Celtic

DesKford

South Shields,* Sbchill j n the 12th century, Gerald of Wales

_described a Celtic manuscript he had once seen in Kildare, an Irish center of ecclesiastical illumination. The work had, he-wrote: "...intricacies, so delicate and so subtle, so exact and compact, so full of knots and links, with colors so fresh and vivid" that it seemed "the work, not of men, but of angels." He also recalled the story of an angel appearing to a Celtic scribe in a dream, showing him the

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Geussage designs he was to use in his illuminations. Even today, the beauty of Celtic illuminated manuscripts is breathtaking, and the complex and intricate designs have been copied by modern designers wishing to recapture the artistic glories of the Celtic past.

The craftsmen of this renaissance or "golden age" did not work in isolation. These artists were able to draw upon techniques and styles brought to Britain and Ireland through contact with the Anglo-Saxons, and through the Church (with its Romano-Christian symbolism. Historians have labeled this period as the Dark Ages. This appellation is rarely used today, which is just as well because it conjures up images of a stagnant period which in fact was full of progress in many areas, including artistry.

Late Celtic metalwork exhibits a complexity, artistic brilliance, and technical perfection that remains unsurpassed. These objects of gold, silver, and bronze, often inlaid with enamel or glass, were mainly designed to serve a religious function. Although designed to portray the glory of the Almighty, they also served to testify- to the cultural achievement ol the late Celtic world.

, Stanton • Newnham Croft Ipswich

• Colchester

Sutton Hoo

Chapter 10 — THE RENAISSANCE OF CELTIC ART

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