Christianity as patron

The loss of Roman administrative systems and a slow economic recover)' from invasion meant that at first there was little disposable income available for patronage other than from the Church. The institution relied on Celtic artisans to ensure that devotional objects were worth)' of the Almighty. With an improvement in economic conditions through the sixth and seventh centuries, secular patronage of the arts increased, although the Church remained the principal consumer of Celtic metalwork.

Between 400-1200, external influences, increased patronage, and improvements in metal production and quality exerted a beneficial effect and the nature of Celtic metalwork changed. It became breathtaking in its intricacy and esthetic value. Many fine examples of Celtic art have survived, allowing us to trace the influences the development of metalwork had during this period of artistic renaissance.

Metalwork was not the only artistic field that underwent this change and impetus. Manuscript illumination provided a fresh medium for expression, and allowed artists to develop fresh styles while reinterpreting Christian motifs. The people who made these metal artifacts and illuminated pages were not struggling artists. They were highly regarded and well-rewarded artisans, while many of their illuminated manuscripts have been linked to leading members of the Celtic Church itself.

Archaeology has prov ided us with even more information about these late Celtic artists. Settlement sites have produced evidence of metalworking facilities, and clay molds for pouring brass into have been found as far apart as Orkney and Ireland. Fairs of compasses used to trace the intricate geometric patterns have been discovered. Museums in London, Dublin, and other cities exhibit an array of priceless Celtic artifacts in metal and vellum. While the earlier pre-Roman era of the La Tene Celts has been seen as an artistic high point, it was certainly equaled by the Celtic artistry of Britain and Ireland at this time.

Tene Art Ireland






Europe 900 and the Viking raids on the Celts and Anglo-Saxons of the British Isles, and the Frankish empire.


] Celtic territories j Anglo-Saxon territories

□ original Viking lands

—-»• Viking raiding routes a areas most affected by Vikings and later settlement


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