Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The five pointed Crown of Ireland

This motif crops up all over the place, it's one of those things that once you notice it you see it everywhere. It can be found on early Irish documents (there's one on Wikipedia from 1651) and is a detail on a thirteenth-century crosier which was found in the Rock of Cashel Cathedral.

The crosier is said to have belonged to a bishop called Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster (d 1138) and that it was found during excavations at the cathedral around his grave around 1730. It passed through various people's hands before its origin story was written down by a Joseph Cooper Walker, who put it on public display via the Royal Irish Academy in 1786. The photo above is of a 19th century replica (from this website).

It appears to symbolise the era before the arrival/invasion of the Anglo-Normans in 1169. Which of course is an era far more complex than the 19th century nationalistic interpretations of the story that still hold such a grip on perceptions here.

The five-pointed side view of the crown (therefore 8 or 10 points in total?) famously features on the Munster coat of arms but its usage reaches far beyond that province, with many in Ulster. Various depictions of it are shown below, from Brian Boru to Edward Bruce to the Ulster Bank and the Ulster Women's Declaration and a pavement mosaic outside an old chemist's shop, now The Central Hotel, in Donegal town.

The 'Éirinn go Brách' Lisburn postcard c. 1905 shown below is from my own collection. I'm sure there are umpteen other usages of this out there.