Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf

Brian Boru Long Room TCD 9.4.14

Last night a packed Long Room played host to the launch of the Library’s latest exhibition Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf 1014.

Medieval Ireland was a land of many kings, but only one was ever acclaimed as emperor: Brian Boru. Brian’s place in popular affection as Ireland’s greatest king is intimately connected with his death at the Battle of Clontarf, on Good Friday 1014. His pyrrhic victory over a large Viking-Leinster alliance on that day has been subject to interpretation, reinterpretation, representation and misrepresentation, almost since echoes of the last sword blow faded.

The new exhibition places the historic Brian in his true context, while highlighting the development of his legend. Between April and October this year, visitors to Trinity College Library’s Long Room can explore Brian’s life, and afterlife, through a collection of exhibits, which date from his own era up to the 21st century.

Brian Boru Long Room TCD 9.4.14

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan; The Director of the National Museum of Ireland, Raghnall Ó Floinn; The Registrar of TCD, Shane Allwright and Head of Research Collections and Keeper of Manuscripts TCD, Bernard Meehan

The principal exhibit is the famous 9th-century Book of Armagh, which will be displayed alongside the Book of Kells. The Book of Armagh is the only surviving item that is known for certain to have been in Brian’s presence; it contains an inscription detailing an agreement in c1005 between Brian and the church of Armagh, hailing him as Emperor of the Irish. A further 40 items (including medieval manuscripts and metalwork) will illuminate aspects of Brian’s life and legend. Among these are such treasures as the 12th-century Book of Leinster, the Annals of Ulster and the Brian Boru Harp.

Brian Boru Long Room TCD 9.4.14

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with staff of Trinity College Library, the National Museum of Ireland and Cartoon Saloon

The exhibition runs in tandem with the National Museum of Ireland’s exhibit Clontarf 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Dublin, and has been supported by a grant from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Trinity College Dublin will also host a conference entitled Clontarf 1014-2014, organised by the History Department in partnership with the City Council and the Friends of Medieval Dublin, which will take place on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 April from 9.15-5.30 in the Edmund Burke Theatre, Arts Building, to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Battle.

For the first time, all the world’s leading authorities on the subject from the fields of Irish history, Scandinavian history, Celtic studies, and archaeology will be brought together in one public forum in order to establish the truth of what really happened at the battle for a twenty-first century audience. The conference is free of charge and open to all members of the College community and the general public. For more information on the conference and to register check out

An online version of the Emperor of the Irish: Brain Boru and the Battle of Clontarf exhibition is available.
For more information on the NMI exhibition
The official events website for the 1014 Battle of Clontarf millenium