Ss Cornelius and Cyprian - Today is the feast of one of the most important of the Latin Fathers of the Church, St Cyprian of Carthage, who was martyred on September 14, 258. With the...
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According to a legend Bishop Cornelius O'Dea went to Dublin to attend a synod of bishops without his pontificals. Feeling the awkwardness of his position, he searched the city for a mitre and crozier, but failed to find any. The story goes that a youth landed from a ship which had arrived in port and presented the bishop with a box, saying what he sought was in it; if it pleased him he could keep them. When the bishop turned to thank the young man he was nowhere to be seen.
In almost every legend there is said to be a kernel of truth. In this instance the story may have arisen from the fact that they were made in Dublin.
The front and back of the mitre consists of silver gilt laminae, adorned with flowers composed of an almost infinite number of precious stones. The borders and ornamental panel, down the middle on both sides are of the same material but much thicker, being worked into mouldings and vine leaves enriched with a variety of pearls some of a large size. Near the top of the front panel, in the form of a cross and covered with crystal of the same shape, is the following inscription: "Hoc signum cruds erit in coelo." In similar setting on the back is the continuation: "Cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit." Round the lower edge a record of the date and name of the original owner are enamelled in black letters thus: "Me + fieri + fecit + Cornelius O’Deaygh Epus . . . Anno Dom Milli." The remainder is broken off above the band, the name of the artist is engraved Thomas O’Carryd, artifex faciens. The infulae or pendants appear to have suffered much as they are devoid of most of the ornaments that once adorned them.
The images and descriptions are from limerickdioceseheritage.org
There are drawings of the crozier and mitre at The Limerick Crosier and Mitre. They can be seen in the Hunt Museum in Limerick
There is a useful history of the Catholic diocese at Brief History and Wikipedia has an account of the history of the medieval and the later Anglican diocese and its various amalgamations at Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe
Two things are noteworthy about the O’Dea crozier and mitre - other than the very fact of their survival. So far as I know they and the cloth of gold High Mass set from slightly later in the fifteenth century which survives in Waterford - for which see visit Cloth of Gold Vestments exhibition - are the only such vestments to survive in Ireland, and amongst the finest in the British Isles or indeed north-west Europe.
Firstly is their beauty and quality. They indicate the public splendour of the late medieval church, both in Ireland and elsewhere, together with its patronage of the arts of the goldsmith and the embroiderer. The fact the name of the maker of the mitre is recorded in his hndiwork is fascinating - a designer label fifteenth century style?
Secondly, and linked to this, they witness to the prosperity of late medieval Ireland and its integration into the wider cultural norms of its neighbours. Limerick, like Waterford, was a trading centre, closely linked to the administration in Dublin and to the wider world. They were therefore perhaps more likely to have high quality vestments than more remote places. Nonetheless they remind one forcefully that later medieval Ireland was not a “Celtic twilight zone”, that it shared a wider artistic perspective, and that it shared in a common spiritual and intellectual culture with the rest of the British Isles. This was not a provincial backwater.