Amazing Ros Tapestry in full view at Kilkenny Castle

Picture this: the wonderful displays of the Ros Tapestry exhibition in Kilkenny Castle.

HISTORIC Kilkenny Castle is playing host to an exhibition of the Ros Tapestry
The Office of Public Works (OPW) has provided space at the castle for the tapestries which were moved for their protection from the Tapestry Centre on the quays in New Ross, Co Wexford last year.
The temporary new home set the tapestry housed in a castle built by Isabel de Clare and William Marshal in the early 13th Century, and whose life stories are entwined in these tapestry panels.
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Minister Patrick O’Donovan, said: ‘This collaboration between the board of The Ros Tapestry and the OPW is a great opportunity to showcase these exquisite panels, which commemorate the Norman history of New Ross and South East Ireland.
“We should also appreciate the wonderful embroidery skills and sheer dedication of the many craftspeople who have for over 20 years worked tirelessly in bringing these characters to life.’
The Ros Tapestry exhibition, which was launched by journalist and Carlow native Olivia O’Leary earlier this month, has drawn in thread the story of the Normans and their arrival in the south east and the consequent development of the dynamic port of Ros is depicted in a series of fifteen large striking embroidered panels.
The Ros Tapestry project is the thinking of Rev. Paul Mooney of St Mary’s Church, New Ross, who was inspired by the famous Bayeux Tapestry in France. He conceived the idea of creating a series of tapestries to commemorate the Norman history of New Ross and South East Ireland.
The first tapestry was completed in 2002 and to date 14 of the 15 tapestries are finished. The final one is being stitched in Kilkenny and is nearing completion.
Volunteers throughout the country have done all the stitching, with well over 150 stitchers contributing, working both at home and in local venues. Each tapestry is embroidered on to Jacobean linen twill fabric with woollen thread using a multitude of different stitches, such as ‘Long and Short’, ‘French knots’ and ‘Bullion knots’.
It takes about an hour to stitch one square inch and can take anything from three to seven years to complete a panel.
Mary Lou O’Kennedy from the board of The Ros Tapestry said: ‘We are delighted to partner with the OPW who have created a stunning display of the Tapestry in the wonderful surroundings of Kilkenny Castle. This exhibition will bring the extraordinary work of its creators and stitchers to a wider national and international audience which we hope will continue when it returns to its permanent home in the Norman Centre, currently under development in New Ross.”
The tapestries can be viewed at The Gallery, Kilkenny Castle, up until September 2023, from 9:30 am till 5:30 pm daily (last admission 5 pm).

The story of this community project …

THE Ros Tapestry Project is a major community arts and history project centred on New Ross. The project is dedicated to producing a tapestry a in 15 panels which tells the story of the coming of the Normans the to Ireland in the 12th century and the foundation of the port and town of New Ross at the beginning of the 13th century.
Each tapestry panel is approximately four and a half feet deep (1.5m) by six feet (1.8m) wide and tells of a unique aspect of the epic story. Six panels were finished for an Exhibition in 2007 and a further nine panels are now (2020) completed.
The project began in May 1998 with an idea to make a tapestry telling the story of the coming of the Normans to Ireland in tapestry form and to hang this tapestry in the historic St Mary’s Church of Ireland Church in New Ross.
The idea originated with the Rector of the Church, Reverend Paul Mooney, who then consulted with Alexis Bernstorff, an art historian and professional in the field of tapestry and fabric restoration.
Throughout the summer of 1998, Dr. Mooney and Alexis Bernstorff consulted with local artist Ms. Reiltin Murphy to create a visualisation of how the tapestry could be best displayed in the Church of Ireland parish church.
At that time the focus of the tapestry widened from the story of the Norman expansion into Ireland in the latter part of the 12th century to include the founding of the port and town of New Ross at the beginning of the 13th century.
A provisional list of 15 themes for tapestry panels was outlined, as well as the measurements for the panels to be hung from the gallery of the late Georgian, early 19th-century church.
Countess Ann Griffin Bernstorff, professional artist and mother of Alexis Bernstorff, was approached to consider designing the tapestry and offered to paint the cartoons for the fifteen panels. Countess Bernstorff began with some experimental pieces in the Autumn of 1998 and a draft plan for the project was produced and circulated at that time.

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