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A Manuscript and a Meeting Point: TCD MS 667 (Part 2)

By Conor McDonough OP

In the first part of this post, I shared something of the contents of TCD MS 667, and its value as a witness to the cultural hybridity of the activity of friars in medieval Ireland, but I never explained what might lead one to locate it in the Dominican priory in Limerick. In fact, for about a century, it was thought of as a Franciscan, not Dominican, manuscript, and located usually in Co. Clare, rather than the town of Limerick. What changed all this?

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A Manuscript and a Meeting Point: TCD MS 667 (Part 1)

By Conor McDonough OP

Among the many religious communities in the medieval town of Limerick was St Saviour’s Priory, home to the Friars Preachers or Dominicans. Right at the northern edge of Englishtown, it was founded in 1227 under the joint patronage of Gaelic aristocrat, Donncha Cairbreach Ó Briain, and the English crown.

Like any community of friars, St Saviour’s was not a stand-alone entity, but a node in an international network of friars, through which texts, ideas, stories, and friars themselves travelled with ease across national and ethnic boundaries. Like communities of friars everywhere, the founding aim of St Saviour’s was to preach the Gospel at a popular level, in an engaging and entertaining fashion, not only to those who worshipped in their church, but throughout the hinterland.

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Elizabeth Yeats, artist and teacher in the arts and crafts tradition

Billy Shortall.

The Dun Emer, and later Cuala Industries were pioneering female-led studios in the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement. They promoted handmade work, wove beautiful carpets, produced exquisite needlecraft, and printed and bound beautiful books. They served the domestic and business market and they produced liturgical art objects. It was a collaboration of artists and designers using local Irish materials. It is worth quoting at length from the studios’ 1904 prospectus which rhymed with the ideals of the wider A&C Movement,

Everything as far as possible is Irish: the paper, the books, the linen of the embroidery and the wool of the tapestry and carpets. The designs are also of the spirit and tradition of the country. The education of the work girls is also part of the idea – they are thought to paint and their brains and fingers are made more active and understanding…

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Tulip Time in Fagel

Ornamental head-piece from Abraham Munting’s Nauwkeurige Beschryving der Aardgewassen [Accurate Description of Terrestrial Plants] (Leiden, 1696). Shelfmark: Fag.GG.3.1,2

TULPENTIJD – the Dutch have a special name for it – the tulip season in the Netherlands, running from late March to mid-May when the bulb fields are streaked with glorious colour and 7 million flowers are blooming in the Keukenhof gardens. Emerging from the Fagel Collection at this season is evidence of the long established association of tulips with the Netherlands, represented in terms of botany and horticulture, scientific study and beautiful illustrations. The tulip reigns in Holland at this time of the year, in private and botanical gardens, in parks, houses and art galleries, in pots outside apartments and shops, on the streets and in transit in bicycle baskets. Continue reading “Tulip Time in Fagel”

Overwintering in Fagel

The True and perfect Description of three Voyages soo strange and woonderfull, that the like had never been heard of before”    –   Journal of Gerrit de Veer, 1598

Ten months of Arctic winter, ice-bound on the island of Novaya Zemlya  (Nova Zemla) “…with the cruell beares, and other monsters of the sea, and the unsupportable and extreme cold that is to be found in those places”. This was the ordeal undergone by the crew of a Dutch expedition which set out on the 10 May, 1596 from the port of Amsterdam to find a passage to Asia by a northern route. Two ships sailed out, one under Jan Cornelisz Rijp, the other under Jacob van Heemskerck with navigator and cartographer Willem Barentsz as expedition leader. Van Heemskerck’s ship became trapped in the ice off the island of Novaya Zemlya, when Rijp had already turned back, and the crew of seventeen were forced to overwinter on the island. Thanks to the journal of crew member Gerrit de Veer we have a detailed description of the experience, along with a series of contemporary engravings by an anonymous artist. De Veer was an officer on Van Heemskerck’s ship, and he published a rich description of three adventurous voyages (1594, 1595, 1596), to find the Northeast Passage. Continue reading “Overwintering in Fagel”