On the 'Crozier of Glendalough'

Fig. 1 - The Cashel Crozier
Courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland
Fig. 2 - Plate from Newenham's Picturesque Views
Courtesy of Cormac Bourke and Wordwell Publishing
Fig. 3 - Crozier in St Mel's Diocesan Museum
Courtesy of Moira Concannon

In 1887 Margaret Stokes made passing reference in Early Christian Art in Ireland to two Irish croziers of ‘foreign’ (actually Limoges) manufacture, those ‘of Cashel and Glendalough’.

A footnote attributed both to the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. This reference has long been a puzzle since the crozier of Glendalough (Co. Wicklow) is not extant and no other writer mentions it. Nonetheless, the existence of a crozier of Limoges type from this important site has remained, at least, a tantalising possibility.

The crozier from Cashel, Co. Tipperary (National Museum of Ireland), by contrast, is well known and consists of a crook, knop and socket, the original wooden shaft being lost (Fig. 1).

The crozier belongs to a sub-type depicting the combat of the Archangel Michael with Satan. A recent study of the group by Michelle Bilimoff implies an early thirteenth-century date for the Cashel example.
According to Petrie, writing in the  Irish Penny Journal in 1840, the Cashel crozier was found ‘above a century since’ in a tomb beside the north porch of Cormac’s Chapel on the famous
Rock. The implied date of its discovery is confirmed by the caption to a plate in which the crozier was first illustrated, not quite accurately, in 1830 (Fig. 2).

This was published by R. O’Callaghan Newenham in Volume II of his Picturesque Views of the Antiquities of Ireland. The Cashel crozier is there juxtaposed with the crook and upper
knop of the Clonmacnoise crozier and both are said to have been ‘Dug up 100 Years ago’, i.e. c.1730. Between the croziers two carvings are shown.

The term ‘dug up’, though probably used loosely, is at variance with Petrie’s statement, since a tomb within the recess beside the north porch of Cormac’s Chapel must have stood above
ground. Newenham’s words, if taken literally, allow the possibility that the crozier accompanied a secondary burial in front of, rather than within, the principal tomb.

The crozier certainly post-dates the Chapel, and its tomb recess, by about 100 years. Newenham’s caption also supplies, incidentally, the approximate date of discovery of the
crozier of Clonmacnoise, sometimes attributed to the early nineteenth century.

Besides that from Cashel, only one other Irish crozier of Limoges manufacture is extant. This is in the Diocesan Museum in St Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, and may have been used by a thirteenth-century bishop of Ardagh (Fig. 3). The socket is most unusual among Limoges croziers in bearing applied human figures. The three-dimensional subject has been lost
from within the crook.

The primary interest of Newenham’s illustration in the present context is the full text of its caption ‘2 CROZIERS Dug up 100 Years ago & 2 Specimens of ancient Carving at GLENDALOCH’. The latter is the only placename cited, and the conclusion seems inescapable that Margaret Stokes made a hasty note from Newenham’s plate and imagined
that the Limoges crozier illustrated was found at Glendalough. In a separate instance in Early Christian Art in Ireland the same writer erred in the other direction in giving a conflated
account of two bronze figures in the British Museum as though only one figure were in question.

Subsequent editions of the book failed to clarify matters. In the Dublin edition of 1911 (Margaret Stokes having died in 1900) the reference to the crozier of Glendalough is unchanged, although the footnote, modified by Count Plunkett, attributes only the Cashel crozier to the Royal Irish Academy (National Museum) collection. However, our purpose is not to carp at Margaret Stokes, a pioneer of Irish archaeology, but to show how easily confusion can arise and finally to lay the ghost, though with some regret, of the crozier of Glendalough.


This article appears courtesy of Cormac Bourke, Archaeology Ireland and Wordwell Publishing.

It originally featured in Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Winter, 1990), pp. 10-11.