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Domnach Airgid

RIA MS 24 Q 23 c. 8th century Vellum: 2.15cm x 1.50cm 39 folios (of original 150 folios)

Written in Latin. A copy of the Vulgate Version of the Gospels. The manuscript was found in a silver shrine, made between 6th and 12th centuries, which was smaller in dimensions than the manuscript.

There is no evidence that the manuscript was ever associated with St Patrick or with his alleged gift of the Shrine to the See of Clogher. It is considered likely that the Gospels were the Mass Book of St Cairthinn, the Abbot of Clones. The Shrine was used as a reliquary in the 13th century but the date the manuscript was placed in it is uncertain.

The manuscript and shrine passed into the hands of an old woman living near Enniskillen who sold them to Mr Smith, a well known Dublin bookseller. The material was sold on to Lord Rossmore for £300 and in 1847, through J. McCullagh, MRIA, it was purchased for the same sum for the Academy; the money was raised by public subscription and a grant of £50 from Academy funds.

In 1832, the Shrine had been opened by William Betham (similar to what was done for the Cathach) and ten fragments containing St Mathew’s Gospel were separated and put between sheets of glass.

In 1892, Dr Maude Thompson of the British Museum supervised the opening of the sheets of vellum which were in an extremely bad condition and which had become glued together through damp. The leaves were carefully mounted on 25 sheets of paper. In 2004, with generous funding from the Heritage Council, the fragments were removed from their mounts and 19th-century binding, conserved and mounted in new frames, and boxed by A. Cains.

The script is Irish majuscule with insular abbreviations and there are miniature drawings of the Evangelists at the beginning of the Gospels.

In the 39 folios that survive, there are portions of Mathew i 1 - v 25; Mark i 1 - iv 12; Luke i 6 - ii 35; John i 1 - iv 14.

The Shrine is in the National Museum of Ireland.

Digital images of the manuscript can be viewed on Irish Script on Screen.

Select Bibliography

  • E.C.R. Armstrong and H.J. Lawlor, ‘The Domnach Airgid MS.’, Proc. RIA, 34 C 7 (1917-19), 96-126.
  • J.H. Bernard, ‘On the Domnach Airgid Ms.’, Trans RIA, 30 (1892-6), 303-12.
  • Cormac Bourke, ‘The Domnach Airgid in 2006’, Clogher Record, 19:1 (2006), 31-42. [On the Domnach Airgid shrine in National Museum of Ireland]
  • W. Carleton, Traits and stories of the Irish peasantry, 9th ed. (Dublin, 1869).
  • J.F. Kenney, Sources for the early history of Ireland: ecclesiastical (New York, 1929), 638-9.
  • P. McGurk, Latin gospel books from A.D. 400 to A.D. 800 (Paris, etc., 1961), no. 83, 78-9.
  • K. Mulchrone (ed.), Bethu Phátraic: I. Text and sources (RIA, 1939).
  • Dáithí Ó Cróinín, ‘The Cathach and Domnach Airgid’ in B. Cunningham and S. Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 1-8:6-8.
  • Timothy O’Neill, ‘Quills, inks and vellums’ in B. Cunningham and S. Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 45-9.
  • G. Petrie, ‘An account of an ancient Irish reliquary, called the Domnach-Airgid’, Trans RIA, 18 (1835-8), 14-24.
  • W. Stokes (ed.), The Tripartite life of St Patrick (London, 1887) (Rolls Series No. 89).

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