The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Height: 17.000 cm
Width: 12.800 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
M&ME 1889,9-2,22;M&ME 1889,9-2,23
St Conall Cael's bell
Irish, 7th-9th century AD (bell), late
10th-11th century AD (brass mount)
From Inishkeel, County Donegal, Ireland
This iron hand bell is said to have originally belonged to St Conall Cael in the sixth century. Long after his death it was enshrined as a relic in an elaborate covering, and was worshipped by pilgrims visiting St Conall's well on the island of Inishkeel.
The bell is an early type made from a sheet of iron, its handle and loop for the clapper are missing. A plate of brass decorated with native Irish and Viking interlace ornament was added around the year 1000.
fifteenth century an ornate silver 'bell shrine'
was made to protect and embellish the bell. This bell and its
shrine, like most Irish
Relics associated with the early Irish saints were believed to hold miraculous powers and were much revered in the medieval church in Ireland. Oaths were sworn upon them and curses were cast using them. Water drank from ancient bells was believed to cure a wide variety of illnesses.
R. Ó Floinn, Irish shrines and reliquaries (National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, 1994)
C. Bourke, 'Early Irish hand bells', Journal of the Royal Society-1, 110 (1980)