Regular plaitwork without any break

Method of making breaks in plaitwork

Method of making breaks in plaitwork break ; or (2) A can be joined to I) and C to B, forming a horizontal break. The decorative effect of the plait is thus entirely altered by running two of the meshes between the cords into one. By continuing the process all the knots most commonly used in Celtic decorative art may be derived from a simple plait.

Let us proceed to trace the process of the evolution of knotwork out of plaitvvork by actual instances taken from the Welsh crosses. We have, to start with, good examples of plaits of four, six, and ten cords1 without any breaks at Nevern, Pembrokeshire; and Llantwit

Good Pictures Trace For Celtic Art
Regular plaitwork, with one vertical break and one horizontal break
Celtic Plaitwork
Six-cord plait, with horizontal breaks at regular intervals 2

Major, and Margam, Glamorganshire. Next, plaits with a single break only are to be seen at Carew, Pembrokeshire, and Llantwit Major, Glamorganshire ; then plaits with several breaks, made quite regardless of symmetry or order, at Golden Grove, Carmarthenshire ; and, lastly, breaks made at regular intervals,

1 Plaits of an uneven number of cords arc seldom used, because they produce lopsided patterns.

2 t his occurs on the second panel of the cross at Llanbadarn Fawr.

Abercorn Cross Interlace

Cross-shaft at Golden Grove, with panels of irregular broken plaitwork Scale is lintar at Neuadd Siarman, Brecknockshire. When the breaks are made symmetrically at regular intervals, and brought sufficiently near together, the plait ceases to be the

Kig-ht-cord plaits, with cruciform breaks

most prominent feature in the design, and in its place we get a pattern composed entirely of what (for want of a better name) are called knots. On some of the Welsh crosses (as at Carew anil Nevern, Pembrokeshire), however, the breaks are made with sufficient regularity and proximity to produce knots,

Eight-cord plaits, with cruciform breaks

and yet the knots themselves are not symmetrically placed. The result is a class of interlaced-work, intermediate between plaitwork with irregular breaks and

Abercorn Interlace

Six-cord pla.it, with cruciform Ten-cord plait, \Vith cruciform breaks breaks

Occurring' at Llanbadarn (Occurring' at St. Neuadd

Fiiwr) (Sidrman)

Knots derived from a threc-cord plait knotwork. The same kind of thing is to be seen on the crosses at Coppleston, Devonshire ; and St. Neot, Cornwall.

If two horizontal breaks and two vertical breaks are made next to each other in a plait, a space in the shape of a cross is produced. A large number of the interlaced patterns used in Celtic decorative art are derived from a plait by making cruciform breaks at regular intervals. There are examples of this 'n Wales, at Neuadd Siarman, Brecknockshire ; Llanhadarn Fawr, Cardiganshire ; and Llantwit Major, Glamorganshire. It is not unlikely that symbolism had something to do with the frequent use of the cruciform break.

There are eight elementary knots which form the basis of nearly a'l the interlaced patterns in Celtic decorative, art, with the exception of those already described. Two of the elementary knots are derived from a three-cord plait, and the remaining six from a four-cord plait.

Knot Xo. 1 Knot Xo. z

Knot No. 1 is derived from a three-cord plait by making horizontal breaks on one side of the plait only, and No. 2 by making horizontal breaks alternately on one side and the other.

Knot No 3 is derived from a four-cord plait by making horizontal breaks in the middle of the plait.

Knot No. 4 is derived from No. 3 by making a horizontal break at A; and No. 5 from No. 4 by making a vertical break at B and C.

Knot No. 8 is derived from a four-cord plait by making horizontal breaks in the middle of the plait, in the same way as in the case of knot No. 3, but closer together.

St M

Knot No. 4

Knot No. 4

Knot No. 7

Knot No. 3

Knot No. 3

Knot No. 6

Knot No. 7

Knot No. 6

Knot No. 5

Knot No. 8

Knot No, ? is derived from No. 6 by making a vertical break at B ; and No. 8 from No. b by making vertical breaks at B and C.

If a series of knots repeated in a single row can be derived from a plait of 11 bands, a series of the same knots repeated in a double row can be derived from a plait of 2n bands. Thus a pattern composed of knot

No. 1 arranged in a double row would be derived from a p'ait of six cords.

Knots like Nos. 3 and 4, which are longer than they are broad, can be placed either horizontally or vertically. Thus No. 3 placed with its longer axis vertical can be derived from a four-cord plait, but if placed horizontally it would be derived from a s'x-cord plait.



Method of deriving- Knots Nos. 3 and 6 from a four-cord plait

Method of deriving- Knots Nos. 3 and 6 from a four-cord plait

Knot No. 2 does not occur on the Welsh crosses, and No. 1 only in a double row. as at Neuadd Siarmar., Brecknockshire. This pattern is derived from a six-cord plait by making horizontal breaks in the two edges of the plait, and vertical breaks in the middle, the stages being shown on the annexed diagram.

Knot No. 3, in a single row placed with its longer axis vertical, occurs at Liandough, Glamorganshire, and, n a single row placed the other way, at Margam, Glamorganshire.

Examples of the two knots, Nos. 4 and 5, which are

Knots Nos. 4, 5, 7, and 8, derived from a four-cord plait

Knot No. 1, derived from either a three-cord or a six-cord plait

Knots 3 and 4, derived from a six-cord plait

Cord Plaiting
Evoiution of Knot No. 1 from a six-cord plait

derived from No. 3, are to he seen at Baglan, Glamorganshire, and Penally, Pembrokeshire.

Knot No. 6, in a single row, occurs at Llantwit Major, Glamorganshire, and its second derivative, No. 8, at Llantwit Major, and also at Neuadd Siarman, Brecknockshire. Its first derivative, No. 7, is only used in a double row on the Welsh crosses, as at Silian and Maes Mynach, Cardiganshire, and at Penally, Pembrokeshire, where the knots have an extra spiral twist. The direction of the twist of the spirally bent cord is the same in both the right-hand and left-hand vertical row of knots, although the positions of the knots are different. The more usual arrangement is to make the cords twist in opposite directions, as on the annexed diagram, in which the evolution of the pattern is shown. (Page 271.)

The clearest proof that the spiral knot No. 7 was developed from plaitwork ;n the manner explained is that on stones at Llangenydd, Glamorganshire; Whithorn, Wigtownshire; Abercorn, Linlithgowshire; and Aycliffe, Co. Durham ; the successive stages of development can be easily traced.

I have coined the term circular knotwork to describe a particular class of nterlaced-work, ^n which the circular curves made by the cords give the pattern ts distinctive appearance. The best example of circular knotwork in any of the Iliberno-Saxon MSS. occurs 011 one of the ornamental cross-pages of tne Book of Durrow.1 Circular knotwork is not used in the decoration of the Irish ecclesiastical metalwork. probably because it is only suitable for application to larger

1 J. K. Allen and J. Anderson's Eaily Christian Monuments of Scotland, p. Ixxviii.; J. A. Hruun's Illuminated Manuscripts oj the Middle Ages, pt. i, "Celtic MSS.,' p. R.

surfaces than are to be found on comparatively small metal objects. Circular knotwork is characteristic of






Evolution of Knot No. 7 from an eight-coi d piait

Evolution of Knot No. 7 from an eight-coi d piait the Irish and Scottish sculptured monuments of the best period ; it is unknown in Cornwall and the Isle of Man aiid there is only one instance of its occurrence in

Wales. Very good examples of circular knotwork may he seen on sculptured monuments in Ireland1 at Kells, Co. Meath ; Monasterboice and Termonfechin, Co. Louth ; Boho, Co. Fermanagh ; Kilfenora, Co. Clare; and Drumcliff, Co. Sligo ; and n Scotland'2 at Coilieburn, Sutherland (now in the Dunrobin Museum); Tarbet (now at Invergordon Castle), Brodie, Elginshire ; Nigg, Ross-shire ; Aberlemno, Moniheth (now

Evolution of Knot No. 7 from an eigiit-corcl plait m the Edinburgh Museum), and Eassie, Forfarshire ; and Rossie Priory and St. Madoes, Perthshire.

The most common kinds of circular knotwork appear to have been evolved in the following manner. It has already been shown how knot No. 3 can he derived from a four-cord plait by making a series of horizontal breaks at regular intervals, leaving two crossing-points of the cords between each break ; and how knot No. 4

1 H. O'Neill's Crosses of Ancient Ireland.

* Allen and Anderson's Early Christian Monuments of Scotland,

0 0

Post a comment