Berehaven contribution to the National Museum
Over the past few weeks we have been reviewing some of the
Beara parishes newsletters, Tuosist, Eyeries and Allihies.
During the week we have been asked several times why the
other Beara parishes dont bring out Christmas newsletters.
The answer to that is that we dont know.
We do know that back in the 1980s and 90s Castletownbere
did produce a Parish Newsletter each Christmas. As a very
good one, it attracted some fine contributions and articles
and poems by the late well known Rossmacowen poet Jer OLeary,
who composed a special poem for the magazine each year.
Unfortunately, the Castletownbere Newsletter ceased with
the issue of 1991. The reason was because of lack of support
from the many and various associations and organisations
in the parish. The small editorial committee did their best
to keep it going but without contributions that couldnt
happen. It was a pity it ceased because it did have some
very fine articles and we hope in the next few weeks we
will take a trip down memory lane to have a look at them.
This week we start with the story of the Berehaven Chalice
which appeared in the 1988 issue and which was submitted
by Fr. Jack Shanahan MSC, The Square, and Fr. Jackie Murphy,
East End, Castletownbere, both still alive and well. They
say that great minds think alike, both came up separately
with the story of the Chalice. The Berehaven Chalice. Some
years ago people were thrilled to hear of the finding of
the Derrynaflan Gold Chalice and Hoard in Co. Tipperary,
whatever one might think about the way it was found. But
did you know that in the National Museum, Kildare Street,
Dublin, there is a chalice known as the Berehaven
Chalice? It is also known as the Cornelius OSullivan
Chalice from the priest who had it made in 1597.
It is interesting to speculate on the life and times of
this priest and of the people to whom he administered. You
will notice that it was shortly before the siege of Dunboy.
It was a time of religious persecution which continued in
varying degrees of intensity until Catholic Emancipation
in 1829. During these times students went to one of the
continental seminaries, in this case more likely to Spain
or France Salamanca, Valladolid, Paris. The young
Cornelius OSullivan would seek out a friendly captain
of a trading-vessel to arrange his passage.
There were agents at some of the continental ports and even
working in some of the seminaries. These sent back information
to London concerning those nearing ordination. Most of the
students and priests used an alias to try to cover their
tracks. Back home after six years the young priest would
likely have the help of some patron to whom he acted as
chaplain, perhaps disguised as one of the staff, if needs
be. At the same time he would secretly minister to the spiritual
needs of the people. It is likely that he would have the
help of OSullivan Bere, who was a very devout man.
Indeed he may have been a kinsman of the family, since he
had the same name.
Soon after, of course, OSullivan Bere left the district
with some of his followers on their long journey to Leitrim.
The many known Mass-rocks all over the country are a mute
testimony to the fugitive and lonely nature of the lives
of the priest and people of those times. These were very
heroic men and women who kept the faith alive in a dark
period of our history.
The background to the Chalice is given in an official note
by the National Museum as follows: Very little is
known of the history of this Chalice. It is thought to be
identical with one stated to have been bought about the
year 1854 by a Cork silversmith from a peasant who found
it in a bog in Berehaven, West Cork. It was purchased by
the Rev. James OSullivan, of Careys Lane Presbytery,
Cork who gave it to the Rev. P.Hurley, P.P., Inchigeela.
About 1910 it found its way for the second time into the
Cork silver-market whence it came to the National Museum.
The Chalice is a very beautiful piece and highly ornamented.
Robert Day J.P., FSA, MRIA, described in detail in an article
in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological
Society in June, 1893.
I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev. P. Hurley,
P.P., of Inchigeela, for the privilege of examining a Chalice,
which he had brought into Cork for some slight repair. While
I will have much pleasure in attempting to describe this
very beautiful cup, he will add its history, and tell our
readers where it was found, and how it has been preserved.
The chalice is silver overlaid with gold, and is 7 3/8 inches
high. It rests upon a projecting hexagonal foot, with a
continuous tongue ornament, and has a legend upon four of
its six fan shaped sides. Sole. Deo Gloria in Nomine Tvo
Dulcis Iesus Sa Ma P N. Four of these six spaces are completely
filled with conventional lilies and fleur-delys, chased
in low relief, and the two intervening spandrels have the
crucified Redeemer, but in each case differently treated,
and both are surrounded with the same lily ornament. In
both he is figured with the feet crossed, and with the superscription
I.N.R.I. In one the feet rest upon a skull and cross-bones,
the well-known emblems of mortality, and of the one death
so sure to all.
The knop is melon-shaped, with engraving of the same character,
and with six well-defined grooves, which correspond with
the projecting angles of the foot; and the cup which is
3 inches wide and 2 3/4 deep, springs from and rest in an
open rose of six petals, which again correspond in number
with the six swells of the knop and six spaces of the foot.
These have the same characteristics of ornamentation, but
vary, because in each alternate space the Tudor rose is
introduced, and in one, which is immediately over one of
the crucifixions, there is in a canton, or small square
frame, a pelican. This served to mark the side of the chalice
which was immediately next to the celebrant, while the second
emblems of the Passion were toward the communicant.
This most beautiful and lovely cup has the original gold
matted down with a thick plate over its entire surface.
It has underneath the foot the inscription: Cornelivs. 0
Sullyvan Sacerdos Me Fieri Fecit, 1597.
This cup bears no makers stamp, town mark, or hall
mark. Were it of foreign manufacture it would have some
such impress; had it been made in Dublin or London it would
certainly have a hall mark - where, then, was it manufactured?
I have no doubt upon my mind but that it was made in Cork.
True, we have met with no example of Cork town-marked silver
prior to 1650, and we never expect to do so, because the
first recorded master of the Goldsmiths Guild in Cork
was John Sharpe, in 1656.
This, however, is no reason why the silversmiths art
did not flourish fifty years previously. Indeed, the historical
fact of the goldsmiths having been incorporated as a guild
in the middle of the seventeenth century, proves that the
art was well known and practised in Cork, and had become
an established industry at that time.
As I have elsewhere stated, the marks adopted by the guild
in 1656 were the Cork Arms in either one or in three separate
stamps, and it is almost certain that the town marks were
not used, and did not give the authenticity of standard
value to the silver until the incorporation of the guild.
Long before this period the art flourished, and silver was
extensively made, and this cup, with its Tudor date, is
just as we would expect to have found a Cork-made piece
of silver destitute entirely and altogether of either makers
or town marks.
A gentleman whose opinion I greatly value, and who has,
perhaps, the widest experience in Cork, suggests that it
is of Spanish make, but everything, in my opinion, is against
this view. Cork was nearer to Castletown than to Spain.
The Tudor rose would more probably be an emblem upon a Cork-made
cup in Elizabeths reign than upon a Spanish Chalice.
More-over, the Latin inscription upon the foot of the sacred
vessel was placed there before the gold was applied, and
the characters if its lettering corresponds exactly with
the assumption that it was engraved by a resident of the
British Islands, and not by a Spaniard or foreign workman.
On sending the proof-sheets of this paper to the Rev. P.
Hurley, he replies by letter, and wishes to add that in
one of the back numbers of this journal a question was asked
concerning a certain Chalice found in a bog at Berehaven.
This he believes to be the same Chalice. The tradition concerning
it is that it was for sale at a Cork silversmiths
and that there was a competition between the late
Rev. James OSullivan, then of Careys Lane Presbytery,
and the Rev. Dr. Neligan, to obtain it. He also heard
there was some correspondence in the Cork Constitution at
the time regarding it, and adds that Father OSullivan
got it and gave it to me.
It, like that found at Berehaven, is heavily gilt all over,
and is of the same period. It rests upon a rose shaped foot
of six petals, on the outer rim of which is the tongue ornament
so common upon the Cork made chalices of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, above this, and surrounding the foot,
is a band or fillet, upon which the faint and indistinct
traces of the sixteenth century inscription can be seen,
and springing from this platform is the hexagonal base,
having two of its almost triangular spaces plain; two more
have engraved ornaments of the Tudor period of a beautiful
fioriated pattern; a fifth space is almost entirely filled
by a coat-of-arms untinctured, and charged with three lions
rampant; on a chief a crescent; crest, upon a wreath, a
lion rampant; motto- non vivir/ufe melius.
The lamberquin of the helmet is thrown upward, and falls
down in richly folded mantling that terminates in two tassels
of the style used in the sixteenth century. I have searched
in vain to identify these arms; they are not Papworth, and
the motto is not given by Burke. It is also possible, from
the information of the shield, that the crescent may not
be upon a chief, but simply placed above the coat as a mark
The sixth remaining space is completely filled with a representation
of the Crucifixion. Above the cross is the ineffable name
of Jehovah; five drops of blood fall from the Saviours
hands and side; a star is above each limb of the cross,
and beneath are the temple and the towers of Jerusalem,
and in the foreground the cross-bones and the skull.
The knop of this fine chalice is a double rose of six petals,
on which are, in bold relief, alternate roses and descending
doves, the typical emblems of the Holy Spirit. We have,
thus upon this lovely chalice the three Persons of the ever
Blessed Trinity the name Jehovah, the crucified Redeemer,
and the Holy Ghost. The cup part has the six rose-leaves
continued and engraved, three of which are plain, two fioriated,
and one engraved with the sacred monogram L.H.S. And above
and underneath the lip the passage from Psalm cxv., verse
13, I will take the chalice (cup) of salvation, and
I will call upon the name of the Lord.
Calicem: Salvtaris: Accipim: et: Nomen: Abo.
This chalice is 9 inches high and 5 inches wide at the foot.
The cup is 3 inches high and wide. It has no hail, town,
or makers mark, and is, I have no doubt, from
its shape, ornamentation, and surroundings, another specimen
of Cork made plate, dating from zgo to 1610 (Glory
to the one God in Thy Name Sweet Jesus and Holy Mary pray
for us). Cornelius OSullivan, priest had
me made 1597. If you are in Dublin some time, and
you have time to spare, you might drop in to the National
Museum to see a very interesting and important of our heritage.
They will be pleased to see you.
Courtesy of the Southern Star