‘The loveliness of many coloured gems has called me away from external cares’ an inscription on a medieval stained glass exhibit aptly describes the Hunt Museum in Limerick. In my opinion, the best in Ireland as it only displays a small, but excellent selection of the finest national and international treasures. Larger museums tend to overdo it causing the visitor to suffer from culture fatigue, and not a little boredom.
Spread over just three small floors, a basement and a gallery, you can wander through the exhibits which refreshingly, are not arranged in chronological order. Pre Christian, and Viking exhibits are neatly juxtaposed with Egyptian artefacts, my favourite is a small clay falcon from Luxor. An exquisite bronze horse by Leonardo DaVinci is surrounded by fine Japanese porcelain and Ming vases. You sift through drawers laden with Impressionist sketches, there is even a half finished Renoir languishing in one of them......
So it really is quite special and different, the legacy of a local couple John and Gertrude Hunt. He was an art dealer and expert on medieval art and furniture, who advised Lord Gort on the restoration of nearby Bunratty Castle. They were also keen archaeologists and instigated projects such as Lough Gur and Graggaunowen and obviously well travelled. The couple began collecting in earnest shortly after the war, they had a particular interest in medieval religious art and amassed a very valuable collection which they kindly donated to the nation on condition that the state provided suitable premises to house it in.
To cut a very long story short, including the Irish government declining the collection, the former customs house, a fine Palladian styled building designed by Davis Ducart in 1765, on the banks of the Shannon, was chosen, refurbished and opened to the public in 1996. It is well sign posted with plenty of parking locally, has all the usual facilities including an excellent restaurant for restorative coffee breaks or a light lunch.
For 10 more things to see and do in the area, including King Johns Castle, St Marys cathdral, a romanesque masterpiece or Brown Thomas, Irelands most prestigious department store? click here.