Flag of Munster

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The flag of Munster consists of three gold crowns on a blue field. The crowns were the arms of Ireland before being superseded by the golden harp in the 16th century. The meaning of the crowns on the flag is not certain, but one possibility is that they may represent three of the medieval Hiberno-Norman lordships in Munster; the O’Briens (Thomond), the Butlers (Ormond) and the Fitzgeralds (Desmond).[1]

Flag of Munster
1651 Arms of Munster

History[edit]

For over four hundred years now the historic Province of Munster has been heraldically symbolized by three golden antique crowns on an a deep blue shield which may represent Thomond (Tuamhain, North Munster), Desmond (Deasumhain, South Munster), and Ormond (Urumhain, East Munster). While these arms are on record as appertaining to Munster as early as the sixteenth century, the motif, namely the antique Irish crown which inspired them, is without question considerably older. Significantly, from the point of view of finding an explanation for the origin of the arms of Munster, a crown of the type now known as antique Irish, delicately crafted in burnished metal and resting on a blue enamel surface, forms an integral element of a thirteenth-century crozier head found near Cormac’s Chapel on the Rock of Cashel. This unique artifact of Gaelic Ireland can be viewed in the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin. Cashel was from early Christian times through to the fifteenth century the seat of the Kings of Munster, many of whom exercised spiritual as well as temporal power over the southern province. In the case of the ‘king-bishops’ of Cashel the placing of the antique crown on their crozier, as instanced above, can only be interpreted as a symbolic assertion of their right to the political sovereignty of Munster. When, therefore, the sovereignty of Munster came to be expressed in heraldic format, small wonder that the antique crown (in triplicate) came to be used as the arms of the province. Triplication of symbols in heraldic art is merely a convention for the purpose of achieving greater balance on the triangular surface of the shield.[2]

As to the tincture of the Munster shield, in Gaelic mythology and literature the sovereignty of Munster was personified in Mór Muman – a beautiful lady dressed in deep blue robes.[3]

Present forms and uses[edit]

The flag of Munster is usually displayed alongside the flags of Leinster, Ulster and Connacht, or as part of the combined flag of the Provinces of Ireland. The flag is the official flag of the Munster Gaelic Athletic Association and the Munster rugby team. The three crowns of the flag can be seen on the Munster Rugby crest, and also the Munster GAA crest.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Historical Roots by Dan Corrigan
  2. ^ The National Library of Ireland
  3. ^ The National Library of Ireland]