Independent artisans

The religious metalwork assemblages recovered from Ardagh and Derrynaflan were discovered in a monastic setting, so the)' were assumed to have been the product of workshops attached to the Celtic monasteries. Recent archaeological discoveries have led to the realization that independent workshops existed which did not form part of religious or secular houses. These production centers were run by professional metalworkers, working independently, but relying on the patronage and orders of both ecclesiastical and secular clients.

Since the houses of both Church and State often shared the same location, it seems unlikely that metalworkers concentrated on either secular or religious subjects to the exclusion of everything else. In short, while production centers associated with centers of [x>wer certainly produced a range of religious objects, the best late Celtic metalworkers may well have operated their workshops on their own behalf, designing their wares to suit the needs of their patrons.

Circumstances were different for stonemasons and sculptors because Church patronage was almost infinite. As monasteries and ecclesiastical churches sprang up throughout Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, clerics employed these artisans almost exclusively, and most monasteries employed their own live-in stonemasons. Many of the spectacular high-crosses of the ninth century onward are the product of stonemasons based in monastic centers such as Iona.

Whether for the stonemasons of Iona, the manuscript illustrators of Durrow, or the metalworkers of Lagore, religious belief and the patronage of the arts played an overwhelmingly important role in artistic development. Although secular art existed, and royal patronage remained significant, the Church was the major beneficiary of this production. To some extent, almost all Celtic art was influenced by Christianity, since the techniques developed to further the glory of God were also available for the embellishment of the secular aristocracy.

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