|THE MULLAMAST LE TENE STONE
|The ‘Mullamast Stone’, c. 500-600 A.D., is a sculptured stone that was discovered in
1902, being used as a sill in the doorway of farm called Prospect Farm, on the east side
of the Hill of Mullaghmast, near Narraghmore. It had come from a Fitzgerald castle in
the area that was demolished pre-1897 but its original location was most likely the
royal site at Dún Áilinne, near Kilcullen. The stone, composed of limestone & one of
only five La Tène decorated stones in Ireland,3 is mostly carved in low relief, with some
incised, and with a continuous abstract La Tène style design of concentric spirals,
similar to that on the Turoe Stone in County Galway, that dates it to the 6th century A.
D., after the mission of St. Patrick. Its symbolism reminds us that, in Ireland the
arrival of Christianity did not mark a sudden break with the past. Indeed, the stone
speaks of a remarkable continuity in one of the most resonant of so-called Celtic
rituals: ‘the sword in the stone’. The idea of the true king being the one who can pull a
sword from a stone is central to the British legends of King Arthur. The Mullamast
Stone functioned, almost certainly, as the place where the Uí Dúnlainge, Kings of
Leinster, were initiated. It is notable that such an important ritual object has no
Christian symbolism. The Mullamast Stone has four blade marks on the left hand side
and two very deep ones on the top. The new king seems to have struck or sharpened his
sword against the stone as a key part of the inauguration ritual. The idea of the ‘sword
in the stone’ seems to have lasted at least from the 5th/6th centuries to 12th century.
The ‘Mullamast Stone’, is now on display in the National Museum of Ireland.