Technical Processes And Materials Employed During The Christian Celtic Feriop In Great Britain

ECCLESIASTICAL and other MSS. written on sheets of vellum and bound up in the form of a book were introduced into this country with Christianity. The materials and tools used by the Celtic scribes and illuminators probably did not differ to any great extent from those used throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. The parchment of the Irish MSS. is, however, generally much thicker1 than that of the Carlovingian and other foreign MSS. The letters in the Irish MSS. of the best period, such as the Book of Kells, are composed partly of extremely fine lines, drawn with a firm hand, which gradually expand in width to form the other parts of the letters. These could hardly have been made with a reed or a brash, so that it is probable that the pens of the Irish scribes were made from the quills of swans, geese, crows, and other birds. The black ink used in the Irish MSS. is remarkable for its blackness and durability ; and Eede, the historian, speaks highly in praise of the colours prepared in Ireland, and especially of

1 Sir E. M. Thompson s Greii and La'in Pake>graph}, p. 38.

the brilliancy and permanence of the red made from whelks.1 Some colours, such as yellow, are put on thin and transparent; whilst others, such as red. have a thick body made of titurated earth or other skilfully prepared material, mixed with some strong binding material of the nature of gum or varnish.*

The material employed for the highly ornamented sculptured monuments of the Christian Celtic period was generally that most readily procurable on the spot, but a preference was always shown for a freestone, which could be easily worked. The greater proportion of the best crosses are carved in a fine-grained sandstone. In Cornwall granite was most generally used, although Polyphant stone was also used. In the Isle of Man nearly all the crosses are of slate. Hard, volcanic rocks were avoided where possible on account of the difficulty cf working. There are, however, crosses of trap-rock at Carew, Pembrokeshire, and Moel Siarman, Brecknockshire.

On some of the crosses the marks of the tool with which they were carved can still be clearly seen, as on the Cross of Iltyd at Llantwit Major, ard the cross-base at Llangevelach, both in Glamorganshire. As far as it is possible to judge from the tool-marks, either a pick or a pointed chisel must have been employed by the early Christian Celtic stone-carvers. Similar tool-marks have been observed on the cup-md-ring sculptures of the Bronze Age.

In the churchyard at Keils, Co. Meath, there is an unfinished cross which is of great interest as showing the exact methods used in the construction and decoration of this ciass of monument. The stone was first

'' Dr. Ferdinand Keller in the Ulster Juurnai of A rch&vlogy, voL viii.

.squared and the design roughly set out upon it. Draughts were then cut across the faces, leaving certain portions standing out in high relief, upon which the figure subjects were afterwards sculptured. The unfinished cross at Kells was formerly lying on the ground, but it has recently been erected on its original base, which is also unfinished.

When the crosses are constructed of two or more pieces they are fitted together by means of mortice and tenon joints. Sometimes the quadrants of the circular ring connecting the arms were made in separate pieces, as in the case of the large broken cross at Iona.1

The metals in use during the Christian Celtic period were gold, silver, copper, lead, bronze, brass, and other alloys. These were cast and wrought and ornamented by means of enamelling, niello, plating, gilding, repousse-work, chasing, engraving, piercing, inlaying, filigree-work, Trichinopoly chainwork, and sett:ngs of precious stones, amber, and glass. The different pieces of the metal objects were fixed together by rivets, and if soldering and brazing were known, they were certainly not employed to any great extent. Even when the specimens can be removed from their show-cases in museums and exan ined carefully by an expert it is not always possible to be certain of the exact technical processes by which the various decorative effects have been produced, and unless the objects can be dissected many of the constructive features must necessari-y be a matter for conjecture. The Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch illustrate nearly all the materials, technical processes, and methods of construction used at this period.

Three different kinds of enamel are used in the decoration of the Ardagh Chalice, namely, (1) a peculiar variety of cloisonné in which the compartments, or cloisons, are all cut out of a single piece of metal and the open framework thus formed s pressed into the surface of the enamel when soft until it rises up and fills each compartment ; (2) a combination of cloisonné and champlevé enamel in which the compartments are all cut out of a single piece of metal, some being pierced right through and the remainder only sunk partially through the thickness of the metal; the framework is pressed into the enamel when soft, thus fil ing up the open compartments, as in the first kind just described, and the remaining dug-out compartments are filled with fusible enamel as in champlevé; and (3) a species of champlevé enamel, in which the surface of a piece of glass was engraved with a design in intaglio and the hollows filled up with an enamel of a different colour. The Celtic enamels of the Christian period usually occur in the form of small round bosses, of which there are good instances on the Ardagh Chalice, the Ardagh Brooch, the Tara Brooch, the Lismore Crozier, and the Cross of Cong.

The use of bands of si'ver with borders of niello is well illustrated by the head of a crozier1 formerly belonging to the late Dr. W. Frazer, m.r.i.a., of Dublin. Portions of the silver have been stripped, showing how the surface of the metal into which it was inlaid was roughened with a pointed tool to make the inlay adhere better. Niello is a black composition made of silver, lead, sulphur, and copper, which s reduced to powder and placed in cavities or lines cut for its reception in the surface of the metal,

and afterwards incorporated with it by being passed through the furnace. Niello probably found its way to Ireland from the East. It was used by the Byzantines as early as the beginning of the ninth century.1

A peculiar kind of decoration which is specially characteristic of the early Irish ecclesiastical metal-work consists of plates perforated with triangles, squares, and crosses, so as to form a geometrical pattern. The plates are usually of bronze covered with silver, and the contrast between the bright surface of the white silver and the pierced portions through which the dark bronze below can be seen gives the general appearance of chequerwork. There are good instances of this class of decoration on the Shrine of the Bell of St. Patrick's Will, and the Cumdachs of Dimma's Book, the Stowe Missal, and the Shrine of St. Mogue. Cruciform pierced work of a similar kind also occurs on an ivory of the tenth century-representing the raising of the widow of Nain's son, in the British Museum ;'2 on an ivory of the tenth century, representing Christ in the Temple, ir the Royal Library at Berlin ;3 and on the chair of the image of St. Eaith, :n the treasury of Conques4 (Aveyron). The wards of ecclesiastical keys are often made to form cruciform patterns, as in the case of those of Netley Abbey, St. Serrais Maestricht, and Liège.5 The crucilorm patterns on the west face of

2 J. O. Westwood's Catal. of Fictile Ivories in S. A". Mus.

3 Ibid.

4 Annales de la Société Archéologique de Bruxelles, vol. xv. (1901), P- 4343 Le Chanoine Rensens' Eléments d'Archéologie Chrétienne, 2nd ed.

the cross at Dysert O'Dea,1 Co. Clare, seem to be copied from metalwork.

Filigree-work of gold wire is used to make the panels of ir.terlaced-work, scrollwork, and zoomorphic designs with which some of the best specimens of Christian Celtic metalwork are decorated, such as the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, the Hunterston Brooch, and the Clonmacnois Pin. The filigree-work is often covered with minute granulations, which add greatly to the richness of the effect produced by their texture.

We have already referred to the Trichinopoly chain-work of silver wire used in the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, and the Clonmacnois Pin. This kind of chainwork can be traced back to the Pagan Celtic period, as chains of similar character were found with the Late-Celtic gold collar at Limavady, Co. Londonderry, and with the pair of silver-gilt Kelto-Rorran fibula* from Chorley, Lancashire, now in the British Museum.

Settings of coral and enamel were, as we have seen, employed for the decoration of the Late-Celtic metalwork, but in the Christian Celtic period numerous other substances were also employed, such as glass, rock crystal, amber, and other precious stones. In some cases the settings of stones and glass were rectangular with a flat top and bevelled edges, but they were more generally round, oval, or almond-shaped and "tallow-cut," i.e. polished without facets.

The process used for producing the patterns on th& leather satchels and shoes previously mentioned was probably of the same nature as that by which the cuir bouilli cases of later times were decorated.

1 Jour. F. Soc. Ant. Inland, ¡>er. 5, vol. ix., p. ¿51.

Objects of wood, bone, ivory, and pottery and textile fabrics of the Christian Celtic period are so rare that there is really nothing to be said about the technical processes involved in their manufacture.


Attention has been recently directed to the problem of how decorative art was evolved, in the first instance, by the primitive races of mankind in remote ages. Mr. Henry Balfour, Mr. C. H. Read, and Dr. Colley March have shown us how much light may be thrown on this difficult question by a critical examination of the various forms of ornament used by the savage—or, rather, the uncultured—peoples existing at the present day in countries where they have had only limited opportunities of com:ng in contact with modern civilisation.

There is, however, at least as difficult a problem nearer our own doors awaiting solution, namely, that of the origin and development of eariy Christian decorative art ;n the British Isles. This problem is not one of a wholly uncultured race left to itself to work out its own ideas, as suggested by external natural objects or otherwise, but it is a problem of a race already in a state of semi-culture being brought suddenly face to face with a higher civilisation, through the introduction of a new religion, and afterwards influencing, or being influenced by, other conquering races—also in a state of semi-culture—whom they converted by missionary enterprise. That is to say, the Celts of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and Cornwall became acquainted with Italo-Byzantine art when they were first Christianised, about the middle of the fifth century. In the seventh century they came in contact with the Anglo-Saxons, and in the ninth with the Norsemen and Danes. It is the object of the present inquiry to determine in what measure the Christian art of this country before the Norman Conquest was affected by the absorption of these new racial elements.

The style of art we are now dealing with was formerly, quite wrongly, called Runic, because some of the monuments on which characteristic, forms of ornament occur bear Runic "nscriptions. Later authorities have called the style Iliberno-Saxon, Kelto-Northumbrian, Celtic, and Irish, but this is simply begging the whole question. The term we have chosen, namely, early Christian, is scientifically correct, and does not commit us to the assumption of any unproved facts.

Karlv Christian art in this country is essentially decorative, and to a lesser extent symbolic. The figure suhjects are obviously barbarous copies of Byzanrme originals, for no matter how they are disguised by bad drawing or incrusted with ornament, the conventional grouping and accessories still remain to prove their origin. The miniature of the Temptation of Christ in the Book of Kells is perhaps the most remarkable instance of a Byzantine design Celticised, if one may use the expression. Comparing this with a miniature <;i the Psalter of Misselinda (a.d. 1066) i 1 the British Museum (Add. 19,352), we find all the essential features of the scene the same, even to the black Devil; but in the Book of Kells the Temple with its Byzantine cupolas has been converted nto an

Irish stone-roofed oratory, shaped like a metal shrine of the period, and covered with ornament ; the Devil, too, has been decorated with spiral curves after the Celtic fashion.

The miniatures of the Evangelists, with their symbols, which form the frontispieces of the Irish Gospels, are also taken from a Byzantire source and similarly disguised, although not so effectually as to conceal their derivation. The Irish illuminator put as much local colour into his copy as a Chinaman or a Japanese would, but in a different way, If told to make a replica of an English picture.

In distilling the original Byzantine idea through the alembic of the mind of the Irish scribe it has absorbed so much of his individuality that it assumes an archaic and semi-barbarous appearance which is very misleading at first s:ght. We hope to be able to show-that some of the elements of the ornament may be traced to a Byzantine source, and that the only obstacle in the way of our at once recognising whence the Irish designer received his inspiration is his marvellous power of adaptation and skill in evolving fresh combinations of simple elements. The ancient Irish artists appear in some respects to have resembled the Japanese in the rapidity with which they absorbed new ideas and turned them to good account n their decorative designs.

The materials available for the study of early Chrisf'an art in Britain consist of 'lluminated MSS., ecclesiastical and other metalwork, sculptured monuments, and a few miscellaneous objects. 1 propose now to direct attention chiefly to the sculptured monuments, because they afford a much more certain means than any other of determining the charac-

teristics of the various local styles throughout the country.

If a monument is found 'a a particular district, i*: may generally be assumed that :t was the art product of the district, unless there is some special reason for thinking otherwise. The number of MSS. and examples of inetalwork is comparatively much smaller than the number of monuments, and t is only ir_ a few exceptional cases that a MS. can be traced to the monastic establishment where it was written. In Scotland, for example, although richer than any other part of Great Britain 111 sculptured monuments, the Book of Deer is the only pre-Norman MS. known to have been written there. Wales, again, can only claim the. Psalter of Ricemarchus.

I am of opinion that if we are ever to arrive at any defir ite conclusions with regard to the evolution of early Christian art n Great Br.ta;n, it must be by means of a careful examination and comparison of the n nute details of the ornament. The science of palaeography is entirely founded on the observation of every small variation "n the form of each letter, and if the same trouble was taken w ith ornament equally valuable results would be obtained.

We will now proceed to analyse the decorative features of the monuments, and endeavour to find an origin for the component elements which go to make up the style. I must assume the reader to possess a certain amount of acquaintance with the art of the early Christian period, and to know what is meant by most of the technical terms, but I shall give examples of the various classes of patterns in case anyone should he unfamiliar with their appearance.

Broadly speaning, early Christian ornament in Great

Britain is made up of the following elements, generally-arranged in separate panels :—

(1) Interlaced-work.

(3) Key-patterns.

(5) Zdomo-ph:c Designs. Suggested by Ar.imal,

(6) Anthropomorphic Designs. Human, and Vege-

(7) Phyllumorphic Designs. J table Forms.

Now the question is, what are the possible or probable sources whcnce each of these different kinds of patterns was derived?

First of all, there are the native and imported styles of decorative art existing in Great Britain previous to the introduction of Christianity (circa a.d. 450), comprising the art of the ages of Stone, Bronze, and Iron, and Romano-British art. Next, the external influences which came into play after a.d. 450, and before a.d. 1066, were Italo-Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon, Prankish, and Scandinavian.

Early Christian art 'n Great Britain was produced, in the first instance, by grafting the Italo-Byzantine style upon the native style of the Iron Age (sometimes called Late-Celtic), and was subsequently modified by Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian influence.

Of the forms of decoration used in the Stone Age ir this country we know hardly anything, and therefore they will not come within the scope of our investigations. The ornamental patterns of the Bronze Age, as far as we are acquainted with them from a study of the sepulchral urns, implements, personal ornaments, and sculptured cists and chambered tumuli, are of a very simple description, consisting chiefly of chevrons, concentric circles, and rudely drawn spirals. The latter may have been the forerunners of the beautifully designed volutes of the Iron Age, the nearest approach to perfection being on the sculptured slab at the. entrance to the New Grange tumulus, Co. Meath, and on the slabs forming the sides of a chambered cairn at Clover Hill, Co. Sligo.

When we come down to the Iron Age we find a very beautiful and refined system of decoration applied to bronze objects, such as hand-mirrors, shields, helmets, sword-sheaths, and horse-trappings, the leading motif of which is the divergent, or trumpet-shaped spiral. This style of decoration has received the name Late-Celtic in this country, and La Tène on the Continent.

No one can fail to be struck with the similarity between the Late-Celtic spiral ornament and that found in the early Irish MSS., the patterns :n some cases being absolutely identical. It is thus possible, to trace this particular element in the decorative art of the early Christian pe-iod to a native Pagan source.

Late-Celtic objects have been found in all parts of the United Kingdom, but probably the style of decoration only survived into Christian times in Ireland, although there is really no reason why it should not have done so elsewhere—-in the north of Scotland, for instance, which was quite as much cut off from civilisation as Ireland during the .Saxon conquests. The closest resemblance between the spiral decoration of the Pagan period and that of the Christian period is to be found on the discoidal ornaments with patterns in champlevé enamel, forming the attachments of the handles of certain bronze bowls, several examples of which have been discovered from time, to time in different parts of England.1

1 believe that the only element n early Christian decorative art in this country that can be traced to a native Pagan source is the divergent spiral. It has been suggested that the Irish and Saxon designers derived some of their ideas from the Roman pavements, but 1 can see nothing in the decoration of the MSS. on monuments of the pre-Norman period that can be fairly attributed to a Romano-British origin.

We have now to consider the external influences which came into play after the ^traduction of Christianity (circa a.d. 450). First amongst these was the influence of Italy, and thus more indirectly that of Byzantium. It is to this source that it is possible to trace the interlaced-work and scrolls of foliage which occur so frequently on the early sculptured monuments in Great Britain. We can refer to no better text-book whilst dealing with this portion of our investigation than /„'Architettnra in Italia, by Professor Raffaele Cattaneo (Venezia, 1888), who, by a careful study of the subject, has been able to divide early Italian ecclesiastical architecture into the following styles and corresponding periods :—

As an example of the first period we have the Ciborium in the Church of San Clemente at Rome (a.d. 514-23), decorated with plaitwork and foliage, both evidently of Classical origin. Belonging to the second period we have the Ciborium of San Giorgio di Valpolicella1 (a.d. 712), decorated with broken plait-

1 Also the jambs of the doorway of the chapel of S. Zeno in the church of S. Frassede, Rome (A.U. 772-95).

nooRw ve of nu- ( il r ok s. /i;no in thk ( hi rc ii or s. prasshii

\l ROME, SFIO\* TSC. r.ROK F \ i' AIXWOfTK O« I \ vi US ( ». ». 772 to 795)

work, and the Baptistery of Civldale Ca.d. 737), with fully developed knot work. And belonging to the third period the Ciboriam of Sant1 Apollinare n Classe, near Ravenna (a.Dv 806-16), with interlaced-work and

Basic Celtic Circular Knot Drawing
Pierced Marble Screen at Ravenna

foliage, and a slab over the aliar of San Giacomo, at Venice (a.d. 829), with circular knotwork.1

A careful examination of thpse specimens shows that

1 Slabs of circular knotwork are also to be seen in tht church of Sta. Sabina, Rome.

the plait was the first kind of interlaced-work employed for decorative purposes, and that it was of Classical origin. The plait as a decorative motive must have been well known to the inhabitants of this country during the Roman occupation and immediately after, from the numerous examples which occur on Roman pavements, as at Lvdney Park, Gloucestershire, and elsewhere.

Knotwork was gradually evolved from the plait by introducing breaks at regular intervals during the Iii/antino-Barbaro period (a.d. Coo to 800); and subsequent to this we find stiil more complicated forms of interlaced patterns were introduced, which I propose to call circular knotwork and triangular knotwork. The evidence gathered from dated examples of interlaced-work in Italy tends to show that there was a gradual advance in the elaboration of the patterns as time went on. Consequently the style could not have been borrowed en blue by Ireland from Italy, or vice versa, at one time ; but interlaced ornament must have been a prevalent form of decoration throughout the whole of the West of Europe, and the style advanced in all the different countries simultaneously, there being always a constant communication between Rome and the centres of religious activity abroad. Some races, like those in Great Britain, who appear to have had a special gift for inventing new patterns and combining them with a sense of artistic fitness, may have made more rapid strides than their neighbours and have influenced the development of the style in consequence, but that is all that can be said.

Two special peculiarities of the Italian interlaced-work, as compared with thar in Great Britain, are the ornamenting of the interlaced bands with two incised

Thar Motifs And PatternsTrichinopoly Chainwork

?;nes instead of one, and the twisting together two hands at frequent intervals, thus—

The latter feature, which s clearly Classical, occurs frequently in circular knotwork hi this country, showing that circular knotwork is of Italian origin.

The reason why interlaced-work is characteristic, of early Christian decoration almost throughout the whole of Europe, whilst spi-als, key-patterns, foliage, etc., are confined to particular limited areas, I believe to be partly because the number of distinct patterns that can be produced from nterlaced-work is far greater than those which can be got from any other class of ornament.

It is hardly necessary, perhaps, to enlarge much upon the subject of the foliage of the early Christian period in Great Britain. The scrolls with conventionalised bunches of grapes are no doubt descendants of the Classical vine; the involved birds, beasts, etc., being a later addition1 of the Bizantino-Barbaro, or Italo-Bizantino periods. Foliage is unknown in the Pagan Saxon, Scandinavian, or Late-Celtic, art, and the only other source it could have been derived from is Italian art.

We lastly have to consider the parts played in the development of early Christian art in Great Britain by the, Anglo-Saxon and the Scandinavian invaders. There does not seem to be much evidence to show that

1 Or a substitution of later forms for the Cupids, etc., of the Classical style.

the Saxons were ever gifted with any great capacity for ornamental design, although their workmanship often reached a high pitch of excellence. In looking through the plates of the most recent work on The Industrial Arts of the Anglo-Saxons, by the Baron j. de Baye, one is struck with the extremely limited rarge of imagination displayed in the design of the patterns. Interlaced-work (but of a debased kind) occurs or. some of the sword-hilts and buckles, the latter evidently bearing a remarkable affinity to the Merovingian buckles. A radiated fibula found at Searby, in Lincolnshire, exh;bits a diagonal key-pattern similar to that found in the Insh MSS. Far the most beautiful specimens of Saxon jewellery, however, are the circular brooches with cloisonne ornament. The disc-shaped surface of these brooches is broken up into little compartments, which are filled in with thin slabs of coloured glass, garnets, etc. The narrow bands of gold which separate the compartments from each other are zigzagged at right angles, or stepped, and it is quite possible that the idea of the stepped patterns within circles, which occur in the decoration of the Irish MSS. and on the circular enamelled bosses on the Irish ecclesiastical metalwork, may have been taken from the circular cloisonné Saxon brooch. It 's only fair, however, to mention that circular ornaments of cloisonné enamel, with an approximation to a stepped-pattern, are used in the decoration of the magnificent Late-Celtic shield found in the Thames at Battersea, and now in the British Museum.

It has been suggested that Irish interlaced-work was derived from the rude interlaced patterns on the Saxon and Merovingian buckles, but tnis appears to me most unlikely.

M. Paul du Chaillu, in his Viking Age, has endeavoured to show ihat the Anglo-Saxons derived their art such as it is from Northern rather than from Central or from Western Europe; but his views will not receive favour at the hands of the scientific archaeologist who relies on hard facts to make good h:s contentions. The forms and ornamental details of the buckles and other objects found with Saxon burials n the south of England undoubtedly show more affinity with Merovingian grave-goods than with anything emanating from Norway, Sweden, or Denmark.

Although no trace of Scandinavian influence can be detected in the ornamental patterns of the Anglo-Saxons—at all events, n the period preceding the Viking conquests in the ninth and tenth centuries— I am not quite so sure that one of the elements of early Christian decorative art in Great Britain may not possibly be of Northern origin, namely, the zoo-mi irphic element. I put forward this suggestion with the greatest diflidence, and merely as a tentative theory until something better can be found to take its place.

Zoomorphism is not a marked characteristic of Pagan Saxon decorative art, and therefore, in order to account for the predominance of so-called dragonesque designs in the early Irish illuminated MSS., we must fall back on one of the following alternatives: (1) that these patterns are of native origin, and were invented by the Irish; (2) that like the spirals, they are of Late-Celtic origin ; and (3) that they are of Italo-Byzantine derivation.

General Pitt-R.vers and Mr. Henry Balfour have given us an insight of the manner in which animal forms, by repeated copying, may degenerate into mere ornament; and at one time I thought that early Chris-

tian zoomorphism might have been the result of a process of a reverse nature. It is possible to "see snakes" when looking at a piece of :nterlaced-work without necessarily Sbffering from excess of alcoholism. Thus zoomorphic designs might have been evolved from interlaced-work by making the bands terminate in heads and tails, the 'imbs following in due course later on. Such may have been the process by which the Irish illuminator arrived at his zoomorphism, unless it can be shown ihat he got it in some other way.

Animal forms are comparatively rare in Late-Celtic art, and they are not interlaced, so that it is almost useless to seek for the original inspiring idea in this direction.

Birds, beasts, reptiles, and other creatures—often used symbolically—are frequently seen i i Byzantine art, both in the decorative features of churches and in the borders of the MSS. If it was thence that the earlv Christian zoomorphs in this country took their origin, I fancy the interlacements must have been arrived at either by placing the creatures in pairs symmetrically facing each other, or by contorting their bodies into unnatural attitudes. In the case of beasts arranged in pairs, the first step towards interlacement is to raise their paws and then to make them cross. The beasts may also be placed with their necks crossed; their tails may gradually curl round until they pass over the body, and may be looped or knotted to f>ll in a blank space; and in endless other ways the most complicated forms of zoomorphic ;nterlaced-work may be evolved from simple beginnings.

I)r. Hans Ilildebrand, in his Industrial Arts of Scandinavia (p. 50;, explains in a most ingenious manner how the lion couchant, which so often appears in Roman art, forms the basis of the earlier kinds of zoomorphic ornament in Scandinavia. The question is, did the Irish evolve their zoomorphs independently in a similar way from a Classical or Byzantine lion, or did they get the idea from the Scandinavians after they had so transformed the Roman Hon couchant that all resemblance to the original had disappeared? The difficulty n settling this point is the absence of accurately dated specimens of Scandinavian art workmanship. The panels of zoomorphic ornament on some of the fibular of the Later Iron Age, illustrated in I)r. Hans Hildebrand's work already referred to (pp. 58-65), bear a very considerable general resemblance to the panels of interlaced beasts in the Irish MSS., although the details are worked out differently. The whole question turns on the exact date of the Gotland brooches. If they can be proved to be earlier than the time when zoomorphism first appears in the Irish MSS., and if it is possible that the communication between Ireland and Gotland can be accounted for by the trade in silver objects and bullion existing between this country and the East, then there is something to be said for the Scandinavian origin of zoomorphism in Ireland. I believe, however, that from the evidence of the coins found with hoards of silver objects, this trade uid not begin until about a.d. 800.

Attention must here be called to two points which are common to the zoomorphic and anthropomorphic designs of Scandinavia and of Great Britain, namely, (1) the introduction of spiral curves to represent conventionally the folds of the skin where a limb joins the body; and (2) the introduction of figures of men grasping birds and beasts, or arranged swastica-wise grasping each other's limbs. Here, again, it is not easy to decide whether these features were invented independently, or whether they were borrowed by the Irish from Scandinavia, or by the Scandinavians from Ireland.

Whatever may be thought of the possibility of the existence of Scandinavian influence on Christian art in this country in its earlier phases, there is plenty of evidence of the development of an Anglo-Scandinavian style in particular districts where the Norse element was strong, as in the Isle of Man, and the adjoining coasts of Cumberland, Lancashire, and North Wales, and in Orkrey and Shetland.

The specially Scandinavian characteristics of the sculptured monuments in the districts specified are as follows :—

(1) There is a predominance of patterns formed of chains of rings.

(2) The bands of the interlaced-work have a tendency to bifurcate and break off into scroll-like terminations.

(3) The beasts in the zodmorphic designs have two toes, instead of three ; the bodies are covered with scales ; the attitude is peculiar, the head being bent back and a crest issuing from it with fin-like appendages in places ; and the junction of the limbs with the body is conventionally indicated by spirals.

(4) Amongst the. figure-subjects scenes from the mythic-heroic Eddaic poems, such as Sigurd Fafni's bane, Thor fishing for the Midgard-worm, Weyland Smith, etc.

Even in Norman times Scandinavian influence is exhibited ;n the details of the tympana at Hover* ng-ham, and Southwell Minster, Notts, ar.d St. Nicholas, Ipswich.

The only element in early Christian decorative art. the origin of which we have not succeeded in running to earth in the preceding investigation is the key-pattern. I venture to think that this may have been suggested by the Greek or Roman fret, and that the essentially Celtic character imparted to it was the placing of the guiding lines in a diagonal direction with regard to the margin, instead of parallel to it. I believe the reason for this to be that exactly the same setting-out diagram was used both for the interlaced-work and the key-pattern. It is often possible to trace the origin of key-patterns to the necessities of the methods of weaving textile fabrics ; but with regard to the ones we are now considering I am inclined to th:nk that their beginnings are due to the geometrical conditions imposed by the arrangement of the setting-out iines.

In conclusion, I wish to emphasise the fact that the beauty and individuality of the ornamental designs found in early Christian art in Great Britain are due chiefly to the great taste with which the different elements are combined and the exquisite finish lavished upon them. I cannot see that it in the least detracts from the praise due to the orignators of the style if it can be shown that the ideas underlying many of the patterns were suggested by a pre-existing native style or adapted from a foreign one. Interlaced-work, key-patterns, spirals, and zoomorphs are to be found separately ir. the decorative art of many races and many periods, but nowhere and at no time have these different elements been used in combination with such consummate skill, as in the early Christian period in Great Britain and Ireland.


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