Researching Pilgrimage

If Mr A were to research medieval Irish history, I have a recommendation for him. Should he find himself for whatever coincidence in Dublin, he ought to make his way to the National Museum of Ireland where he could see some artefacts from the period of time that his upcoming project Pilgrimage is set in. I went in there the day before yesterday for a little re-con in his stead – and to get a tiny glimpse into what the film possibly will touch upon. And I’d like to use the opportunity to show you what I saw – and advertise this wonderful institution to you.

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Sorry, iPhone pic

The archeology branch of the National Museum is housed in a beautiful, custom-built building dating back to 1890 – as such it is almost a “museum-museum” where you can see what an old museum looks like: a large two-storey hall with (now blacked-out) glass roof, mosaic flooring, ornately decorated wrought-iron balustrades and pillars, and a built-in floor heating.

The first floor exhibition space of the National Museum had recently been remodelled, and this is where the exhibits for medieval Ireland are displayed. The collection is not overly huge – just the long length of one side of the upper gallery. It deals with all aspects of medieval culture and society and illustrates them with appropriate objects.

2015-03-27 14.15.05I was particularly interested to see a display on “The Cult of Relics”. Says the notes “Held in reverence, these objects were passed from one generation to the next. Many show the influence of patrons and the skill of successive craftsmen who worked on them.” I.e. religious relics in Ireland were often kept in the safe-guarding of a particular family whose names were recorded on the shrines that housed the relics. They were entrusted with the care of the precious contents and so the relics were not on regular display in churches or monasteries because they were much safer that way – raids on monasteries, for instance by the Vikings, continued right into the 12th century. They did, of course, come out for worship on feast days.

The museum of course does not display any relics. Those would still be held by the religious bodies that attach any meaning, importance and cult to those objects. What you can see in the museum are the reliquaries – the containers that were made to house the precious relic. As such they could be any shape and size, depending on what they contained. On display was the shrine of St Patrick’s Tooth, a wooden shrine covered in Bronze and decorated with gold, silver, brass and amber (object on the left in the picture). The rectangular object on the right of the display case picture is an 11th century reliquary – the Shrine of the Miosach, which was held for several centuries by the Morrison family. Here is a more detailed look at St Patrick’s Tooth reliquary:

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Neither St Mathias nor a monkey - a medieval depiction of a bishop

Neither St Mathias nor a monkey – a medieval depiction of a bishop

The exhibition unfortunately did not talk about the practice of the removal of relics – called “Translation” – from one locality to another – supposedly the theme of Armitage’s medieval road movie. Does that make Pilgrimage a medieval “Lost in Translation”, btw??? From what we have read in the PRs so far, that seems to be the topic of the film: During removal (translation) of the relic, the precious remains of St Mathias are in danger of being lost. I am very curious to see how that is all explained – why are they moving the relic, where to, etc. Wonder why the writers chose this particular saint, btw – he has no connections with Ireland (and how would the remains of the 13th apostle have made it to this little island on the fringes of Europe, anyway???). Maybe he was chosen for the second film location, the Ardennes. Because the relics of St Mathias have been held in the Benedictine abbey of the same name in the German town of Trier since 1127, and Trier is actually bordering on the Ardennes region in the West of Germany.

But back to the museum. If inconclusive on the finer details of the medieval cult of relics, in my book it is still one of the best sights to visit in Dublin. Because it houses an incredible exhibition on Celtic gold that is well-worth seeing. The collection consists of prehistoric goldwork that dates back as far as 2000 BC. On display are beautifully simple, large gold neck rings, as well as hundreds of bracelets and some intricately decorated collars and dress fasteners. It is a stunning treasure.

2015-03-27 14.33.282015-03-27 14.32.14 Even if you are a not generally interested in jewellery or pre-history – it won’t cost you anything but time to pop in. The National Museum is free to visit and centrally located on the Southside of Dublin City Centre, right next to the Dáil (parliament) in Kildare Street. Other exhibition highlights include the treasury (Celtic and early Christian artefacts), Viking Ireland, some bog bodies and a number of changing exhibitions. (Currently an exhibition on the Battle of Clontarf (1014) is on, the most important battle in Irish history as the first Christian king, Brian Boru, defeated the pagan Vikings.) Open daily from 10am except Mondays. I expect you do your research, Rich!

 

 

50 thoughts on “Researching Pilgrimage

    • Next time, Alyssa! I’ll even give you a tour ;-). And well, Guinness is well worth seeing, too, and quite a big part of Dublin, so you did do well with that, too. Plus, you get a great view from that Guinness rooftop bar.

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  1. Ja dann: nix wie hin…….. 🙂
    Der Schmuck sieht wirklich schwer beeindruckend aus. Das erste kann ich ja noch als Halsschmic erkennen. Aber das zweite? Ist das ein BH zum Festhalten? Unpraktisch, oder 😉 Oder fällt das unter mittelalterliche Reizwäsche?

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    • Wenn wir bei eurem Kurzbesuch Zeit haben sollten, dann gerne!
      Und richtig erkannt – der erste Goldschmuck ist ein massives Collier. Bei dem zweiten Gegenstand handelt es sich um so genannte Dress Fastener. Sie lassen sich zusammendrücken und man kann damit einen Umhang festklammern. Als BH wäre das wohl eher zu schade gewesen – dann sieht ja keiner das protzige Gold 😉

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  2. Ja, dort waren wir auch! Es ist unglaublich beeindruckend! Allerdings haben wir nur einen klitzekleinen Teil davon sehen können. Die Zeit reicht einfach nicht um bei nur einem Besuch alles sehen zu können. Bog bodies – sind das die Moorleichen? Oder komme ich jetzt gerade durcheinander?
    Durfte man denn Fotos machen? Oder hast Du die elegant unter dem Schal hindurch…..

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    • Ah, wunderbar, das gibt schon mal einen Pluspunkt 😉 Und ja, obwohl das Museum nicht riesig ist, kann man sich gut eine Weile darin aufhalten. Die Bog Bodies sind in der Tat die Moorleichen – oder die Teile, die noch von den Leichen vorhanden sind.
      Hehe, hab gar nicht gefragt, ob ich fotografieren darf oder nicht. Aber das iPhone scheint ja heute sowieso meistens nicht mehr zu “gülden”.

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  3. Well done, well done.
    I could spend days wandering around in this museum, what an interesting exhibition.
    You should twitter Mr. A the link to your blog for research purposes only 🙂

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    • Hehe, the museum is not as big as it looks Ute, so one day will be enough…
      And *if* I were to recommend this to Mr A, I’d tweet him the link to the museum directly rather than my blog’s. 😀

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  4. Great post, Guylty.
    The relic the monks are to “translate” to Rome is not the remnants of the saint, but just one of the rocks used for his martyrdom. This makes a lot more sense (about the location… anyway). Why St Mathias? Really don’t know. Pilgrimage screenplayer tweeted a painting of St Kevin of Glendalough… could it be relevant?
    I love this clue game… 😛

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    • Ah, thanks for that info, micra. (OMG, that makes me think of the fictional “Stone of Clonrickart” from the much-loved Channel 4 series “Father Ted”, a very irreverent but hilarious series about three Irish priests. Ooooh, I see a further educational post for Mr A coming up *ggg*.)
      Oh, and Hannigan tweetet St Kevin? I’d say the image was only used for general reference, though, cos St Kevin was a 6th century hermit, the founder of the monastic settlement at Glendalough. Hm, but it could be relevant in the sense that Glendalough (which I am quite familiar with – I go walking there on a regular basis, it’s only an hour away from Dublin and is a most spectacularly beautiful valley with a lake, waterfall and the ruins of the monastery) was one of the most important monastic settlements in Ireland, founded in the 6th century. Maybe the group of monks will be passing through on their way to Belgium? It’s on the East coast of Ireland, though, so not part of the West coast film location that they have been mentioning…

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        • It’s like a puzzle. It keeps my mind active – and for a change it is even something that is connected to my former subject of studies. I really haven’t done much with history in the last while, so I am really enjoying this…

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      • Father Ted!!! i looove Father Ted!!!! oh wish they’d do reruns of that 🙂 and that is a funny one 🙂 i love the reliquaries and other display boxes for relics, it is interesting to know what different things become so revered… reminds me of that 1 ep in Robin Hood ‘ggg’ sorry very irreverent thoughts 🙂

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  5. You wrote, “Wonder why the writers chose this particular saint, btw – he has no connections with Ireland (and how would the remains of the 13th apostle have made it to this little island on the fringes of Europe, anyway???). Maybe he was chosen for the second film location, the Ardennes. Because the relics of St Mathias have been held in the Benedictine abbey of the same name in the German town of Trier since 1127, and Trier is actually bordering on the Ardennes region in the West of Germany.”
    I think this could be an important “clue” at least as to which monastic order the Pilgrimage monks were part of. Thanks for that, Glad you enjoyed your day.

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    • Hehe, yes, medieval history was not my field of specialisation in college. In fact I never really liked it very much, but hey, one has to keep up with the Armitage 😉

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        • I was looking at the Benedictine connection just now. I think they were an order that established themselves comparatively late in Ireland. But right in the time frame that we are looking at. There is, for instance, the example of Fore Abbey in Co. Westmeath which is a site formerly established by an early Christian monastery. A Benedictine priory was built there under the patronage of Anglo-Norman landlord Hugh de Lacey, and French Benedictine monks from Evreux (in Normandy) settled it.

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  6. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Himself appears at that museum, or any other historical site, a medieval abbey or some such, in the next few weeks! Thanks for sharing, Guylty! I always found those relics fascinating. Still makes me grin, remembering Uhtred’s inner dialogue when he thought about stealing the ring off one such holy object… =)

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    • Yep, it wouldn’t surprise me, either. (Does that mean I should lie in wait in the museum *ggg*. Nah, no worries, Mr A – I won’t. I have better things to do with my time.) There are plenty of early Christian sites of great importance in Ireland that RA could visit for research. The most important one is Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly. Maybe I need to write another post for Mr A, recommending a few sites to visit…
      Ha, Lords of the NOrth, yes. Mr A has already done some intense medieval stuff from various perspectives, hasn’t he?

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      • Great post, Guylty! I loved that museum. It has stunning artifacts, yet it’s small enough that it doesn’t wear you out with “museum fatigue.”
        As for Clonmacnoise, that is my dream place to visit because of its Cúchulainn associations 🙂

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        • I’m glad you agree with me on the National Museum. A little gem (with a larger sister, the branch that is housed in Collins Barracks).
          As for Clonmacnoise – definitely worth visiting. Not only for the medieval remains, but simply because it is situated in a beautiful spot, overlooking the river Shannon. (Must post some pictures – last visited in November 2013 with my parents and took plenty of photos.)

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          • I can tell on the map that it’s by the river, but none of the photos I’ve seen have featured the river view. I’d love to see your impressions of it! I have a DVD of an interview with Seamus Heaney that was done at Clonmacnoise when it was all misty and green. Absolutely lovely.
            Somehow I missed the Collins Barracks part of the NM. Is that where they keep the artifacts of later date?

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  7. Since I like going to museums I will have to keep this one in mind if I even get over to Ireland. I have been to see the Roman Baths at Bath and enjoyed all the neat old artifacts.

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  8. What a gorgeous space! You are so right that the architecture here an exhibit all it’s own. I imagine the natural light has been blocked since it has been found to be so damaging to so many types of artifacts.

    The whole fighting Benedictine monk concept is kind of puzzling…I usually think of Benedictines farming, making pretzels and praying. Maybe there are a few refugee Templars thrown into the mix to wield swords 🙂 We shall see. Thanks for a peek at a rich source of background material.

    (Btw…love that folk arty simian looking Bishop!)

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    • Yeah, I think that’s why they have covered the glass roof. It’s a bit of a pity, though.
      let’s see whether this film will involve Benedictine monks at all – it’s only fiction, after all…
      That “simian bishop” takes the biscuit, doesn’t he? I laughed out loud when I saw him and initially thought it was a medieval, irreverent comment on the clergy… But no – it was meant in earnest.

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  9. I feel compelled to give you my thoughts on the film as a shallow fan girl ( I excel in this role). I would venture to guess that the average reader of this and other RA dedicated blogs know more about monks, relics, and assorted medieval facts than the majority of the film’s potential viewers. Unless those potential viewers are historians and/or medieval documentary fans. And what well-wishers don’t know, they will educate themselves and share what they have learned about the topic with others. My point is that perhaps the film makers are not going for a lot of historical accuracy in their plot. If they want to shoot in Ireland or Belgium, they can pick any relic that supposedly made the journey, or make one up. It doesn’t really matter to the public at large. If they put “based on a true story” under the title then it might make a difference. I think the relic is more of a “maguffin”, a term invented by Alfred Hitchcock that refers to the object that actors are looking for, fighting over, whatever. The best example would be the Maltese falcon. It could have been anything. Of course, I can’t remember if this film is based on a book known for its meticulous research and the filmmakers have dedicated themselves to stick to historical accuracy as much as possible. I hope not. “A tale worth telling is worth embellishment.” The more the better where monks and relics are concerned,imo.

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    • Oi, Miss Spoilsport!!! 😉 Nah, I am kidding. You are absolutely right. Films are fiction, and therefore I shouldn’t have gotten carried away and dug into the whole thing that deep. Chances are that the little clues we have seen in pics on Twitter are nothing but research. Not for a factual account of the background of Pilgrimage, but as pointers for the setting and socio-historical context. All the better if the story is not too closely related to RL history – it would probably piss me off if I found mistakes 😉

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      • No, it was great for you to get carried away, because you helped us all learn something interesting. Please get carried away as often as you can. This fandom’s wealth of knowledge on so many topics is amazing to me. I was just being contrary, which is my want. 😉 Most films never let historical accuracy get in the way of a good (or bad) story. I think my concern is mainly on Richard having to wear a tonsure. If that is the case, screw historical accuracy.

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    • One reason I just can’t get excited about the run up to this, frankly, is that the filmmakers will make some horrid mistake about medieval history, either out of ignorance or on purpose (it’s never been clear to me which is worse), which will ruin the film for me. This has always been an excruciating feature of The Crucible for me — the fact that so much of the play is just blatantly historically wrong. I can’t be bothered to research in depth about medieval history, which I had to study in grad school but have never cared for beyond that. So I’d rather not get my hopes up that the film will even make sense historically.

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      • You must be related to my husband in some way. When watching any dramatization which involves lawyers, he gets twitchy about drama never being legally accurate. Legal dramas are ruined for him, and for me because I can hear his inner scoffing. So we don’t watch any. And speaking of an excruciating feature in TC, he almost snorted (I had to subtly grab his arm to prevent it) when Proctor came home from his toils and put his rifle on the table. It was around 200 years too modern for the period. It was jarring to him that such a prominent prop could be so blatantly wrong. Other than that, he liked the play very much. I don’t expect films to strive for historical accuracy, it seems to be the first thing that is sacrificed in service to the story. But I am not a historian so my standards are most likely low compared to yours. 🙂

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  10. That is a beautiful building, that alone would be worth the visit…. and love the artefacts! I have to say religious artefacts though abundant they are were never my favourite, i always get ‘cross-overload’ very quickly. Which i why i tend to prefer antique, pre-BC artefacts often to the Christian ones, life seemed sometimes more interesting when it wasn’t all ‘ora et labora’ Sorry, i hope this doesn’t offend anyone. I am just talking about the subjects depicted in art which have reached us through time.
    I am however always fascinated by all manner of domestic objects and yes, jewellery 🙂 Love me some antique bling , or medieval bling 🙂 These are beautiful!
    Too bad with the whole monk business we won’t be seeing much costume adornment and such. I am hoping for some interesting swords though. As for the tonsure… did the Benedictines wear hoodies? please tell me they did!

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    • I am completely with you when it comes to religious artefacts of the Christian persuasion. I guess one has seen too many of them – European museums are littered with them… Pagan stuff is much more interesting, also from a feminist perspective. I love the Irish sheila-na-gigs, for instance, Mother Goddess carvings of the female shape with an over-emphasised vulva that you can find in some Irish ancient sites. Just because all other ritualistic history is so dominated by men…
      As for “the whole monk business” – that makes me wonder whether they have factored in a “strong female character”. No, I do not need the obligatory love story, but I’d like to see a woman turning up somewhere, driving the story in some shape or form. A rather “frommer Wunsch” (wishful thinking), I suppose. Not much space and opportunity for females in a monastic setting. Or the crusades, for that matter. And the absence of any female name in the cast so far, speaks volumes. Hmph.

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  11. It’s been several years since I was in Dublin and I’m sorry I missed that little gem of a museum. My own fault. I wandered over to Trinity University to that long room library, fell in love with the smell, and stayed too long. Plus I was fascinated watching the book restorers and wishing I was one of them. At least I got to see the Book of Kells and of Durrow, as well as some others.

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    • Well, I think you did very well with Trinity College Library. The Book of Kells is hugely impressive – what a pity you can only see one/two page/s a day. And who knows, maybe you’ll come back one day?

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