno-Saxon art and craftsmanship. Dating from 8th century AD the footed silver cup is embellished with complex gilt bronze filigree application, cloisonné and enameling. Decorated with fanciful fauna, geometric interlace and the names of the apostles it was found near the village of Ardagh, County Limerick in 1868 by boys digging for potatoes. It is considered the crowning jewel of the National Museum of Ireland. The hope symbolized by the chalice and Holy Grail is significant to Christianity as well as the Arthurian Legends. Chrétien de Troyes the French poet of the 12th century wrote Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Although the work was not completed it had a tremendous impact on the culture of the Middle Ages. The healing and restorative powers of the grail continue to captivate us as in the Celtic Revival chalice painted by Scottish artist George Bain (1881-1968).


  1. You really have us starting the new year the right way with symbols of hope and love (I'll forget about Jean de Montchenu's vices)!

  2. What a delightful week this is turning out to be on your blog. I teach in a university and often between classes I read your posts and always find them very interesting and beautiful.

  3. Thank you Blue and congratulations on your delightful blogs one year mark! I always feel that your posts elevate interior design and decorative art. If I taught I would make them required reading.

    Kind regards, Kendra

  4. Hi le style et la matière, There can me no virtues without vices! Thank you for the post and I look forward to seeing you at Maison & Objet. Best, Kendra

  5. Everyone imagines finding a historical treasure in an attic or cellar or potato patch, but the Irish boys actually did it!

    I am interested in the second image, a bit similar in shape to the silver cup that was actually found. Is the drawing of the cup text-based evidence that the cup existed, even when people didn't know of it in practice?

    love it!

  6. Hi Hels,

    The second image was inspired by The Book of Kells, another masterpiece of Hiberno-Saxon art.

    Yes it is interesting that the Irish boys found the chalice digging for potatoes. Even more unusual is the history of The Book of Durrow. It was recovered in the 17th century on an Irish farm where it was soaked in water and used to cure sick cows.

    Best regards,


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