THE ROS TAPESTRY - WEXFORD
Norman Ireland Story Threads in New Ross
The town of New Ross in Wexford is a small harbor village in south east Ireland of small note in the modern world, but with a major story to tell in the early medieval history of the country. That story is brought to life in the magical imagery of fifteen tapestries of glorious color in thread on linen. The Ros Tapestry Project has taken over ten years with a few of the panels yet to go. A local community project, with the contribution of 150 volunteers, working in shifts, the Ros Tapestry, called needle painting, is the largest modern embroidered art in Europe. The tapestries, researched and designed by Ann Griffin Bernstroff, begin as large illustration called cartoons, then copied in richly colored thread in reverse, by stitchers at a wooden frame. The woolen thread is stitched into a Jacobean Linen Twill fabric, with varying thread thickness and techniques, stem stitch, bullion knots, couching and seeding - to create the textures which bring the panels to life, telling the story of the founding of New Ross as the Norman settlement in Ireland built by William Marshal. The town at the height of the Norman age of the 13th Century was one of the most successful and wealthy ports in Ireland, with as many as 400 ships berthed at one time on the deep River Barrow, where the Irish and Anglo-Normans mingled with Italian merchants and bankers.
The story of the Ros Tapestry begins in the age of the Celts before the Romans and the English Normans. The first tapestry depicts the enthronement of a Celtic King , set in the sacred wood presided over by the Druid caste, ready to robe the naked king. Near by the white mare representing the Earth Goddess. The story then follows Dermot Mac Murrough, The King of Leinster, who abducted Dervorgilla, the bride of his enemy, Tiernan O’Rourke from his castle in Roscommon, to carry her and her dowry to Wexford. Three of Dermot’s son were taken captive by Rory O’Connor, the High King of Ireland and beheaded when he failed to pay ransom. Dermot pleaded with Henry II for help.
In 1169 a small force of 30 Welsh-Norman knights and 360 soldiers landed on Bannow Strand, lead by Robert Fitzstephens. The founding of New Ross comes under William Marshal (Guillaume Le Marechal), the Crusader knight and advisor to Henry II, who upon marrying Isabel, the daughter of Richard De Clare “Strongbow” and Dermot’s daughter Aoife Mac Murrough, gains the Earldom of Pembroke (see Pembroke Castle) and on Dermot’s death the Lordship of Leinster. The panels, depicting battles, marriages, hunts and medieval life, continue to the May Fair of New Ross of 1345 before the coming of the Black Death plague.
Visiting the Ros Tapestry
Nearing completion, thirteen of the tapestry panels hang in a former storefront along the harbor quay, opposite the Dunbrody Famine Ship (Dunbrody Famine Heritage Ship). The exhibit center is open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm. Admission is €6 for adults, €5 fro Seniors and €4 for students and children. An audio guide tells the story of the tapestry panels and history of the project. If visitors come when the volunteer stitchers are working, usually three days during the week, it is possible to join in and contribute a stitch to the fabric of New Ross history. A small shop offers books, greeting cards and prints of the tapestries. © Bargain Travel Europe
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Ros Tapestry Exhibition
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