Museum exhibition showcases Reformation legacy

A major exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has officially opened at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

‘Staunch and True’ examines the impact and legacy of the momentous event, and its enduring relevance in terms of theology, politics and wider society.

In October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ‘95 Theses’ on the castle door in Wittenberg in Germany – an act widely seen as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which spread throughout Europe.

Focusing on Luther’s principle role in what was a watershed moment for Christianity, the exhibition also explores the impact of pre-1517 reformers and how figures within the Loyal Orange Institution have played their part in fanning the ‘spreading flame’.

The contribution of pre-Reformation champions such as Jan Huss and John Wycliffe are considered, as well as Orangemen in its aftermath who proclaimed the reformed faith, including Dr Thomas Barnardo, and clergymen Rev Dr Thomas Drew and the former Bishop of Connor, Cyril Elliot.

The display includes a reproduction of a 16th Century printing press, which portrays the Reformation’s importance in accessibility to the printed word.

Another notable artefact on public display is an Erasmus Greek New Testament, dated 1527.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, formally opened the exhibition.

He said: “As an organisation wedded to the reformed faith and based on Biblical principles, it is only natural that we should pause in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation and celebrate, not merely the events of 1517 and the 16th Century, but the impact and legacy these events have bequeathed to the modern word.

“Our latest major exhibition provides an informative insight into the historical context of the Reformation and how its powerful legacy impacted and inspired future generations.”

Museum curator, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “Whilst there were key figures before Martin Luther – his actions ‘burst the dam’ in terms of bedding in the Protestant Reformation. Like all revolutions 1517 was not an end in itself but has had a continuing impact on all aspects of life, not least through the creation of democratic politics and freedom of the individual.

“Staunch and True is Northern Ireland’s most significant examination of the Reformation and its enduring legacy. The Museum of Orange Heritage is delighted to play its role in commemorating such an evangelical landmark, and showcase material relating to such a seminal event to a wider audience.”

The exhibition will run at the Cregagh Road museum until the end of November 2017. The Museum of Orange Heritage is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Group bookings can be made by arrangement.

The exhibition opening comes ahead of a major rally to mark the Reformation anniversary in Co Armagh next month. Members of the Loyal Orders will take part in a procession through Portadown on Saturday 6 May, prior to a religious service at Shamrock Park. The latter is due to commence at 7.15pm.

Battle of the Boyne recited at Orange Museum

The story of the Battle of the Boyne has been brought to life at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

Drogheda-based author, Nicola Pierce, led two workshops for young people and adults at the outreach facility, reading extracts from and explaining the rationale of her latest historical novel, ‘Kings of the Boyne’. The book is a fictional account of the seminal 1690 battle of the Glorious Revolution between King William and King James.

Miss Pierce also used the context of her four novels – the sinking of the Titanic, WWII’s Battle of Stalingrad, the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne – to explain her approach to writing about history for children.

The public readings set the factual historical context of ‘Kings of the Boyne’, with the author explaining how she preferred to use real people, such as Gerald O’Connor, 19, a dutiful son and Jacobite, whose account of the battle can be found in the National Library in Dublin. For the Williamite side, she brought back the Derry brothers from her previous novel ‘Behind the Walls’, Robert and Daniel Sherrard, who were part of the original 13 apprentices who locked the four gates of Derry against a Catholic army in December 1688.

Miss Pierce expressed her appreciation to the Orange museum for hosting the event.

She said: “It was such an honour and thrill for me to be invited to speak at the museum. I’m not a historian but I love showing my way into something like the Battle of the Boyne and discussing the challenges of presenting it in a novel for younger readers. And I was really excited to see for myself King William’s letter and saddlecloth.”

Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “Creating better understanding of all aspects of history is important, especially Irish history. Today’s event with author Nicola Pierce, is another example of how the Museum of Orange Heritage is helping the whole community understand the events of the Glorious Revolution. Nicola has written a number of historical fiction books for young people and we are delighted to have her discussing her two books about the Glorious Revolution and Williamite and Jacobite War in Ireland.”

Among the guests at Tuesday morning’s workshop was The High Sherriff of Belfast, Alderman Tom Haire.

Kings of the Boyne, published by O’Brien Press, is currently available to purchase at the Museum of Orange Heritage shop, priced at £8.