This superb silver chalice declares its origins very clearly. The engraving in Latin on the base reads: ‘Malachy O’Queely Doctor of Sacred Theology from Paris and Archbishop of Tuam had this chalice made for the convent of friars minor of Rosserilly [Co. Galway], 1640’. O’Queely, with his continental connections, illustrates the key role played by the Franciscans in re-creating an Irish Catholic identity after the Flight of the Earls. The order established the Irish colleges at Louvain and Rome and revived their own houses in Ireland. The friars at Rosserrilly were expelled twice in the earlyseventeenth century, but their presence was recorded in 1641, and the chalice possibly marks their return.
With its inscription ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord’, and its bold engravings of the Crucifixion alongside O’Queely’s own coat of arms, the chalice speaks of a resurgent and militant faith. With the outbreak of a Catholic rebellion the year after it was made, O’Queely himself took up arms in its cause. After initial rebel successes in Ulster, the rebellion spread throughout the country. The indigenous and Old English sides of the Catholic elite formalised their alliance as the Confederate Association, with its capital in Kilkenny and its military organisation strengthened by the return from continental wars of veteran soldiers, most notably Owen Roe O’Neill. It was ostentatiously Catholic—its banners bore images of the Virgin Mary.
By the summer of 1642 the rebellion was close to collapse, but in August civil war broke out between King Charles I and his parliament in England. The resulting bloody stalemate of affairs in Ireland ended with the arrival in October 1645 of the papal nuncio, Archbishop Rinuccini, who became a strong voice of the Catholic leadership. In ethnically and religiously complex Ireland, three armed forces—royalist, confederate and Scots (the latter sent by Covenanters to protect Protestant settlers in Ulster)—became four in 1644, when the royalist commander in Munster, Lord Inchiquin, defected to the parliamentarian side.
In October 1645 O’Queely led his forces in an attempt to retake the port of Sligo, which had fallen to the parliamentarians. He was killed in a surprise attack and his army routed. A similar fate met confederate troops in 1647 when the Earl of Ormond surrendered Dublin to the parliamentarians, under Michael Jones. The latter then routed a large confederate army at Dungan’s Hill outside the city. Large numbers of prisoners were put to the sword. In 1648 a second civil war erupted in England; the parliamentarian victory led to the execution of King Charles a year later. In Ireland, Jones’s parliamentarian army repulsed Ormond’s attack on Dublin, defeating his royalist forces at Rathmines, and clearing the way for the landing, in August 1649, of the triumphant New Model Army, led by Oliver Cromwell.