Ulster Museum

Saints and Scholars

With Saint Patrick came writing and fine church objects, followed by Vikings raids. Norman invaders built castles and conflict with England continued.

Permanent display

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The Saints and Scholars gallery explores Irish history from 400 AD to 1600 AD. This marks the start of Christian teachings by Saint Patrick. Written records and religious books appear for the first time.

At the entrance to the gallery, in its own case, is small decorated metal container – the ‘Clonmore shrine’. It was used to hold sacred body parts of Christian saints.

Church ceremonies created a need for these and other specialised objects like chalices, abbots croziers (or staffs), bells and decorated book covers.

Other fine metal objects include jewellery in the form of brooches. These are often made of silver. This increasing wealth attracted Vikings raids. Weapons include those from a Viking burial at Larne. Examples of Viking plunder take the form of metal objects broken into small pieces. Many were stolen from Church sites.

After the Vikings came the Normans and their stone castles. Armed knights had swords, crossbows and helmets, such the rare example from Lough Henny in County Down. Increasing trade networks made coins more plentiful.

Towards the end of the gallery, a rough stone chair on display was used like a throne. It belonged to the family of the O’Neill’s. These chairs became a symbol of power for Irish chieftains during wars with English lords. By 1600 this traditional ‘Gaelic’ way of life was over.