independent

Monday 20 November 2017

Saint's head to be sold at auction in Duleek

The head of St Vitalis of Assisi which will be up for grabs at Annesbrook House, Duleek on Sunday.
The head of St Vitalis of Assisi which will be up for grabs at Annesbrook House, Duleek on Sunday.

Hubert MURPHY

THE ancient skull of an Italian saint will be sold at auction in Annesbrook House in Duleek on Sunday.

'We do a fine art sale once a year and when we decided on Annesbrook then the link with St Oliver Plunkett struck me,' stated auctioneer Damien Matthews from Oldcastle.

'I remember visiting his head in Drogheda when I was a young lad so I said why not put the skull of St Vitalis of Assisi into a sale just down the road.'

The skull, which is in a Queen Anne case, is expected to fetch anything up to €1,200.

'We think the skull is about 600 years old' he continued.

'It is said that the saint met a bad end as he was buried alive with stones placed on his head.

'He turned to God later in life and lived as a hermit,' Damien stated.

He is believed to have lived in the 1300s and after a rather murky life, went on a series of pilgrimages and finally became a Benedictine monk.

He took up the life of a hermit at Santa Maria di Viole.

The item is owned by a family in Co Louth but how it came to Ireland is unsure.

The lot is one of 400 up for grabs on Sunday (3pm). Viewing is on Friday and Saturday from 11am to 6pm at Annesbrook.

'It promises to be a great sale,' Damien added. Also in the auction is a magnificent outsize antique brooch (approximately 7cm in height) in the form of a Prince of Wales Plume.

Annesbrook itself has a noble history, even linked to a future King of England who once visited it.

The Prince Regent, later to become George IV paid a visit to Annesbrook in 1816 on his way to his mistress in Slane Castle.

The Georgian part of the house was added in his honour including the magnificent ballroom designed by Architect Francis Johnson (who also designed the GPO on O'Connell Street in Dublin).

Folklore has it that when The Prince Regent called to Annesbrook he was the worst for wear with drink and stayed outside on the lawn for just a short time before continuing on his journey.

He didn't even see the ballroom!

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