14 August 2017

Finding a cross linked to
Pugin in the Hunt Museum

The Pugin Crucifix in the Hunt Museum, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

There is a large collection of crosses in the Hunt Museum in Limerick, including carved and wooden crosses, processional and rood crosses, reliquary and rosary crosses. There is a small array of Penal crosses and Rosary crosses, and a large selection of miscellaneous crosses collected throughout Europe.

These crosses are displayed throughout the museum on every floor and they range from a large French-made, polychrome Romanesque cross, made of wood in the 12th century as a rood cross to a gold, partly-enamelled reliquary cross that is also known as the Mary Queen of Scots Crucifix and that is anecdotally linked to Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587).

I posted last month [15 July 2017] about the processional cross in the museum that is similar in almost every detail to the Bosworth Crucifix or Comerford Cross that was once owned by James Comerford (1807-1881), said to have been made for Richard III, and found in a field near the site the site of the Battle of Bosworth.

But two crosses that caught my attention in particular at the weekend were a cross known as the Pugin Crucifix and the early Irish cross known as the Antrim Cross.

The Pugin Crucifix is a Romanesque figure that is said to have been once owned by the English architect AWN Pugin (1812-1852), whose passion for the Middle Ages helped to ensure the success of the Gothic Revival in architecture.

The Christ figure made for this crucifix has a head that is large in relation to the body, falling forward onto his breast. His moustache, beard and hair are finely engraved. The loin-cloth has a V-shape fold like an apron in the centre. The drapery is treated with some freedom, falling well below knee level at the back. The feet are parallel, the arms bend gently upwards, and the arms and legs ate engraved with fine lines to indicate the muscles and tendons.

This figure was once owned by Dr Leonard Mackey of Edgbaston, the senior physician to the Queen’s Hospital, Birmingham. In 1910, he married Pugin’s granddaughter, Florence Marion Pugin, eldest daughter of the Peter Paul Pugin (1851-1904), which may explain how he inherited the cross.

Leonard Mackey died in 1940, and at one stage the cross was on loan to the British Museum. But it is not clear from the exhibition details how the cross came to the Hunt Museum.

Apart from Pugin’s role in church architecture in Ireland, this crucifix has a special relevance for Ireland as a crucifix of this type served as a model for the head of the 12th century market cross in Tuam, Co Galway.

The Antrim Cross dates from ca 800 AD and was found in the River Bann in the 19th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Antrim Cross is a bronze and enamel cross dating from ca 800 AD and was found in the River Bann in Co Antrim in the 19th century.

The cross was probably intended to decorate the wooden cover of a shrine or reliquary or was used as the central piece on a cross. It is decorated with enamel and millefiori – cut bundles of coloured glass rods – in geometric and animal designs.

The Antrim Cross is a bronze cross with five equal arms. The cross has five pyramidal bosses each in the form of a truncated pyramid. The side of the pyramids are decorated with interlocking angular fields of yellow enamel, alternating with a similar-coloured design of an arrow within a truncated triangle.

The pyramidal boss at the centre is taller and has angular enamelled panels on two of its four sides. The other two sides, back-to-back, differ in that they are decorated with an animal design, once fully enamelled between its raised outlines.

The flat tops of the bosses are decorated with small squares of millefiori enamel. Rivet-holes in the separately cast base-plate show that this cross was attached to a flat surface, perhaps that of a house-shaped reliquary.

Part of a collection of miscellaneous crosses in the Hunt Museum, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Rummaging for books
on Athens and finding
Limerick’s tiny bookshop

Quay Books claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

I was looking for a few books in Limerick at the weekend. I needed two new guidebooks for my visit to Athens later this week, and I wanted a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland to thank Anthony Sheehy for a recent guided tour of the Desmond Castle in Askeaton, Co Limerick.

There is nothing as frustrating as taking an out-of-date guidebook with you on a city visit. Restaurants change, new museums open or galleries close, coffee shops spring up, some areas loose or gain their charm.

I have visited and worked in Athens many times from the 1980s on, but since I was last there my guidebooks are totally out-of-date. The economic and political climate has changed completely, and while I have kept up-to-date with political and social changes in Greece, it is many years since I worked in Athens as a journalist.

The refugee crisis has changed many aspects of life in the Greek capital, and I am also hoping to see at first-hand the work on the street among refugees and migrants by Canon Malcolm Bradshaw and the parishioners of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church in the centre of Athens.

In the years since my last visit to Athens, the New Acropolis Museum opened in 2006 – it is hard to believe that it is that long since I have been in Athens – and I have booked a guided visit to the Museum and to the Acropolis on Saturday afternoon [19 August 2017].

But I still need up-to-date guidebooks to Athens. I am sure many of the places I was once familiar with have changed, and I need to find my way around, recovering my familiarity with a city that I once knew intimately.

After lunch in Olio e Farina in Little Catherine Street, two of us took some time browsing and rummaging in a number of bookshops in Limerick before I found two guidebooks I think I am going to be happy with for my short return visit to Athens later this week.

Happy with my acquisitions, I headed off for a stroll through the older parts of Limerick and then visited the Hunt Museum and the current exhibition of works by Jack Yeats and Paul Henry.

A joy for book browsers and rummagers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

I was on my way back towards O’Connell when by accident I stumbled across Quay Books in the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre.

Although I regularly catch buses on Arthur’s Quay, I am not one for shopping centres, and I had given this shopping centre a miss until now.

Quay Books is just inside the Patrick Street entrance to the shopping centre, in a kiosk opposite the Tesco checkout points. It may be a kiosk rather than a full-size shop, but it justly claims to be ‘Ireland’s Most Amazing Small Bookstore.’

They source their books from suppliers in the UK and the US, and boast: ‘Nearly all of the time you will find that on price we beat online suppliers, including Amazon, for the books we stock.’

Quay Books is one of the smallest independent bookstores and is every book lover’s dream. In a tiny space, the books are stacked high on shelves and on one another around and inside the kiosk, from poetry and classics to contemporary novels, from nonfiction to out-of-print biographies.

The tight space makes rummaging and browsing all the more fun because every book browser’s dream is to find something you want and need to read but never knew about until you stumble across it.

And if you cannot find it or cannot see it, Quay Books invite customers to call them to see if can help.

In one small space, between the piled-high books, a notice quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

In vain does the dreamer rummage about in his old dreams, looking for some spark, however tiny, to fan a flame, to revive all that he held so dear before, all that touched his heart, that made his blood course through his veins.

And then, added beneath, are the proprietor’s own inviting words:

Dear Reader

Please feel free to rummage among our books. We hope you will find something you will enjoy, even make the blood course through your veins!

Don’t worry if you make the books untidy. Just enjoy rummaging!

Another similar notice tells the book browser:

The difference between who you are now and who you are five years from now, comes down to the people you meet and the books you read.

Quay Books is in Kiosk 1 on the Ground Floor at the Patrick Street entrance to the Arthur’s Quay Shopping Centre, and is open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.