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Talk by Eamonn P. Kelly. Connaught’s Greatest Treasure – The Cross of Cong
Talk by Eamonn P. Kelly
Connaught’s Greatest Treasure – The Cross of Cong
So-called because it was kept for centuries in the Augustinian Friary at Cong, Co. Mayo, the Cross of Cong is an exquisite work of art made in 1123 to encase a fragment of the True Cross. It is one of the greatest expressions of Irish craftsmanship in the twelfth century and is also one of the great works of European art of the time. An inscription on the sides of the cross identifies the patron as Toirrdelbach Ua Conchobair (Turlough O’Conor), King of Connaught and High King of Ireland. The maker was the craftsman Máel Ísú mac Bratáin Uí Echach.
The talk will present the superb decoration and form of the Cross of Cong while examining the wider political and social circumstances that led to its manufacture. This included the expropriation by the Kings of Connaught of the Cult of St Patrick associated with sites such as Croagh Patrick; with the ancient pilgrimage route known as the Tóchar Phádraig; and the monastic island of Inchagoill in Lough Corrib. St. Patrick’s Cult had earlier expropriated pagan religious traditions associated with these places since the Bronze Age. The Cross of Cong represents the conclusion of a long tradition of distinctively Irish religious metalwork as well as a high point in the religious activity of the region extending over a period of at least four millennia.
Eamonn P. Kelly is the former Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland. He is a Heritage Consultant and Director of Roundstone Historical Walking Tours Ltd.
Date Wednesday 20 September, 5pm
venue Festival Gallery