The diocese of Ossory is fortunate to have a rich artistic heritage. Works of art in stone include the High Crosses of Western Ossory, the floriated French tombstones of the early Anglo-Norman period, the Hiberno Romanesque doorways of Freshford and Kilkeasy (sadly in ruin), the beautiful medieval tombs of O’ Tunney and Kerin, the 13th century Trinity in the Black Abbey, the medieval baptismal fonts and the hauntingly evocative crucifix in Johnstown.
One of the treasures of the diocese that did not survive the coming of Cromwell was the stained glass window in St. Canice’s Cathedral which so impressed Archbishop Rinuccini that he offered 700 marks for it.
Other treasures did. The sumptuous Rothe vestments of red figured velvet with opus anglicanum are among the finest in the country. Dating from the late 15th century they were probably made on the continent.
Rothe’s Spanish silver rosary dates from the first half of the 17th century as do a number of fine silver chalices, some of which are decorated with the instruments of the passion. From the penal days comes a beautiful small chalice of 1652 and some years later the Kilmanagh monstrance. The small silver cross of the Congregation of the Peace of 1621 is sadly missing.
Pride of place, however, must surely go to the Rothe monstrance, a very early example of the “sunburst” monstrance. David Rothe had it made in 1644 for use in St. Canice’s Cathedral. Silver gilt and 59 cm in height, it was used during the Confederation period when the city was to witness grand liturgical ceremonies especially after the arrival of archbishop Rinuccini. The central lunette is surrounded by small rays while the outer ring has a flamboyant radiant decoration. This ring has a quotation from Rev 21:3: ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus et habitabit cum eis, on the front; ipsi populus eius erunt. et ipse Deus cum eis erit eorum Deus. Apocal. C.21, on the reverse. The base has the inscription: “DAVID ROTH EPISCOP OSSORIEN. ME FIERI FECIT ANO. 1644. ORA PRO CLERO ET POPULO DIOCESSIS OSSORIEN.”After the death of Bishop Rothe the monstrance was kept in his family and later passed to the Bryan family who presented it to St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1857.