Viking raiders

Few illuminated manuscripts of the late eighth century survive due to the destruction caused by the Norsemen. The most characteristic examples of this period are the pocket gospels, which were small enough to be carried to safety. Examples

include the Book of Dimma, the Book of Mulling, and the ninth-century Book of MacRegol. These pocket gospels tended to he less detailed works than the larger pieces, but are characterized by the use of simple ornamentation and vibrant colors. In the Book of Dimma St. John the Evangelist is associated with an eagle symbol, painted in a mosaic style, but it boasts a very Celtic decorative border.

Their cosmopolitan nature is a striking feature of these manuscripts and reflects the surprising level of contact the late Celtic Church had with the rest of Europe. While the illuminated manuscripts produced during the renaissance of late Celtic art are rightly held to represent some of the finest examples of early medieval art in the world, they also demonstrate the diversity of the Celtic Church. Far from being isolated from the rest of Europe, it was able to draw on these neighboring cultures to provide it with the spiritual and artistic inspiration it needed.

Above: The Tapestry page of St Luke's Gospel from the Lindisfarne Gospels.

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