The Shrine of the Stowe Missal

The shrine consists of a rectangular box of oak covered with decorated metal plates. It is of two periods, both closely datable by inscriptions which occur on the two principal faces. The earlier consists of the lower face and the narrow sides, which may be dated between 1027 and 1033. The later, comprising the upper face and an inserted lobed setting on the lower face, dates to between 1371 and 1381.

Lower face

The lower face (now detached) is decorated with plates of copper alloy covered in silver. It has a broad border and is laid out in the form of a cross with openwork panels of geometric ornament between the arms. The cross was later partly cut away to accommodate a four-lobed mount of silver originally set with an oval stone, now missing. The inscription can nevertheless be reconstructed. It asks for a prayer for the abbot of Lorrha, Mathgamain Ua Cathail (+1037) and for Find Ua Dúngalaigh, king of Múscraige Tíre (+1033). It also mentions Donnchadh mac Briain, styled 'king of Ireland' and Mac Raith Ua Donnchada, king of the Eoganacht of Cashel (+1052) as well as the name of the maker, Donnchadh Ua Taccáin 'of the community of Cluain (Clonmacnoise)'.

Bottom side

The bottom side bears an openwork cast copper alloy medallion with a figure of an angel between quadrupeds. This is flanked by openwork panels of geometric ornament.

Dexter side

This side has a central plaque of copper alloy depicting a pair of ecclesiastics, one holding a bell, the other a short staff on either side of a seated figure playing a lyre above which is an angel. This is flanked by openwork panels of foliate and geometric ornament. On the left is the figure of a stag attacked by a pair of hounds; the tip of a spear pointed at the stag's neck.

Sinister side

At the centre is an openwork copper alloy plaque depicting a bearded warrior holding a short sword, flanked by pairs of dog-like animals. Openwork panels of foliate and geometric ornament are placed on either side. On the right is an openwork copper alloy with a figure of a warrior with shield and spear.

Top side

This bears an openwork cast copper alloy medallion with a figure of an angel between quadrupeds. To the left is an openwork panel of foliate ornament.

Upper face

The centre is occupied by a jewelled cross of gilt silver set with rock crystals, red and blue glass and an ivory bead. Plates of gilt silver between the cross arms depict (clockwise from top left) the Crucifixion; an ecclesiastic; a figure of a bishop and the Virgin and Child. The inscription invokes a prayer for Pilib Ó Ceinnéidigh, 'king of Ormond' and his wife Áine, both of whom died in 1381. It also refers to Giolla Ruadhán Ó Macáin, abbot of the Augustinian priory of Lorrha and the maker, Domhnall Ó Tolairi.

Dr. Raghnall Ó Floinn, National Museum of Ireland.