Four Mem Placed Strastika Fashion On Recumbent Monument At Meigik Perthshire



(2) symbolically, and (3) decoratively. As cases of the first kind of treatment we have the hunting scenes,1 battle scenes,2 men driving in chariots8 drawn by horses, groups of ar mals,* etc., on the erect cross-slabs of Scotland and on the bases of some of the Irish and Welsh crosses. Although these subjects may have some symbolism behind them, yet all the living creatures represented are treated realistically, and not conventionally. As cases of the second kind of treatment we have the Symbols of the Four Evangelists, which, although consisting of the figures of a man, a lion, a bull, and an eagle, are generally highly conventionalised. Lastly, we have the decorative use of an mal forms, where the zoological species of the creatures represented becomes of so little importance that it is altogether ignored. The creatures can certainly be divided into beasts, birds, fishes, and reptiles; but the artist has taken such liberties with the shapes of their bodies, limbs, heads, tails, and other details, that he. would be a bold man who would say of any one of the beasts whether it was '"ntended for a lion, a tiger, a dog, a wolf, or a bear. The quadruped most in favour with the Christian Celtic artist may, as has been aiready suggested, have been degraded by successive copying from the Classical lion. Anyway, it has a head something like that of a dog, with pointed ears, an attenuated body, four legs terminating in paws with claws, and a long tail. The head

1 As on the erect cross-slab at Hilton of Cadboll 'now at Inv^rgordnn Castle), Ross-shire.

2 As on the erect cross-slab at Aberlemno, Forfarshire.

3 As on thp base of the cross in the churchyard of Kells, Co. Meath.

* As on the erect cross-slabs at Shandwick, Ross-shire; and St.

Vigeans, Forfarshire; and on the base of the cross at Castledf rmi't,

Co. Kiidare.

and the paws are never misrepresented for decorative purposes, hut the body, limbs, ears, and tail may be extended to any given length or bent in any desired direction. The beasts and other creatures are generally shown in profile, and only rarely in plan.

In the simplest kind of zoomorphic ornament a single beast is used to fill a panel, the different attitudes being as follows:—

(1) With the head looking forwards.

(2) With the head bent backwards.

(3) With the head bent backwards, biting the middle of the body.

(4) With the head bent backwards, biting the end of the tail.

(5) With the tail curled up over the back.

(t>) With the tail curltd up under the belly.

If the beasts are in pairs, they may be placed in the following positions:—

(1) Symmetrically facing towards each other, or face to face.

(2) Symmetrically facing away from each other.

(3) In a horizontal row one in front of the other.

(4) In a vertical row one below the other.

When there are three or four beasts, besides being arranged in rows, they may be placed after the fashion of the ti'skele or ihe swastika round a centre.

Interlaced zoomorphic ornament can be made with a single beast by extending the length of its tail and ear, and forming them into knots at intervals, crossing over the body and 'imbs where necessary. Sometimes the tail alone is knotted. In this sort of ornament the shape of the beast is seen distinctly and the knots occupy the background. A more complicated design can be made from a single beast by twisting its body and limbs into knots as well as the ears and tail.

The panels of zoomorphic ornament in Ch-istian Celtic art are, however, usually composed of two or more beasts placed symmetrically with regard to each other and having their bodies and limbs crossed over and interlaced. The ears and tails may also be extended and formed into knots L. combination with the bodies and limb». The designs thus produced will be seen to consist apparently of two sets of bands crossing each other diagonally, the wide bands being the bodies of the beasts and the narrow bands, the limbs, tails, and ears. The bands are nearly straight, or if bent at all only gently curved.

When the beasts are not placed in opposite symmetrical positions, but i» horizontal rows one in front of the other, or in vertical rows one below the other, the bodies are often bent round spirally n one direction or twisted into S-shaped spirals n two directions. A favourite device with the Celtic artist was to make the beasts b'te the' own bodies, limbs, or tails, or the body, lihibs, or tail of the beasi immediately in front of it.

The zoomorphic designs composed of birds we»-e arranged on the same principles as those composed of beasts.

Reptiles or serpentine creatures with bodies of nearly the same width throughout were converted into interlaced zoomorphic ornament by twisting, plaiting, looping, or knotting the bodies together. This class of ornament is, 1 fact, the ordinary interlaced patterns derived from the plait, with heads added at one end and tails at the other.

A very ingenious zoomorphic design is made by fillirg in a long narrow panel w'th the body of a serpentine creature undulating from side to side. The head of the creature is at the top of the panel, and the body remains about the same width unt.l it reaches the bottom of the panel, where its width is greatly reduced and its direction reversed. On its return journey it makes a series of Stafford knots, which fill in the spaces between the undulations of the body ard the sides of the panel, and the end of the ta 1 is finally received into the mouth of the reptile.1

There are two kinds of zoomorphic designs which are peculiar to the MSS. of the period, namely, initial letters made in the form of a bird or beast, and the incomplete frames round the initial pages of the Gospels terminating in a beast's head at one end and a fish-like tail at the other. The only thing of a similar kind which occurs on the sculptured monuments is the zoomorphic margin round some of the erect cross-slabs of the east of Scotland.2 The margin is formed by two beasts, the heads of which appear at the top facing each other and the tails at the bottom.

Zoomorphs are found throughout the whole range of Christian Celtic art, they form an important feature in the decoration of nearly all the Iliberno- Saxon illuminated MSS. ; they are particularly characteristic of the Irish ecclesiastical metalwork; and they are of frequent occurrence on the sculptured monuments of Ireland and Scotland. On the crosses of Wales and Cornwall zoomorphs are comparatively rare. Some of

1 Instances of this occur af Lanherne and Sancreed, Cornwall.

2 At Cossins and MoniPeth, Forfarshire; and Meigle, Duifallandy ; and St. Madoes, Perthshire. The arrhrd top of the tramp round the miniature of Christ seized hy the Jews, in the Book of Kells, is treated in exactly the same way as the pedimented tops of the erect cross-slabs. In the second table of Eusebian Canons, in the Book of Kells, the head and arms of Christ are p,aced between the two beasts heads.


Front photographs of the raff in the Science and Art Museum, Edinburgh, supplied by Mr. Valíame, Curator

the best instances of zobmorphic designs in the MSS. are to be seen in the cross-pages of the Book of Durrow, the Gospels of L'ndisfarne, the Book of Kells, the Gospels of St. Chad, and the St. Gall Gospels (Codex No. 51); in metalwork on the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, the Hunterston Brooch, the Shrine of the Bell of St. Patrick's Will, the Cross of Cong, and the Shrine of St. Manchan ; and on sculptured monuments at Termonfecliin, Co. Louth ; Kells, Co. Meath; Tihilly, King's Co. ; Dysert O'Dea, Co. Clare; Nigg, Ross-shire ; Aberiemno and Invergowrie, Forfarshire ; St. Madoes, Perthshire; Penally, Pembrokeshire; and Sancreed and Lanherne, Cornwall.

Sometimes key-patterns and spirals are converted into zoomorphic designs by the addition of animals' heads, as at Penmon, Anglesey; and Termonfeclrn, Co. Louth. The centres of spirals are also often made zoomorphic, as in the Gospels of Lindisfarne, on the cross at Kilklispeen, Co. Kilkenny, and on an erect cross-slab at St. Vigeans, Forfarshire.

Probably the most wonderful tour de force ir. the way of zobmorphic sculpture is a pair of panels on the erect cross-slab at Nigg, Ross-shire. Each panel is ornamented with a series of raised bosses arranged symmetrically. The whole of the convex surfaces of the bosses is covered with intricate knotwork, and the background's composed of serpents, the tails of which coil spirally round the bases of the bosses, and in each case enter the circumference at three points to form the i iterlaced-work on the boss. After innumerable crossings under and over, the tails again diverge at three other points round the base of the boss, and finally terminate in small spirals in different parts of the background.


Under the above heading are classed ail designs in which the complete figure of a man, or portions of a man are used for purposes of decoration. Human heads occur in metahvork in the decoration of the Tara Brooch1 and in sculptured stonework on the cross of Muiredaoh, at Monasterboice, Co. Louth, and on a cross-head from the crannog at Drumgay Loch.

The most remarkable instances of the decorative use of the complete figures of men in the illuminated MSS. are to be found in the Book of Kells. The figures are generally arranged ;r. pairs facing each other, ir groups of three triskele fashion, and in nearly all cases the attitudes are extremely uncomfortable with the knees drawn up close against the stomach. The limbs of the different figures are crossed over and interlaced, as in zoomorphic ornament, and the hands are shown grasping either the limbs, hair, or beard of one of the other figures. Sometimes the human figures are combined with figures of birds or beasts.

We have already referred to the incomplete frames of the initial pages of the Gospels with zoomorphic terminations. In the " Nativitas XPI " initial page in the Book of Kells the incomplete frame terminates in a human head at one end and two legs at the other. Another initial page in the same MS.—that of St. Mark's Gospel—has a zoomorphic frame, but the beast's head is holding a man between its jaws, whilst the man is tugging at the beast's tongue with his hand.

Groups of four human figures arranged swastika-fashion, interlaced and each grasping the limbs, wrists,

1 A pin brooch ornamented with a h'iman head, from Woodford River, Co. Cavan, is illustrated in Sir W. Wilde's Catal. of the Mus. R.I.A , p. 565.

hair, or beard of one of the other figures, occur on crosses in Ireland at Kilkispeen, Co. Kilkenny; Mon-asterboice, Co. Louth ; and Kells, Co. Meath ; and in Scotland on a recumbent monument at Meigle, Perthshire. A human figure interlaced with a b«rd occurs ^n two nstances on sculptured stones .n Scotland, namely, at Monifieth, Forfarshire (now in the Edinburgh Museum of Antiquities); and at Meigle, Perthshire.


Leaf and plant motive decoration is ent:relv foreign to the spirit of purely Celtic Christian art, and whenever it occurs it is generally to be traced to Northumbrian influence. The Book of Kells and the Stockholm Gospels are the only Hiberno-Saxon illuminated MSS. in which any trace of fo-iage can be detected. There are panels of foliage on the Irish crosses at Kells, Co. Meath ; Monasterboice, Co. Louth ; and Clonmacnois, King's Co. In Wales there is an instance of foliage on the crosses at Penally, Pembrokeshire. In Scotland the only sculptured monuments with foliage upon them (excluding, of course, those in the Northumbrian districts of the south) are the erect cross-slabs at Hilton of Cadboll and Tarbet, Ross-shire (both now at Invergordon Castle); St. Vigeans, Forfarshire; and Crieff, Perthshire! j on crosses at Camuston, Forfarshire ; Dupplin, Perthshire ; and on a cross-shaft at St. Andrews, Fifeshire.

The foliage may in all cases be traced back to the Classical vine, the well-known symbol of Christ. It is often much degraded by successive copying, and although the forms of the leaves are often altered beyond recognition the bunches of grapes can always be made out.

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