The interlaced ornament used in Celtic art may be divided into the following classes :—

(1) Regular plaitwork, without any bitaks.

(2) Broken plaitwork, with breaks made in an regular way.

(4) Circular knotwork.

(5) Triangular knotwork.

(b) Ringwork or chainwork.

Interlaced-work s the predom' lant motive of the Celtic style of the Christian period. It lasted longer in t<me than any other motive, and its distribution extends over a larger area. It is very seldom that one motive is used by itself for the decoration of a stone monument, metal object, or page of a MS.; but where this ;s the case the motive chosen s invariably interlaced-work, and not a key^ittern, spiral, or zoomorph. As nstances of sculptured monuments decorated enti-ely with interlaced-work we have the cross at Neuadd Siarman, Brecknockshire, and the cross-shaft at St. Neot, Cornwall.

The evolution of knotwork from plaitwork cannot better be studied anywhere than in the decoration of the Welsh crosses. Let us now endeavour to trace the various stages in the process by which the higher forms of Celtic interlaced work were arrived at.

In Egyptian, Greek, and Roman decorative art the only kind of interlaced-work is the plait, without any modification whatever; and the man who discovered how to devise new patterns from a simple plait by making what I term breaks laid the foundation of all the wondeifully complicated and truly s forms of interlaced ornament found in such a masterpiece of the art of illumination as the Book of Kells in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Although we do not know who made this discovery of how to make breaks in a plait, we know pretty nearly when it was made. In the decoration of the mosaic pavements in Great Britain belonging to the period of the Roman occupation, no instance, as far as I can ascertain, exists of the introduction of a break in a plait; nor is there any break in the plaitwork on the marble screen and the capitals of the columns of the ciborium in the Church of San Clemente at Rome (which are dated by R. Cattaneo1 between a.d. 514 and 523). In the eighth century, however, there arc several examples with well-authenticated dates of the use of true knot-work 'as distinguished from plaitwork) in the decoration of churches it. Italy; namely, on the ciborium of San Giorgio at Valpolicella- (a.d. 712); on the Baptistery of Calistus at Cividale3 (a.d. 737); and on the jambs of the doorway of the Chapel of San Zeno in the Church of San Prassede at Rome* (a.d. 772-705).

It would appear, tnen, that the transition from plaitwork to knotwork took place between the Lombard conquest of Italy under Alboin in a.d. 563, and the extinction of the Lombard monarchy by Charlemagne in a.d. 774; possibly during the reigns of Luitprand (a.d. 712-736) and Rachis (a.d. 744): for the name of the former king is mentioned in the inscriptions on the Baptistery at Cividale and the ciborium of San Giorgio at Valpolicella, and the latter on the altar at Cividale.

1 L'Arrhitrttura in Italia, pp. 29 and 31.

Cividale Rachis


(sixth century)

I now propose to explain how plait »vork is set out, and the method of making breaks i11 it. When it is required to fill in a rectangular panel with a plait the four sides of the panel are divided up into equal parts (except at the ends, where half a division is left), and the points thus found are joined, so as to form a network of diagonal lines. The plait is then drawn over these lines, in the manner shown on the accompany ing diagram. The setting-out lines ought really to be double so as to define the width of the band composing the plait, but they are drawn single, on the diagram in order to simplify the explanation.

If now we desire to make a break in the plait any two of the cords are cut asunder at the point where they cross each other, leaving four loose ends A, 13, C, I). To make a break the loose ends are joined together in pairs. This can be done in two ways only: (1) A can be joined to C and I) to B, forming a vertical

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