Psalm book found in bog is biggest find since Ardagh Chalice: Museum Director.

Monday, June 30th, 2008

The director of the national museum has described an ancient Christian psalm book which was discovered in a bog in County Offaly two years ago as the most important archaeological find in Ireland since the Ardagh Chalice.

Dr Pat Wallace said the Psalter – which was uncovered by Edward Fogarty while cutting turf in the Fadden More bog near Carrig – provided an intriguing insight into Ireland’s early Christian civilisation.

He told members of the Birr Archaeological Society that it was difficult to say precisely when the Psalter was written but its binding showed that it that it definitely dated from before 1200 AD.

The director said the nearest comparison was the Book of Dimma, another rare manuscript known to have been produced in Roscrea, and the proximity of the Fadden More bog to Roscrea and similar monastic sites at Lorrha, Terryglass, Seir Kieran and Kinnity suggested there was a high production of manuscripts in monks in communities in the Offaly region.

However, he said the book is difficult to work on because each page is a different state of legibility and a lot more conservation work was needed before the text can be fully assessed.

Dr Wallace praised Mr Fogarty and brothers Patrick and Kevin Leonard who owned the land for covering the Psalter in wet peat when they found it as this ensured it was not damaged by the sudden exposure to air.

The National Museum is continuing work on restoration of the manuscript and has sent a sample of vellum to Copenhagen for carbon dating analysis.

This should indicate when the Psalter was buried in the bog and may give pointers as to why it was hidden.

The Museum hopes to put the Fadden More Psalter on public display within two years.