The images you'll see as you scroll down to the current text are all part of the story telling in my novel, Realms of Gold:Ritual to Romance.

Bianca Caldwell, pen name, Bianca Fiore, is a writer for an art magazine. In each of her monthly stories she describes an object used in ancient ritual.

Bronze Age Golden Hats

Golden hats (or Gold hats) are a very specific and rare type of archaeological artifact from Bronze Age Europe. So far, four such objects ("cone-shaped gold hats of the Schifferstadt type") are known. The objects are made of thin sheet gold and were attached externally to long conical and brimmed headdresses which were probably made of some organic material and served to stabilise the external gold leaf.

Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, found in 1835 at Schifferstadt near Speyer, circa 1400–1300 BC.

The Golden Hat of Schifferstadt  was discovered in a field near the town of Schifferstadt in Southwest Germany in 1835. It is a Bronze Age artefact made of thin sheet gold and served as the external decoration of a head-dress, probably of an organic material, with a brim and a chin-strap.

The Avanton Cone  found at Avanton near Poitiers in 1844, circa 1000–900 BC.
The Avanton Gold Cone or Avanton Conecirca 1000–900 BC is a late Bronze Age artefact, belonging to the group of Golden hats, only four of which are known so far.

The Avanton Cone was the second such object to be discovered (after the Golden Hat of Schifferstadt). It was found in 1844 in a field near the village of Avanton, about 12 km north of Poitiers, France. The object was damaged; comparison with other finds suggests that a part (the brim) is missing. The remaining part of the Avanton cone is 55 cm long and weighs 285 g. Originally dated to the Middle Bronze and suggested to be a fertility symbol, it now appears to be of later date and more complex function.

Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch, found near Ezelsdorf near Nuremberg in 1953, circa 1000–900 BC; the tallest known specimen at c. 90 cm.

The Golden Cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch is a Late Bronze Age artefact discovered in 1953 between the villages of Ezelsdorf (Franconia) and Buch (Bavaria) in Southern Germany. A tall (88 cm), cone-shaped object made of thin sheet gold. It was presumably worn by special functionaries on ceremonial occasions.

Berlin Gold Hat, found probably in Swabia or Switzerland, circa 1000–800 BC; acquired by the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, Berlin, in 1996.

The Berlin Gold Hat or Berlin Golden Hat is a Late Bronze Age artifact made of thin gold leaf. It served as the external covering on a long conical brimmed headdress, probably of an organic material. It is now in the Neues Museum on Museum Island in Berlin, in a room by itself with an elaborate explanatory display.

The Berlin Gold Hat is the best preserved specimen among the four known conical Golden hats known from Bronze Age Europe so far. All were found in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is generally assumed that the hats served as the insignia of deities or priests in the context of a sun cult that appears to have been widespread in Central Europe at the time. The hats are also suggested to have served astronomical/calendrical functions.

Eberswalde Hoard

The Eberswalde Hoard or Treasure of Eberswalde is a Bronze Age hoard of 81 gold objects with a total weight of 2.59 kg (83 ozt). The largest prehistoric assembly of gold objects ever found in Germany, it is considered to be one of the most important finds from the Central European Bronze Age. Today, it is in Russia, as part of the group of artifacts and works of art taken from Germany at the end of the Second World War.

After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Eberswalde Hoard disappeared from the Berlin museum, along with the so-called "Treasure of Priam". The suspicion that the Red Army might have removed both finds was denied by the Soviets for decades. After Russian president Boris Yeltsin admitted that "Priam's Treasure" was in Russian hands, the authorities ceased to explicitly deny that they also held Eberswalde Hoard. In 2004, a reporter from German magazine Der Spiegel located it in a secret depot within Moscow's Pushkin Museum. Germany has request return of the materials, and the issue has caused tension between the German and Russian governments.

The hoard had been deposited in a globular vessel with a lid. In it were eight gold bowls, which contained another 73 gold objects. The bowls were thin-walled chased gold vessels with copious ornamental decoration. The other objects included neck rings, bracelets and 60 wire arm spirals. 55 double spirals were tied into bundles. A gold ingot, a piece of metal shaped like a crucible and two smaller pieces probably represent raw material for the production of such objects. The treasure belongs to the goldsmith known as Villena-type, for its resemblance to the Treasure of Villena.

Etruscan Gold

Etruscan Situla da ChiusiVII secolo a.C. Firenze, Museo Archeologico Etruscan

Etruscan gold cup C..675 BC Palestrina,Tomb Bernardini a pervert name for an Etruscan tomb Villa Giulia museum. Rome

Etruscan embossed bulla of polished gold depicting a chariot race and their charioteer drawn by four winged horses. Vulci -C.400 BCE Gregorian Etruscan Museum

Etruscan Straight Pin, c. 500 BC Italy, Etruscan, late 6th Century BC gold and glass

Etruscan Ring, 4th century BC-3rd century BC

ETRUSCAN GOLD FILIGREE EARRINGS Openwork ribbons filled with wire bands, bosses, scrolls. Probably from Vetulonia Ca. 1st quarter of the 7th Century BC

Etruscan. Gold Winged female figure Louvre. 6th century BCE. Unknown origin

The Comerford Crown, a Bronze Age gold ‘hat’ from Tipperary

The Comerford Crown

The Comerford Crown is striking gold artifact, whose origins probably lie in the Late Bronze Age. It was discovered in 1692 in a peat bog at Bearna Eile (The Devil’s Bit), Co. Tipperary. As the picture above shows, it was profusely decorated, in what was most likely repousse ornamentation. An extraordinary object, the crown must have created a considerable stir when found.  It soon caught the eye of a Mr. Joseph Comerford, who purchased it and subsequently brought it to Châteaux de Anglure in Champagne, France, where he was then resident. Unfortunately, the crown went missing soon afterwards.

Bowls of Axtroki.

Parallels for this precious object can be found in continental Europe, where a small number of gold hats/vessels are recorded from Bronze Age contexts. In the northwest of the Iberian peninsula, for example, at least three gold hats or bowls have been recovered that are strikingly similar to the Comerford Crown. Fashioned out of carefully hammered gold, they are covered in repoussé decoration that is comparable to the Tipperary crown, especially the circular motifs and banded ornamentation.

Bowls of Axtroki are gold bowls semi-spherical in shape finished in a curved border. It could have served as a bowl or a helmet.

At the time it was found in a site in Axtroki (province of Guipuzcoa) with another smaller bowl inside. It has recently been proposed that both pieces could actually be ceremonial helmets or hats used in some form of rite or ceremony.

Their geometrical decoration has been interpreted as a symbol of the sun.

The Comerford Crown is not the only Bronze Age ‘hat’ recorded from Ireland and in the late 17th century a second gold crown/vessel  was found nearby at the Bog of Cullen, Co. Tipperary. Known locally as the Golden Bog, due to the sheer quantity of artifacts recovered from its depths during the 17th and 18th centuries, this morass appears to have been an important ritual site during the Late Bronze Age. Unfortunately, very few of the objects found in the bog have survived to the present day and the gold ‘crown’ is no different. In 1744 it was purchased by a Limerick Jeweller, Joseph Kinshalloe, who melted down the artifact to produce 6 ounces worth of gold. Another gold ‘crown’, described rather unusually as shaped like a shell, was also discovered in Co. Limerick at Kilpeacon in 1821. Regrettably, this object was similarly melted down for bullion.

The bilingual Pyrgi tablets (500 BC)

The rare and unusual Pyrgi tablets are a real treasure, both from a linguistic and a historical point of view. What makes the tablets so special is that they are bilingual: two tablets are written in Etruscan and translated into Phoenician on the third one, making it possible for researchers to use the Phoenician version to read and interpret the otherwise undecipherable Etruscan.

The tablets date from the beginning of the 5th century BC and are the oldest historical source of pre-Roman Italy among the known inscriptions. They record a dedication of a temple to the Phoenician Goddess Astarte (also known as Ishtar) by Thefarie Velanias, the ruler of Caere (now Cerveteri). From a historical point of view this attests evidence of Phoenician or Punic influence in the Western Mediterranean.

Etruscan Gold Book

An ancient book comprising six pages of 23.82-karat gold (measuring 5 centimeters in length and 4.5 centimeters in width) bound together by gold rings. The plates contain a text written in Etruscan characters and also depict a horse, a horseman, a Siren, a lyre, and soldiers. According to Elka Penkova, who heads the museum's archaeology department, the find may be the oldest complete book in the world, dating to about 600 b.c.

The content of the book suggests that it was made for the funeral of an aristocrat who was a member of the Orpheus cult.1 The Greek philosopher Pythagoras spread the beliefs of the cult (which originated in Thracia) in southern Italy and among the neighboring Etruscan tribes. According to Penkova, about 30 pages from Etruscan books are known from elsewhere, but only in single sheets. The Bulgarian find is the only complete version.

An 87-year-old Bulgarian man from Macedonia, who wishes to remain anonymous, donated the book to the museum. He had discovered the treasure in a tomb unearthed 60 years ago when he was a soldier working on the construction of a canal along the Strouma River in southwestern Bulgaria. According to Bozhidar Dimitrov, director of the museum, the find has been authenticated by experts in Sofia and London. Bulgarian professor Valdimir Georgiev is working on a translation of the text.

Gold Helmet of Leiro

The gold Casco de Leiro ("Helmet of Leiro") is a ritual hemispherical cap probably dating to the end of the Late Bronze Age[1] (circa 1,000 to 800 BC) in northwestern Iberia. The circumstances of its discovery show that technically it constitutes a hoard.

The cap, hammered from a single casting of gold,is entirely covered with registers of repeated repoussé decoration, hammered over bronze molds, of repeated bosses alternating with bands of repeated concentric circles. The central point is applied with a flat-sided point in the form of a truncated cone. Its maximum diameter is 19.5 cm with a height of 15 cm to the base of the point, it weighs 270 grams.
Treasure of Villena

Conical golden hats of the Schifferstadt

Its registers of hammered decoration present parallels with the decors of late Bronze Age conical golden hats of the Schifferstadt type and the gold bowls found at Axtroki, Guipúzcoa, or the so-called Treasure of Villena, Alicante. There is a possibility that its uses were twofold: as a ritual basin, though it is decoratively pierced with an awl, and inverted as an emblem of authority.

The Mold cape, Contemporary with the conical hats is a solid sheet-gold object dating from about 1900-1600 BC in the European Bronze Age. It was found at Mold in Flintshire, Wales, in 1833.

The cape is thought to have formed part of a ceremonial dress, perhaps with religious connections. It is housed at the British Museum in London.

The Ardagh Hoard

The hoard was found in 1868 by two boys, Jim Quinn and Paddy Flanagan, digging in a potato field on the south-western side of a rath (ring fort) called Reerasta, beside the village of Ardagh, County Limerick, Ireland. The chalice held the other items, covered merely by a slab of stone; the pieces must have been interred in a hurry, probably temporarily, as though the owner probably intended to return for them at a later time. The brooches found with the chalice show that it was not buried until the Viking period.

The hoard consisted of four brooches, a stemmed cup and a highly elaborate chalice which contained all of the smaller items.

Annular brooch, Ardagh Hoard

As for where the Chalice and its companions had been before then, nobody has any idea. Theories have been floated that it was one of a number of valuable pieces stolen from the monastery at Clonmacnoise in 1125 during a robbery by a Limerick Dane, a crime famous during that period.

The chalice belongs to a special group of cups known as ‘calices ministrales’, or in other words, chalices used by minor clergymen and lay people before the Catholic Church lifted restrictions on communion for both groups. During mass it would have been filled with Eucharistic wine, which the priest then dispensed to the congregation. At the time of its construction it would have been considered to be an old fashioned style, similar to Byzantine and Western Chalices.

So, why is this chalice so special, apart from the fact that it’s quite old? Because its construction and decoration shows incredible skill highly uncommon for that period of history, that’s why! Although large for a Eucharistic chalice, it is actually quite small, measuring seven inches in height and nine and a half inches in diameter, with the bowl being four inches deep. Within these reasonably small measurements there are a total of 354 different parts, six different types of metal (gold, silver, bronze, brass, copper and lead), small amounts of various other precious materials (glass, amber, malachite and rock crystal), and 48 different designs.

The decorative detail on the Ardagh Chalice is the most important aspect of it, and makes it the most beautiful Irish artefact ever to have been discovered. Everything from engravings, animals, interlaced patterns, and Greek bands feature in the design as well as exquisite ornamentation, known as repouseé and filigree wirework.

Amazing Examples of Ancient Celtic Gold

Celtic gold bracelet found in Cantal, France

A belt made of 2.8 kilograms (6.2 lb) of pure gold, discovered in Guînes, France. 1200-1000 BC

Ancient gold with a twist in its story is put on display

The 3,000-year-old torc was found four years ago in boggy ground at Corrard in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, by a passer-by who at first thought he had found a car engine spring. He realized its significance two years later, and it was declared treasure.

The rare piece weighs 720 grams and is approximately 87% gold, 11% silver and 2% copper. Its design would have been fashionable in Britain, Ireland and France between 1300-1100BC.

Torcs have been closely associated with the Celtic people of Bronze Age Europe since at least Roman times, when figures were often identified as Celtic in sculpture and paintings by the torcs they wore.

Made by smiths who expertly twisted the metal into a ribbon-like appearance (which gives the object its name, from the Latin torqueo, ‘to twist’), torcs were worn around the neck, waist, arm or breast.

However, a mystery surrounds the Ulster torc. In its present condition it could not have been worn anywhere on the body as it has been deliberately coiled like a spring.

The torc’s original design would have been as a large circular hoop with two solid terminals at either end. These are believed to have acted as interlocking clasps, much like a clasp on a necklace.

The reason for the change of shape is a mystery. The practice of deliberately coiling torcs before burial is more common in Southern England. Only one other torc in Ireland has been found in a similar shape.

Some have suggested that the coiling was an act to ‘decommission’ the object after its owner died. Alternatively, it may have been a votive offering; an object made with the intention of deliberately burying it as an offering to the gods.

Ulster Musuem, Belfast

British Musuem: Viking Gold

A gold Viking pendant in the form of 'Thor's hammer'. The pendant is in the form of a double-headed hammer with an elongated pentagonal head. The head is rectangular in cross-section. From the centre of the head extends an integral tapering rectangular-sectioned shaft. The terminal of the shaftis narrowed to form a suspension loop. Both faces of the axe are decorated with punched motifs resembling quatrefoils or perhaps miniature axes.

A gold finger-ring dating to the Viking period. The ring is composed of three tapering, square-sectioned rods twisted together, which are thicker at the front, while at the back the ends are hammered flat together into a plain, narrow band. Gold rings of twisted type from the British Isles and Scandinavia are dated from the late Saxon/Viking periods into the early Middle Ages, from the late 9th century into the 12th century.

An Early Medieval (Viking) gold finger ring dating from the late 9th-10th century. It is made from a strip of gold which tapers to wire terminals which are wound around each other at the back of the hoop. The bezel of the ring is the widest part of the strip, and is an elongated lozenge.

A Viking gold ring ring which consists of a double-banded hoop made from a slightly concavo-convex strip with the ends drawn into wires at the back of the hoop, which are then tightly wound round a constricted section of the strip.

The Thame Hoard

The Thame Hoard is made up of five medieval gold rings and ten silver groats (c.1351 – c.1457). It was found on the edge of the River Thame in 1940, by a couple walking their dog by the river bank, which was piled high with debris caused by dredging. As the man bent down to pick up a stone to throw for his dog his eye caught shiny objects amongst the gravel. The Coroner declared the hoard treasure trove and the hoard came to the Ashmolean Museum.
The Abbey of the Thame
In medieval England clothing and jewellery became an important means of expressing wealth and status. The degree of ornamentation, and quality of materials used, set the upper classes apart from the poorer citizens. Gold rings in particular were considered prestigious items of decoration and by the middle of the fourteenth century a decree had been introduced making it legal only for the upper classes to wear such symbols of status.

We do not know for sure why the rings and coins in this hoard came to be deposited. One suggestion is that the reliquary ring may have belonged to Robert King, elected abbot of Thame in 1529. In November 1539 the abbey was surrendered to the King, and the objects may have been lost in flight or hidden until negotiations were completed, but were never collected.

The reliquary ring is set with an amethyst in the shape of a double armed cross and may have once contained a holy relic. It is engraved on the back with the crucifixion and is inscribed (in Latin) ‘Remember me, O Lord’.

Reliquary ring from the Thame Hoard

Back of Thame Hoard Reliquary ring which is engraved with the crucifixion and is inscribed (in Latin) ‘Remember me, O Lord’

The five rings contained within the Thame Hoard are all made of gold. Three of them include stones believed to have magical properties. Ring b is set with a peridot, ring c with a toadstone and ring d with turquoise. Peridots were believed to offer protection to their wearers; toadstone (in fact fossilised fish teeth and nothing to do with toads) was supposed to bring a man victory over his enemies; while turquoise was believed to change colour if placed near poison.

Rings a (left) and b (right) from the Thame  Hoard

Rings c (left) and d (right) from the Thame Hoard

Ten silver groats dating from c. 1357 – 1457 were recovered alongside the rings. The earliest coins in the hoard were minted in London and display the portraits of the monarchs Edward III, Richard II and Henry V. The remaining seven coins display the portrait of Henry VI and were minted in Calais.

The lack of wear on many of these coins shows they had not long been in circulation when they were lost. The coins are particularly important as they help us to date the hoard to after 1457 (on the basis of the date of the latest coin).

Reposted from Ashmolean Museum

Viking treasure dating over 1,000 years discovered in Scotland

Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects.

A large Carolingian Lidded Vessel is part of a hoard of Viking gold and silver artefacts dating back over 1,000 years.

A hoard of Viking gold and silver artifacts dating back over 1,000 years has been discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland, in a find hailed by experts as one of the country's most significant.

Derek McLennan, a retired businessman, uncovered the 100 items in a field in Dumfriesshire, southwest Scotland, in September.

Amongst the objects is a solid silver cross thought to date from the 9th or 10th century, a silver pot of west European origin, which is likely to have already been 100 years old when it was buried and several gold objects.

An early Christian cross is seen in this photograph received in London on October 14, 2014.

"Experts have begun to examine the finds, but it is already clear that this is one of the most significant Viking hoards ever discovered in Scotland," Scotland's Treasure Trove unit said in a statement.

The Viking hoard is McLennan's second significant contribution to Scotland's understanding of its past. Last year, he and a friend unearthed around 300 medieval coins in the same area of Scotland.

"The Vikings were well known for having raided these shores in the past, but today we can appreciate what they have left behind," said Scotland's secretary for cultural and external affairs, Fiona Hyslop.

The Vikings, of Scandinavian origin, made successive raids on Britain from the 8th to the 11th centuries, burying their valuables for safe-keeping, which have gradually been discovered by generations of treasure seekers.
A golden pin is one of the Viking gold and silver artifacts discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland. STRINGER/Reuters A golden pin is one of the Viking gold and silver artifacts discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland.

A 10th-century Viking hoard was found in 2007 in northern England, while in 1840 over 8,600 items were found in northwest England.

The latest find, also containing a rare silver cup engraved with animals which dates from the Holy Roman Empire, and a gold bird pin, is the largest to be found in Scotland since 1891 and could be worth a six-figure sum, the BBC said.

A golden pin is one of the Viking gold and silver artifacts discovered by a treasure hunter with a metal detector in Scotland.  

Celtic Mirrors: Birdlip Grave Group

1st century BC — mid 1st century AD

Discovered in 1879, found in Female burial, Birdlip Gloucestershire.

“Buried with a group of iron-age treasures around AD 50 along with the owner. In 1879 workmen discovered three skeletons in a quarry between Crickley and Birdlip overlooking the Vale of Gloucester. With the bones were some amazing Iron Age artifacts. The most important object is a handheld mirror of bronze.” 

“The Birdlip mirror design on the back of the bronze mirror is etched in to the metal. The pattern is composed of interlocking triskeles which end in groups of two or three flourishes. The handle of the mirror consists of a series of interlocking loops, the final loop, encloses another smaller circle of metal. Red enamel dots can be found on this circle, as well as on the top of the handle, where the handle meets the body of the mirror. This area could be defined as a pelta, or a small mushroom shape, similar in form to the Egyptian lotus bud.”

The front of this was originally highly polished for reflections, but the rear is decorated with flowing patterns worked into the metal. It is one of the finest items of Celtic art to survive in Britain and perhaps the finest example housed outside a national museum. The smaller items are also remarkable. There are fine bronze bowls and bracelets. The stylised face of a bird or animal can be seen in a silver gilt brooch and a bronze knife handle is shaped as the head of a bull or ox. There is also a bead necklace of amber and an exotic stone possible collected from as far away as China.

Celtic Mirrors

Desborough Mirror 

One of the most beautiful items of Celtic treasure are mirrors. These were owned by well-off ladies and were made of bronze. One side was polished brightly for the lady to see herself. The back and handle were usually decorated, with engraved lines and shapes.

Often spaces between lines were filled with 'hatching' - little marks cut into the bronze, to make an area 'darker', so the overall pattern stands out better. It is these decorations that make many Celtic mirrors great works of art.

The Celts are oft portrayed as barbarians only interested in drinking and fighting. This mirror alludes to another facet of Celtic culture: fashion and grooming. This artifact has an intricate swirling design that may have been mapped out with a compass, which is typical of La Tene art. There are several faces hidden in the design that had not been discovered until a while after its initial excavation and examination.

The level of detail certainly indicates the prestige of the owner and also sheds some light on Celtic culture. Roman historians would have us believe that the Celts were an uncultured people, however this artifact proves they also would appear to have an interest in personal hygiene and appearance. Dating to 100 BC, the mirror accentuates the social standing of women in Celtic Society, indicating that they may have had a similar role to that of Anglo Saxon women holding authority over men in certain social situations.

The Great Chesterford Mirror

The Great Chesterford Mirror, though only twenty three and one half centimeters, displays a magnificent design.  This Celtic bronze mirror, much like the Old Warden Mirror from Bedfordshire, contains a design based on three-sided voids, rather than lobe patterns.  Six matted shapes are located around the perimeter of the mirror.  These shapes appear in different form, yet all are connected by the interwoven basket-hatching.

The artist who created this mirror included a Celtic trademark found in many other mirrors, metamorphosis.  First, one bird-like image and one human image appear in the design.  When holding the mirror in hand, a human face emerges near the top of the mirror.  Two closed roundels form the eyes, while the nose is formed by a three-sided void.  After hanging the mirror from the wall, the bird-like image pops out causing the human face to disappear.  Again, a closed roundel forms the eye, while the nose is created with an elongated three-sided void.

Another Celtic trademark included in this design is tripilism.  As mentioned earlier, three-sided voids dominate the mirror back.  Two tiny triskeles are present, one located to the far left of the design and the other located to the far right of the mirror.  These triskeles consist of three appendages.  Four rosettes are present, three of these rosettes have closed roundels while one rosette is open.  Tripilism is also seen in the mirror handle.  Three circle-in-circle figures attach the handle to the mirror.

Nothing about his design is symmetrical, thus making it extremely unique.  At first glance, many other Celtic Mirrors appear symmetrical, however, upon closer examination, the viewer notices slight asymmetry.  The design on the Great Chesterford Mirror does not at all appear to have symmetry.  The mirror handle, on the other hand, does have symmetry; much like handles on Celtic Mirrors.

The Great Chesterford mirror
Essex, England
1st century BCE
British Museum, London

Cong Abbey

Cong Abbey is a historic site located at Cong, on the borders of counties Galway and Mayo, in Ireland's province of Connacht. The ruins of the former Augustinian abbey mostly date to the 13th century and have been described as featuring some of finest examples of medieval ecclestial architecture in Ireland.

In the early 7th century, a church was built at this site, reportedly by Saint Feichin. A later building was destroyed by fire in 1114. Within the next twenty years or so, Turlough Mor O’Connor, the High King of Ireland, refounded the abbey.

 In 1198, his son, Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair (Rory O'Connor), Ireland's last High King, constructed new buildings and also lived the last 15 years of his life at the abbey.  He died here and was reportedly briefly buried in the abbey before being re-interred and buried at Clonmacnoise.

Doorway with carving of Rory O’Connor
Stone carving of Rory O’Connor

Cong Abbey was suppressed in 1542 during the reign of Henry VIII. Although it was at times used by monks after that point, it later fell into ruins.

The last (nominal) abbot was Father Patrick Prendergast, parish priest of Cong from 1795 until his death in 1829. He was the preserver of the Cross of Cong. After his death, the cross was bought by James MacCullagh for the Royal Irish Academy.

The remains of Cong Abbey have been praised as featuring some of the finest examples of early gothic architecture and masonry in Ireland.The present church, and possibly the fragmentary cloister where the monks worked and prayed, belong to the rebuilding of the early 13th century.

Cong Cloister

The north doorway of the church, and the elaborate doorways that open onto the cloister from the east range of the monastery, may pre-date the attack by William de Burgo. The doorway with two fine windows on either side belongs to the chapter house, where the monastery’s daily business was conducted as well as a chapter of the rule being read each day. This was also where the community gathered to confess their sins publicly. The sculpture in the abbey, which is some of the finest in Ireland, suggests links to French styles of the period.

North Doorway

The grounds of the abbey also contain a monks’ fishing house, probably built in the 15th or 16th century, on an island in the River Cong leading towards nearby Lough Corrib.

The house is built on a platform of stones over a small arch which allows the river to flow underneath the floor. There is a trapdoor in the floor in which the fish may have been kept fresh. According to local tradition, a line was connected from the fishing house to the monastery kitchen to alert the cook to fresh fish.