Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Freemasonry & the Celtic Revival … no, really …

In a previous post, I spoke about the rather wonderful silver replica of the Ark of the Covenant housed in the museum at the Grand lodge of Ireland, Molesworth Street, Dublin. In between engagements gracing the altar at meetings of Grand Lodge, the model is on display on the bottom shelf of the cabinet in the far wall of the museum. I mention this because I have frequently visited the museum and gazed upon the beauty of this piece, but have failed to notice some of the other pieces in the same cabinet. In particular, on the topmost shelf there is a delightful collection of silver gilt pieces that should be of interest to both archaeologists and Freemasons. The three pieces – two chalices and a drinking horn – were made by William Stokes in Dublin in 1909. They were intended to be used in the consecration of new Lodges. The museum’s information card indicates that the chalices were influenced by the Ardagh Chalice (now housed just around the corner in the National Museum of Ireland). The parallels are particularly clear in the form of the handles, the foot, the studded band of interlace passing through the handles and the largely plain bowl. However, the proportions are completely altered, mostly by the knopped neck that bears no resemblance to the original, seemingly taking more inspiration from medieval and later examples. If you’re being picky, you could note that the bowl is missing the escutcheons under the handles and the roundel on the body of the bowl is replaced with a copperplate inscription. Still, they are a beautiful pair of chalices.

Although taking the central place on the top shelf between the two chalices, the museum’s information card doesn’t appear to mention the beautiful drinking horn at all. Although quite different to the Kavanagh Charter Horn (also housed at the National Museum of Ireland), it would appear to be the most likely Irish inspiration for the horn shape, if not the actual decorative motifs themselves. In any case, it too is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and worth a trip to the Masonic museum to see … and then to the National Museum of Ireland to make your own comparisons!

Entry to the museum is free and is open to the public Monday to Friday throughout the year.

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