1014 and all that

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Image: seriykotik1970/Flickr (CC BY-NC)

Today marks the 1000th anniversary of the death of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf on 23rd April 1014 AD. You would have to have been hiding under a rock in deepest darkest Antarctica to have missed out on the plethora of associated festivities, events and commemorations that have been taking place in Ireland over the last few weeks. As an early medievalist, it was quite refreshing to see so much attention and interest in the media and public gaze. Some highlights include the wonderful TCDs ‘Emporer of the Irish’ Exhibition, History Hubs excellent video series on the background and legacy of the battle, the Irish Times heritage supplement on the subjects involved, the Contarf 1014 Exhibition in the National Museum and the TG4 documentary ‘Cluain Tarbh’ (still available on their online player).

Amongst all the the historical interpretation, contextualization, national & local promotion initiatives, educational endeavors, harnessing of tourism potential and – lets be honest – some blatant attempts to cash in on some sexed up horny Viking action; there has been little attention on an underlying historical consequence that (although unrealized at the time) would go on to have far reaching ramifications. And so, as we come to the end of the main commemoration, I thought I would throw my two cent into the larger Boruhaha.

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High King in the Cathedral: Body of Brian Boru Uncovered?

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Plaque commemorating burial of Brian Boru, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. (Image: Giorgio.Melina/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Here’s some archaeological background regarding ongoing concerns over the mortal remains of Brian Boru – probably one of the most famous people in Irish history, who came close to being the first (and last) ‘High King’ of Ireland in the early eleventh century AD. Brian was killed just as his forces gained victory over his opponents at the famous Battle of Clontarf in 1014 AD. Upon his death, the body of Brian Boru was subsequently conveyed to Armagh and interred in a stone/marble ‘coffin’ at, or near, what is now the cathedral’s exterior west wall of the north transept.

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