Earlier this year, conservation builders and archaeologists began to renovate the Rathfarnham Castle, located in South Dublin, Ireland. Designated as a national monument, the 16th-century castle once housed dozens of families since its early construction in 1583. Soon, with the imminent construction of its elevators, travelers will also have better access to what archaeologist Antoine Giacometti describes as, “a Renaissance building for somebody very special.”
The “somebody” Giacometti, refers to is Archbishop Lord Adam Loftus (1625-1691). The lord worked with King Charles and Queen Elizabeth I during the 15th century, and was tasked with the mission of spreading Protestantism to Ireland. Consequently, as you can imagine, this period of time was often filled with great tension between Catholic Ireland and Protestant England.
Yet, despite the degree of political and religious turbulence, the castle’s inhabitants most likely lived extravagant lives. Proof of this lies in Giacometti’s recent discovery. During an archaeological survey of the grounds, the archaeologist stuck his hand into an underground washing pit, only to uncover a hidden treasure trove of artifacts. Most notable is a golden piece of jewelry, but he also managed to find pointy high-heeled shoes, a few porcelain plates and teacups from China, a Cromwellian armor breastplate and a jar of red material, mostly likely serving as an early form of makeup.
According to Giacometti, there could be many reasons to explain the unusual hiding spot: the items for example, might have placed there during a raid, or a person could have simply dumped them into the pit, as a way to store them.
Either way, the artifacts most likely belonged to Lord Adam Loftus’ household; they are symbolic of the degree of the Loftus family’s connections, and serve to highlight a bit of Ireland’s history.
Tea came to England in the mid-1600s, and it’s impressive that a family in Ireland had access to the contemporary trend, Giacometti said.
“Ireland has always been viewed as the poor neighbor,” he said. “We were behind the times, still kind of living with the trees when the British were colonizing the world. [The tea] kind of puts Ireland on the map a bit.”