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Ardmore Cathedral

On the exterior of the west gable of Ardmore Cathedral, there are a number of carved tone panels, which according to  historians, depict events from the psalms. In the past one of functions of these carvings was  to illustrate stories from the Bible for the faithful. The panels comprise of two large semicircular lunettes and above them a range of thirteen round headed  panels. The iconography of some of these panels has been interpreted, where it is possible as the enthroned Madonna with the child Jesus, The Last Judgment or Archangel Michael weighing the souls , whilst there is  uncertainty about some of the other figures depicted. Underneath these panels are  the two (possibly originally three) larger lunettes which  depict Adam and Eve and  the Judgment of Solomon over the Adoration of Magi.

The right-hand lunette combines both the scene of David playing his harp and the Judgment of Solomon. David’s battle with Goliath is the scene on the extreme right of the left-hand lunette, where a figure kneeling with bowed head is shown with a spear, which  was one of the weapons borne by Goliath into battle. Respectively, the fourth arch from the left of the upper arcade is identified as David’s charge to Solomon and  panels such as the third arch from the left of the upper arcade are  identified as The building of Solomon’s Temple (Harbison, 1995).

It is probable that a number of smaller panels may have been eroded by time and weather, as a few are now blank. The off centre placement of the lunettes may indicate that further panels were intended or that the panels were reset with later modifications to the building. It might also be possible that these panels were  relocated from another church. Usually twelfth century Irish churches were decorated with non figurative ornament based on geometric and foliage patterns. Figurative works such as these, which consist of many panels, are extremely rare in Ireland.

The most probable sources of inspiration for this type of decoration are found in the Poitous-Angoumois region in France, where there is similar arcading with figures on the exterior of the western elevations of the Cathedrals of Angouleme, Civay and Poitiers. Those also date from 12th century, while elements of the iconography are also similar to depictions on Norman manuscripts.

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