26 January 2010

Pitt Rivers Museum

On a recent rainy day I went with Filia nata Tertia to look around the Pitt Rivers Museum, which has recently reopened after a makeover (as I am told we say nowadays). Frankly, apart from the splendid stuffed reproduction of Dr Dawkins at the entrance, it looked much the same as it did when it was unmade over; dark, pokey, and Victorian, with the exhibits (which the old soldier collared from colonials and fuzzy wuzzies and donated to the University) all crammed into cases in great profusion. They are housed thematically rather than regionally or chronologically, which means one can't rely on striding immediately up to something that exactly matches one's current research interests. The good news: it does mean that an idle stroll can reveal an unexpected goody and provocations to thought.

Today's goody: a small pewter chalice with a very small cuppa at the top, clearly for recusant use, "found in a cave near Killarney". I don't know whether most of my readers will be familiar with the Macgillicuddy Reeks, the highest mountains in Ireland, but the idea of such a chalice being used in penal days by a fugitive or travelling priest among the mists and torrents of that mysterious landscape is quite haunting.

A few years ago there was in Dublin an exhibition of Catholic art and artefacts of the Recusant period, revealing that some very posh stuff of continental standard was produced or bought by wealthy Catholics and Religious Communities. The little chalice that General Pitt Rivers bought back from the Liberator's own county is at quite the other end of the scale. And, I presume, from very much earlier than the Liberator.

I wonder if it dates from the around the period when Cromwellian soldiers caught the Irish Provincial of the Franciscans on the Great Scariff and mudered him there.

1 comment:

The Flying Dutchman said...

I very much wanted to see Macgillycuddy's Reeks, but was prevented from doing so by the pervasive mist.