Sancus et Peccatorum (Saints and Sinners); 32 “Old Irish” hand-painted resin chessmen without board, green/silver v. orange/bronze, Ireland, circa 1975-1985.
King height; 8.6cm, weight 57g, base diameter 3.5cm; Queen 9.1cm, weight 67g, bd 3.5cm; Bishop 7.8cm, 34g, bd 2.7cm; Knight 7.5cm, 94g, base size 5cm x 3.3cm; Rook 7.6cm, 79g bd 4cm x 3.5cm; Infantry 6.1cm, 29g, bd 3cm x 2.6cm.
W: antiqued green felt pads, B: antiqued orange felt pads.
Barely legible on two of the knights bases was a stamp saying “Designed and produced by Mercier Press, Cork, Ireland.” I have photographs of the stamp which has since been lost as the need for felt on the bases took priority, but it was probably produced as Ireland’s answer to the popular Isle of Lewis set that was also mass-manufactured by Studio Anne Carlton around the same time.
The design on the shields is a Celtic Trinity Knot, or ‘triquetra’ from the Latin triquetrus, meaning ‘three cornered.’ This symbolizes an ‘eternal bond’ in this case a brotherhood of knights, or infantrymen. An image that dates back to THE BOOK OF KELLS (c.9th century) and is believed to be taken from the image of the VALKNUT (knot of the dead in Old Norse) linked with the Viking god, Odin.
The Royals are all represented by saints, closely linked to Cork and the surrounding regions of Southern Ireland. The king is St Finbarr, the patron saint of Cork; the Queen is St Brigid, famous for the miraculous feats of her giant cloak, and the Bishops are effigies of the most famous Irish saint, St Patrick, who needs no introduction.
For a more detailed history of these pieces please check out my March ‘chessay’ in the ALL ABOUT CHESS section!
All pieces are in excellent condition, however one of the dark pawns is a replacement, hand-carved from wood (which has been weighted to match the other pawns. My initial idea was to cast or carve a replica, but the carving has been done someone who truly cherished this set, and to be honest, over time the little fellow has grown on me, therefore, I decided to leave him be and treat him in the same manner as his brother pawns.
This was one of my favourite projects of 2019 (mainly due to my ancestry, as my late father was from the Cork area), but as you can imagine, these hand-painted sets are extremely intricate and time-consuming, meaning only one or two of these art projects will be listed each year.
The pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual play.
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent gold ‘power’ signature of the artist on their bases (the project began in our opening year of 2019).
Ref code: SAS19
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.