Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Clonfert Diocesan Museum: Treasure Trove of Liturgical Arts

[The following short piece was sent into us by the author, Mr. William Thomas. Readers of course know my own interest in showing vestments of various stripes and forms, including those which are in someway tied to the traditional vestment arts, but which also show a certain uniqueness or rarity. These particular vestments struck me as falling into this sort of category. The black vestments because of its particular history and the use of a bee motif, and the green because of its adoption of certain Celtic design elements.]

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A Treasure Trove of Liturgical Vestments
The Clonfert Diocesan Museum Loughrea, Galway Ireland

by William A. Thomas

There are many liturgical treasures still to be found around the world, but few would be as impressive as the treasure trove of liturgical vestments dating back centuries, which are to be found in the museum belonging to the Clonfert Diocese in Loughrea County Galway, on the West Coast of Ireland.

Among the many vestments one stands out for both its liturgical use and historical significance. Known as the Napoleon III ‘Requiem Mass set’ these vestments are made of water silk and consists of a cope, chasuble, dalmatic, tunic, stoles, and maniples.

The set is decorated with silver purling braid, and display the Napoleonic ‘bee’ motif. This set was presented to Father William Manning PP of the Aughrim County Galway parish, in 1858, on behalf of the Emperor Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, so that a solemn requiem High Mass might be said for the happy repose of the souls of the French soldiers who died there at the “Battle of Aughrim” on the Sunday the 12th of July 1691. Some 7,000 men died on that day, with French fighting French, while an array of others from England, Denmark, Dutch and Scottish troops made up two armies, one called the Jacobites while the others were known as the Williamite forces. One of the personal chaplains of the Emperor, M. L’Abbe Cruise of Paris was present in 1858 for the presentation, as he had some family connections in Ballinasloe.

Some of the chasubles here go back as far as the late 15th century; with some coming from England while others are French, Spanish, Italian, and Irish.

Some of the most remarkable exhibits of the collection are the altar missals. These are very rare books and include the Incunabulum Missal of 1470, the Folio Missal in white sheep-skin binding, of Paris 1652, the large Quarto Missal of Lyons, 1721 and the Octavo Missal of 1840.

There are also a large collection of chalices, some gold, and others silver. The ‘Matheus Macraith’ chalice is solid gold and dates back to 1500, while the others come from that time onward to the present time.

Further information from Clonfert Diocese:

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