Silver Shrine is Centre-piece of Exhibition on St Patrick’s Legacy
An exhibition has opened at Down County Museum entitled ‘In the Footsteps of St Patrick’, featuring a medieval silver shrine of St Patrick on loan from the Hunt Museum, Limerick. The shrine dates to the late 14th century and takes the form of the head of the saint, surrounded at the base by rock crystals and an inscription recording the name of the man who commissioned it – James Butler, Earl of Ormond, Lord Justice of Ireland. The Hunt Museum and the Friends of Down County Museum have jointly funded the cleaning of the shrine, by specialist metal conservator Will Murray, prior to it going on display.
The Exhibition traces the sites and treasures associated with St Patrick and his followers in County Down, and what can be seen here today. Important sites were founded by Patrick and some of his key followers at Saul, Raholp, Maghera and Nendrum. Subjects covered in the exhibition and accompanying free booklet include churches and monasteries in the local landscape, round towers, crosses and mills – did you know for example that Nendrum monastery boasts the earliest tide mill in the world, dating to 619AD?
Part of the display focuses on the Hill of Down and its special place in Patrician history and archaeology. Finds from the excavations carried out on the Hill of Down in the 1980s by Nick Brannon and in 1997 by the Time Team are featured in both the exhibition and the booklet. The story of the Downpatrick High Cross is featured, and the re-discovery of St Patrick’s Cross, dating to about 800AD, which is now inside Down Cathedral.
There are many important early medieval sites on our doorstep, such as St John’s Point Church, which dates to the early 11th century, making it about 1000 years old. An ancient well can be found there, as at other sites such as the Mearne Well, Saul, Struell Wells and St Cooey’s Wells in the Ards Peninsula.
The Exhibition consists of 12 dramatic graphic panels, displays of early medieval artefacts from local sites and some impressive replica items made by local craftspeople. The artefacts include the wooden hub of the tide mill at Nendrum, while among the replica items is an oar exactly like the 7th century example found in the mill dam at Nendrum, made by Geoff Tulip. There will be the chance to rebuild a 3D model of wooden church and see how a quern for grinding grain into flour worked. The Exhibition and booklet have been funded 100% by the European Union’s PEACE III Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
The Exhibition was launched by the Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, Naomi Bailie, who commented: “I am delighted to see this exhibition ‘in the Footsteps of St Patrick’ open at the museum as the work of the Council in supporting the important St Patrick tourism brand is vital to our tourism strategy. The work to bring visitors to this area to explore local Christian heritage plays an important part in developing the economic wellbeing of the District. In addition, understanding the legacy of St Patrick and the Early Christian heritage of the region is a very important part of the Museum’s education work and its mission to raise awareness of our shared history.”Back