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Carving of the arrival of the Magi shines at Ardmore Cathedral

On the exterior of the west gable of the Medieval Ardmore Cathedral, there are a number of carvings which depict various biblical scenes.  One of  functions of these carvings was  to illustrate stories from the Bible for the faithful. 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. It is believed that 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 Churches. Those also date from 12th century, while elements of the iconography are also similar to depictions on Norman manuscripts. 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.

The sculpture comprises of two large semicircular panels or lunettes and above the remains of  of thirteen round headed panels . The iconography of some of these panels has been interpreted, where is possible as: Majestas, an iconic formula of the enthroned Madonna with the child Jesus in the arms, The Last Judgment or Archangel Michael weighing the souls and a number of bishops.

It is probable that a number of smaller panels may have been eroded by time and weather, as a few are now blank. With regard to  two  larger lunettes,  one which depicts  Adam and Eve.  The other to the right   contains  the Judgment of Solomon in the upper section  and the lower section   the Adoration of Magi.  Which is celebrated on the 6th of January

The photo of the Adoration of the Magi, captured in a low winter light by Rose our Conservation Officer

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