Belcoo Brooch

This Celtic Belcoo brooch was discovered in a limestone quarry in the townland of Carrontreemall, County Fermanagh, not far from the town of Belcoo (Belcoo Brooch), after which the belcoo brooch is named.

This Celtic jewelry piece is a fantastic example of a zoomorphic penannular brooch. Zoomorphic because of the animal head decoration featured on the terminal plates of the brooch. Penannular because the circle of the belcoo brooch is incomplete. This type of brooch dates from the early christian period of the sixth and seventh centuries.

carrontreemall brooch The Belcoo Brooch
Zoomorphic Penannular Celtic Brooch

The Discovery of The Brooch

The belcoo brooch was discovered in the 1920’s concealed two feet deep in a crevice in a rock. Some workmen came across the brooch as they were preparing a blasting operation at the quarry. A careful search of the site did not reveal any additional finds, so it is assumed that the brooch had arrived there by accident. The quarry is on the route of an ancient roadway which skirts the shore of Lough Macnean Upper, and is also close to the ruins of a medieval monastery.

The Decoration of the Brooch

The ring of the brooch is 2 1/2 inches in diameter and has clearly visible wormed decoration. The terminals of the ring are decorated with three Celtic spirals, circling around a point in the center of the triangle and then diverging each towards one angle of the triangle. The spirals are not elaborate, featuring just one whirl before diverging. The space around the spirals was decorated with red enamel which was sunk into carefully prepared beds. The enamel is missing from the right-hand terminal, but still in place on the right-hand terminal. The brooch was was originally completely coated with a dark green patina.

patrcks well belcoo The Belcoo Brooch
Saint Patrick’s Well, Belcoo – A sacred spot since pagan times.

The pin is 4 1/2 inches long and is looped. It has a deep notch along the back where it connects with the ring when being worn. The loop of the pin has two incised vertical lines at the edges which continue to the back of the loop. The front of the loop is further decorated with additional incised vertical lines.

The brooch was acquired by the Ulster Museum in 1969 where it resides to this day.


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