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The National Museum of Ireland acquires an important mid-15th century copper alloy altar cross
An important mid-15th century copper alloy altar cross from Co Waterford. ©National Museum of Ireland.
DUBLIN.- The National Museum of Ireland announced the acquisition of an important mid-15th century copper alloy altar cross from Co Waterford.

The National Museum of Ireland is very grateful to the Madden family for their generous donation of the cross on behalf of their late mother, Mrs. Bridget Madden (née Kelly) of Ferrybank, Waterford.

The cross had been in the possession of Mrs Madden’s family for several generations, probably at Caorbally, near Dunmore East, Co Waterford.

The exact provenance of the cross is unknown. It may have been used in a local parish church or monastery. It is one of about a dozen later medieval period altar crosses known from Ireland. Such crosses were made in England in the 15th and 16th centuries and are found throughout western Europe.

The cross is relatively simple in design and is accompanied by a separate lobed pedestal. This is made from a slightly different alloy and is likely to be somewhat later than 15th century in date.

The front is decorated in a foliate pattern and the four evangelists are represented on the cross terminals and base. There is also an undecorated space on the front where a crucifixion figure would originally have been mounted. There is an ‘IHC’ monogram on the back of each terminal and on the base representing the Greek version of the first three letters of the name of Christ.

Some further examples of altar crosses of similar date are displayed in the National Museum of Ireland’s Medieval Ireland Exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin.

The new altar cross is now on display on the first floor at the National Museum of Ireland -Archaeology, Kildare Street.



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