The story of the Celts is filled with exciting twists and turns, featuring love stories for the ages, battles to tug at your heartstrings and fairy-tales that fascinate you with their mention of mythical creatures and magical occurrences.
Equally as fascinating are the historical Celtic artefacts that survive from ages past, adding nuance and detail to the stories found in books, museum displays and the mouths of wise storytellers. Many of the stories we take for granted about Celtic history would have been lost to the annals of time if not for the preservation of artefacts like the Book of Kells, the Celtic crosses and the Ardagh Chalice.
It is important that we continue to conserve, protect and learn from the artefacts still in our possession. Read on for a closer look at some of the most beautiful and intriguing items that survive from Celtic history.
The Book of Kells
Threatened by invading Vikings, bundled across the sea from Iona to Ireland, and stolen by thieves during the 11th century, The Book of Kells has a long and varied story. It is one of the oldest surviving books in the world and holds plenty of information about Ireland’s history. It is currently looked after by the library at Trinity College Dublin, and is one of their most precious catalogued items.
Thanks to modern technology, the Book of Kells is now available online to any interested person who wishes to take a look for themselves at this rare and beautiful item. Whilst the internet is great for entertainment at Roku, PokerStarsCasino and VinylMePlease, it is also a fantastic learning resource. Trinity College Dublin has put immense time, effort and expense into making sure that this vital part of Celtic history is available for the whole world to see, especially during a time when we are more likely to access things online than in person.
Digitising the Book allows people from across the globe to see it without even having to leave their living room. This will be of great satisfaction to the people of Cincinnati and beyond who are interested in finding out more about their Celtic roots through one of Ireland’s most precious artefacts. However, if you wish to visit the Book in person, you can buy tickets as the library is open to the public 7 days a week.
The Ardagh Chalice
The Chalice is a contemporary of the Book of Kells, thought to have also been made by monastic craftsmen during the 8th century. It displays the same Insular art style as the Book, incorporating distinctive interlaced designs and geometric motifs. Although not as much is known about its story as is known of the Book of Kells’, it still comes with an interesting tale attached to it.
In 1868, two friends named Jim Quin and Paddy Flanagan were digging in a potato field by the village of Ardagh, County Limerick, Ireland. They soon unearthed a monumental find: the Ardagh Hoard. Comprised of a number of exquisite 8th and 9th century metalwork items, the Hoard came to be one of the most important historical finds in the country and is now on display in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.
The most famous piece to be found was the Ardagh Chalice, a beautiful example of craftsmanship and metalwork from that time. A small, squat cup, it measures around 7” in height, 9.5” in diameter and 4” deep. It is thought that it would originally have been used as a ceremonial object, perhaps by a priest to dispense the Eucharistic wine to his congregation. Despite serving a humble purpose, it is incredibly detailed and consists of 354 different parts and contains 48 separate designs. Many different crafting techniques were used in its construction, showing just how talented Celtic craftsmen were even as far back as the 9th century.
The Loughnashade Horn
Leaping much further back in time to the 1st century, we find this unusual artefact: the Loughnashade Horn. Found in a bog alongside human skulls and bones, as well as three other bronze horns, it is certainly an object that piques the interest. Unfortunately, the other horns have been lost to time as the discovery was first made in 1794, but there is plenty about this singular object that hints at its past.
In itself, it contradicts the commonly held assumption that horns didn’t arrive in Western Europe until the Middle Ages – clearly they’ve been around a lot longer than that! However, due to its shape and decoration, it’s suggested that this piece served an ornamental rather than a practical purpose. It has a decorative disc affixed to the end, with an incredible level of detail found in the design as further proof of just how accomplished ancient Celtic craftsmen were. This horn could have been used as part of a ritual or burial practice as it seems too carefully made to simply be used as a functional instrument.