Acts of Mercy

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Founded in the late 12th century, St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick contains many attractive features, not least the only surviving mediaeval misericords in Ireland. The lip of these seats was designed to allow members of the cathedral chapter to rest during long services without being seen to sit down, hence their name which derives from the Latin word ‘misericordiae’ (acts of mercy). Those in St Mary’s date from 1480-1500 and are carved in oak from the woods of nearby Cratloe, County Clare. Each one is different and they feature both men and beasts, the latter real as well as imaginary. There are 23 misericords which at some date in the 19th century were removed from the main body of the church and stored in the crypt. Thankfully they survived and can now be seen in the north transept.
The Irish Aesthete takes this opportunity to wish all readers a very Happy Christmas and hopes they receive as much rest as those clerics who once celebrated the occasion by settling onto a misericord.

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9 comments on “Acts of Mercy

  1. Rod Williams says:

    I’m looking forward to another Happy New Year of delights from one of my favorite blogs!

  2. Michael Thompson says:

    Thank you again for another splendid article.

    With the sole exception of the Cromwellian Interregnum I believe that the stalls remained in continual use as capitular seats in the Quire of the cathedral. That ritual quire occupied all but the two westernmost bays of the building until a reconfiguration at the beginning of the twentieth century. Then again the stalls remained in use but in the Crossing and Eastern arm. Only in the ill-conceived, piecemeal, still incomplete and savage re-ordering of the 1980s were these unique liturgical objects alienated from their centuries-old purpose and consigned to a side chapel.

    Too grumpy for the Season? Have I cooked my Wild Goose?

    Merry Christmas.

    • Well, perhaps a little grumpy but of course you are right both in your history and in the unfortunate current location of the stalls. But wherever placed, they are beautiful in their own right.
      And meanwhile, a very Happy Christmas to you too.

  3. lawrieweed says:

    Lawrie & Ed send warm greetings from White Xmas (8″) Wisconsin

    Sent from phone

  4. Do you have any other pictures of the misericords? I have recently become interested in them, given the similarities between their little grotesque figures and my favorite of all topics, gargoyles.

  5. The “miserichords” are typical in all the great Cathedrals of Spain – these are the first I saw in Ireland on my visit to St. Mary’s in 2014. Very interesting article, as always.

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