Public gets first look at ancient book of psalms

Jimmy Deenihan (right) and Dr Patrick Wallace, director of the National Museum, view the Psalter yesterday

Grainne Cunningham

AFTER hundreds of years lying in a muddy bog, one of the country's most important antiquities went on public display for the first time yesterday.

The Fadden More Psalter, a book of psalms as old as the Book of Kells, was found by turf cutters in a Tipperary bog in 2006.

Conservationists have spent the past five years painstakingly preserving the vellum pages and leather cover and the psalter, which dates from 800AD, now sits centre stage at a new exhibition in the National Museum in Dublin.

Visitors can view the tattered pages, with their meticulous lettering, as well as a replica of the original which shows "what it looked like in all its majesty", according to the keeper of Irish antiquities, Ned Kelly.

Mr Kelly said the psalter was "a very unique find".

The exhibition, which includes major pieces of church metalwork such as the Cross of Cong and St Patrick's Bell, has an ecclesiastical feel, with individual pieces housed in towering glass boxes, beautifully illuminated and set out in a style resembling a cloister.

Also on display for the first time ever is a unique ivory crozier from Aghadoe, Co Kerry. It is on loan from the Statens Historiska Museum in Stockholm.

Mr Kelly predicted that the Irish public would be "gripped by the craftsmanship and magnificence" of the objects.

An audio guide, which can be downloaded onto smart phones, takes visitors through the exhibition. Children will love the opportunity to make brass rubbings of some of the Celtic designs.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who opened the exhibition, said it spanned "an outstanding period" of the country's history -- "our golden age".

He said the Fadden More Psalter was "our Dead Sea Scrolls" and that it was one of the most important finds ever in this country and perhaps in the world.