Length: 133.000 cm
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
The Kells crozier
Ireland, late 9th-11th century AD
Irish religious relic found in London solicitor's office
This fine crozier was found without explanation in a solicitor's office in 1850, and was owned by Cardinal Wiseman before purchase by The British Museum in 1859. Originally it would have been venerated as a relic of a saint in the early church in Ireland, and also been a symbol of office for a leading cleric, possibly a bishop or abbot.
The appearance of
the crozier today is the result of at least two periods of
ornamentation as well as early attempts to dismantle or destroy it.
The core is a staff of yew wood, now cut in two. This was first
encased in bronze in the late ninth or tenth century when the staff
was decorated with
In the eleventh
century the crook was given an outer casing of silver sheet and a
new crest in gilded openwork of linked birds. A new knop decorated
Enshrining items which had belonged to holy men or their communities was an important feature of religious life in early medieval Ireland. Many of these shrines, like St Cuileán's bell, were preserved into modern times by the families of keepers who inherited this duty.
M. MacDermott, 'The Kells Crozier', Archaeologia-12, 96 (1955), pp. 59-113
F. Henry, Irish art during the Viking in (London, Methuen, 1967)
R. Ó Floinn, Irish shrines and reliquaries (National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, 1994)
N. Edwards, The archaeology of early Medie (London, Batsford Ltd., 1996)
P. Harbison, The golden age of Irish art (London, Thames and Hudson, 1999)