August 30, 2022
The 15th century gold chalice

A silver-gilt chalice from Ireland (c. 1480) that is a rare survivor of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation will be used to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit marking the opening of the academic year for The Catholic University of America. 

The Sept. 1, 12 noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception will be one of the first times in centuries that the chalice has been used for a liturgy. 

Most pre-Reformation chalices were melted down or taken by soldiers during efforts to suppress Catholicism in the mid- to late-16th century. This chalice survived. Exactly how remains unclear, though some online reports suggest that it may have been buried or hidden by monks, and later stolen like many similar artifacts from that time period. 

"Some soldier centuries ago thought he was putting an end to Mass by looting this chalice. Well, his efforts were futile. The Mass continues — even with this very chalice!" said University Chaplain Reverend Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P. 

The chalice was discovered and sold in the 1930s, then disappeared and was rediscovered “in a cardboard box in a garden outbuilding,” by a descendent of the purchaser according to the Irish Independent. Sold at auction in July 2021, it is being loaned to the University by the owner. 

The chalice may have been crafted in the Cork region according to materials from Duke’s Fine Art Auctions, which note it has an unusual “circular spreading foot.” 

After the Mass of the Holy Spirit, the chalice will be installed for viewing in St. Michael Chapel at Maloney Hall. It is on loan to Catholic University through October. The chalice previously made stops at Villanova University and Georgetown Preparatory School.