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Visiting the Ros Tapestry… Guest Blogger: Christina Fairley Erickson

March 17, 2021

Looking back at our trip tracing my Irish roots in 2018, I have to say one of the highlights of our trip was seeing the Ros Tapestry. I found out about this wonderful exhibit from a friend and fellow fiber artist, Maura Donegan. It’s located in New Ros, near Waterford and tells the story of the Norman arrival in SE Ireland. There are 15 embroidered panels, each measuring 6 ft. x 4.5 ft, showing the way of life in Ireland in the 13th century.

Panel 1 – The Celts: in an island fastness

While it may look as though the panel has been made from applique, it is completely created of hand embroidery! The panels were made by over 150 volunteer embroiderers over the course of 15 years, with the volunteers coming from the regions which each panel’s story portrays in County Wexford and Kilkenny.

Detail of Panel 1 – depicting the coronation of an ancient Irish king

The tapestry, inspired by the famous Bayeux Tapestry in France, was conceived of by Reverend Paul Mooney of St. Mary’s Church in New Ross in 1998. A local artist, Ann Griffin Bernstorff, created the original designs.

Panel 11 – Gothic Glory: the building of the parish church of St. Mary’s

Each panel is richly filled with wool thread embroidery on a linen twill fabric. The stitches include seed stitch (mostly for filling in backgrounds), French and bullion knots for hair, satin stitch, and long and short stitch for people or animals to show movement and musculature. Each panel took between 3 and 8 years to complete. The 15th and final panel is still in process being stitched.

Panel 8 – Ex Voto Tintern Abbey
Detail: Panel 8 – Ex Voto Tintern Abbey

The Ros Tapestry is currently on loan to the OPW in Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny.  The exhibition will be available for public viewing when the Castle opens in March 2021. 

It is anticipated that the Ros Tapestry will return to New Ross in 2023, when Wexford County Council has developed the planned Norman Museum at the Quay in New Ross.

For those interested in doing an armchair visit, rather than heading to Ireland, they have created a very nice website at which you can learn more about this wonderful textile treasure!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2021 7:28 am

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful piece!

  2. Penny Peters permalink
    March 17, 2021 10:58 pm

    So glad you are sharing incredible textiles from your travels!

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