A 1,200-year-old manuscript has revealed remarkable evidence of a connection between the early Christian Church in Ireland and the Middle Eastern Coptic Church.
The Faddan More Psalter was found in a north Tipperary bog four years ago when it was unearthed by Eddie Fogarty in July 2006 in the townland of Faddan More, near Birr.
The discovery was claimed by Dr. Pat Wallace, the director of Ireland’s National Museum, as the “most important day in the history of the museum since 1868 when the Ardagh Chalice came in”.
The fragmented illuminated vellum manuscript is a book of psalms and dates back to the late eighth century. Its origins remain a mystery.
The manuscript was found upright in the bog for over 1,000 years suggesting it was hidden that way by someone on the run.
The painstaking four-year conservation process, led by Irish book conservator John Gillis, has revealed tiny fragments of papyrus in the lining of the Egyptian-style leather binding of the manuscript, the first tangible link between early Christianity in Ireland and the Middle-Eastern Coptic Church. The discovery has confounded many accepted theories of early Irish Christianity.
“It was a miraculous thing that the manuscript survived at all. It was found by Mr. Fogarty who was cutting turf,” Dr. Wallace told the Sunday Independent.
“It was also remarkable that Mr. Fogarty and the family he was working for, the Leonards of Riverstown, were familiar with the work of the National Museum and knew exactly what to do to protect a manuscript found in wet bog.
“They immediately covered it with wet turf and this was absolutely vital in preserving the manuscript. If they hadn’t done that it would have been obliterated in a few hours in the sunshine.”
The conservation process was filmed for a documentary by Crossing the Line Films, which will be shown on Irish television on Tuesday at 10:15 pm.
The manuscript is set to go on public display for the first time at the National Museum next year. It will form the centerpiece of a permanent exhibition.