In 1868 in the town of Ardagh, County Limerick, two men were digging for potatoes in a ring fort, believed to protect the potatoes from the blight that brought the famine 30 years earlier. They came across something hard in the soil and when they cleared away the earth they found a chalice and other items buried beneath. What they found was one the finest known examples of medieval Celtic metalwork ever found in Ireland.
The Ardagh chalice was created by master craftsmen in the 8th century. They used many elaborate techniques to create the intricate decorations of gold, silver, glass, amber and enamel ornament on the silver bowl. Most striking is a band of gold filigree around the bowl inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles. The chalice is 17.8 cm high and 19.5 cm in diameter with a handle on either side. The underneath of the foot is also decorated and contains a polished rock crystal in the center.
It is thought that the chalice was used to distribute communion at secret Catholic masses held during penal times. It is suggested that, some time during the 10th century one such mass was interrupted by approaching soldiers and the chalice and other items were buried in a hurry in the fort where mass was being said. Those who buried the items never had the opportunity to recover them.
Along with the Ardagh chalice another smaller chalice and four brooches were found buried within the fort. These treasures together are known as the ‘Ardagh Hoard’. Part of the fort where they were found still remains at Ardagh, and the chalice and other items from the Ardagh Hoard can be viewed at The National Museum of Ireland, in Dublin.
The Celtic Shield wedding ring range is inspired by the Celtic knotwork found around the girdle of the chalice and is in the Celtic wedding ring section of our store.