Reflections on kingship, the church and Viking-age silver in Ireland

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Sheehan, John
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Oxford University Press
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This chapter considers the wealth of some of Ireland’s kings, as represented by Viking Age silver hoards, and relates it to investment in the ecclesiastical sphere during the ninth and tenth centuries. While the rich Irish annals do not contain references to hoards or hoarding, there are some mentions of the phenomenon in early literary sources, and these relate to the church. In what follows, I argue that Viking Age silver hoards were deposited on church land with higher frequency than has hitherto been appreciated, and can therefore be seen to represent ecclesiastical, rather than secular, wealth. I consider a case study of Clann Cholmáin of Mide, the most powerful polity in tenth-century Ireland, and how its connections with the development of the monastery of Clonmacnoise may be related to its silver wealth, as evidenced by the Lough Ennell and Hare Island hoards. Finally, I briefly consider the status of the cross-marked ingot, which is suggested to be a product manufactured for use in Irish ecclesiastical contexts.
Viking Age silver hoards , Viking age , Viking age Ireland , Hiberno-Scandinavian , Hoards
Sheehan, J. (2019) 'Reflections on kingship, the church and Viking-age silver in Ireland', in Kershaw, J. and Williams, G. (eds)., Silver, Butter, Cloth: Monetary and Social Economies in the Viking Age, Oxford : Oxford University Press, pp.104-122. isbn: 9780198827986
© Oxford University Press 2019. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press,