The Ardagh Chalice is one of the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church. It is part of the richest hoard discovery of metalwork ever found in Ireland from the 8th and 9th centuries and is now displayed in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
The hoard was discovered in 1868, by two boys digging in a potato field near the village of Ardagh in County Limerick, Ireland. As well as the famous silver chalice, the hoard also contained a bronze chalice and four brooches.
The Silver Chalice
The silver Ardagh chalice is the finest piece of eighth century metalwork that has ever been found. The mastery of the design, the exquisite workmanship of the truly highest level, and the wide range of materials and skills used, have been combined to create a true work of perfection.
The designer did not hesitate to reserve large areas from decoration, but where decoration is used it is sumptuous.
The chalice is a large, two-handled silver cup, decorated with gold, gilt bronze, brass, lead pewter and enamel, which has been assembled from 354 separate pieces. 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. Even the underside of the foot is also highly decorated and contains a polished rock crystal at the centre.
This complex construction is typical of early Christian Irish metalwork. The names of the apostles are incised in an intricate frieze around the bowl, below a girdle bearing inset gold wirework panels of animals, birds, and geometric interlace.
An extract from “The Treasures of Early Irish Art" (1977) describes the chalice in fine detail:
Ultimate La Tène scrolls, plain interlace, plaits and frets abound. The techniques employed are engraving, casting, filigree, cloisonné and enamelling. Below the horizontal band of gold filigree on the bowl the names of the Apostles in shining metal stand out in a sea of stippling.
What was it used for?
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.
Inspiration for Irish Jewellery
The style of the Ardagh Chalice has been a source of inspiration for jewellery craftsmen (Goldsmiths and Silversmiths) down through the years and we are happy to present to you the latest representations of it in our Ardagh Collection.
Circular Ardagh Warrior Shield
The circular shield design or the warrior shield as it is known, makes a very attractive ring especially if presented in white gold and with yellow gold rims which makes a delightful wedding band.
Silver Ardagh brooch
White gold Arda wedding ring with yellow rims
White gold Ardagh Wedding Ring
Silver Ardagh pendant
It can be equally attractive if the shield centre is yellow gold and rimmed in white gold.
To see the style of it please visit us at Irish Celtic Jewellery.