From Potterton (2005, App. 13, 402-06, figs 11. 22-5)
Set into the back wall of the present nave of St Patrick's church (ME036-048012-) is a possible fifteenth-century piscina (FitzGerald 1921-5). The receptacle and the shaft to which it is attached were brought here from the ruined chancel and were assembled by Butler in the nineteenth century (Butler 1854, 163-4). As a piscina, it is unusual in that it seems to have been designed as an almost freestanding feature rather than something that was set into a recess or fenestella. The half-octagonal shaft must have been positioned against a wall and probably sat on a stone base. The round bowl, which is 11cm deep, has a small drainage hole which must originally have drained into some form of channel to allow the water to be evacuated. As the drainage hole is not at the base of the bowl, a later channel was chiselled to enable even the last drops of water to drain out. The bowl is surrounded externally by a double moulded rim, which also seems to be octagonal (not all sides are visible), above a thick chamfered band. This concave band is decorated with zoomorphic carvings in relief. The first animal (from left) is a dragon.
The second creature resembles a manticora, described in medieval literature as a beast from India with ‘a threefold row of teeth meeting alternately, the face of a man, with gleaming blood-red eyes: a lion’s body: a tail like the sting of a scorpion, and a shrill voice.... it hankers after human flesh most ravenously’ (White 1954, 51-2, 247). The manticora in Trim is reminiscent of a thirteenth-century illustration in which the human head of the ‘manticore’ is also wearing a hat. The Trim manticora has hoofed feet, which is unusual, but there is known to have been some confusion between the manticora and another Indian beast, the leucrota, which does have
hooves (ibid. 48-9). In Trim, the tail of the manticora interlinks with that of a creature with a line of angular ridges along its spine, namely a Crocodyllus. Although this creature looks little like what we today would know as a crocodile, it is clearly a crocodyllus as represented in medieval bestiary (ibid. 49-51). The illustration of the crocodyllus in White’s book of beasts suggests that it was drawn by someone who had never seen a crocodile but to whom a description of the animal was given. It has sharp claws, a long tail, a ridge along its back and long teeth. At the right of the frieze is a fox with a goose in its mouth. The animal frieze curves outwards slightly where it is attached to the wall on each side and on the right hand side it is ‘closed’ by the curving, bushy tail of the fox.
Beneath the animal representations, and in marked contrast to that theme, four vertical rectangular panels, each measuring 18 by 34cm, are decorated armorial shields. Each panel is framed by a flat moulding, and the shields are held by winged angels. Also within each panel, at the base of the shield, is a decorative wavy line. Traces of red, yellow and blue tinctures survive on the shields. Although these may derive from nineteenth-century oil paint, it is quite possible
that they are all that remains of the original tinctures. One of the shields is blank, but the other three can been identified (Hickey 1988-9, 129-31):
Shield 1 (from left): The arms of Butler (or, a chief indented azure). Hickey believed that this shield represented James Butler (the White Earl), fourth earl of Ormonde. Butler and Richard, duke of York were long time allies and, at the time of his death in 1452, Butler was York’s deputy (Roe 1968, 103).
Shield 2: The arms of Edward III (quarterly France ancient and England). Edward III was a great-grandfather of Roger Mortimer (d. 1398).
Shield 3: Quarterly England and France modem, over all a label of three points, the arms of Richard, duke of York impaling quarterly Mortimer and de Burgh. The top of this shield is broken—two points only of the label can be seen and no torteaux are visible. Pinches gives the arms of Anne, countess of Cambridge (1390-1411), as quarterly France ancient and England with a label of three points argent charged with as many torteaux, impaling Mortimer and de Burgh quarterly—this shield exactly. Hickey (1988-9, 130) points out that since 1405 France modem was used in the royal arms of England and goes on to state that ‘there can be no doubt but that this shield represents the arms of Anne Mortimer [sic], grandmother of Edward IV and mother of Richard, duke of York’.
Shield 4: There is a slightly raised ridge running vertically down the centre of this shield, but otherwise it is blank. Every part of the panel, including the hand of the angelic messenger holding it, is perfectly carved, so there is no reason to believe that it is unfinished. There are some very small patches of red tincture and Roe (1968, 102-3) was of the opinion that the arms on this shield were originally shown by colour only. Hickey suggested that the shield may represent a royal infant who died before he was granted arms. A blank shield can be found on the Great Gate of Trinity College, Cambridge (built between 1490 and 1535). Hickey (1988-9, 131) posited the view that the blank Trim shield represented George of Windsor, the infant son of Edward IV. Bom in 1478, George was appointed lord lieutenant of Ireland, but died the following year (1479).
The piscina is set on top of a moulded octagonal limestone slab which in turn rests on a sandstone capital with fluted scallops. The orange colour of the sandstone capital does not blend in well with the rest of the font, but it is half-octagon in shape and it is easy to see why the person erecting this ensemble thought it would be appropriate. The sandstone piece is Romanesque in style, and may have been brought here from St Mary’s Augustinian priory. [Dimensions of piscina: Height: 53cm; Width: 60cm; Diameter: 52cm; Diameter of basin: 11cm],
Set vertically into the wall behind this piscina is a shallow, octagonal, limestone basin. This feature almost certainly functioned originally as a piscina. Some late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century piscinas have two basins; one for rinsing the communion vessels and the other for washing hands—although the Trim example surely dates to the fifteenth century, it may also have had two basins originally.
The piscina at Trim is one of a series of fonts and piscinas from Co. Meath. The fonts at Dunsany, Killeen and Clonard have shields held by winged angels (Roe 1968, 22, 28, 34, 50, 53, 103), while monsters appear on fonts at Crickstown and Kilcame (ibid. 40, 60-6). The piscina at Trim also bears a number of similarities to a series of elaborate fifteenth-century English fonts, all from churches in East Anglia.194 Several of these fonts are octagonal, each side having a vertical rectangular panel, on a number of which a winged angel holds an armorial shield. Wild beasts are also commonly represented on these fonts.
Date of upload: 16 February, 2015Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.