Dated at the end of the 8th century,
probably belonging to the Iona foundation, the Book of Kells is the supreme achievement of
Celtic art. No other manuscript approaches it in the richness of its detail, including
zoomorphics of such incredible delicacy that the unaided eye cannot entirely see the
microscopic perfection and intricacy of the work.
The new element in the zoomorphic repertory of
the Book of Kells is that of the anthropomorphic interlacement, introducing the human
contortionist with a touch of drollerie.
Perhaps it is this inclusion of the human
figure among the birds, dogs, serpents and trees-of-life that populate the abstract
ornamentation of this rich piece of art that gives it a cohesion and an unity that is
Such fanciful and graceful expression of
ornament, arrived at through the experience of early Christianity in Ireland, is the
height of Celtic art; but to bring it to such a high point it took the combination of many
elements from many other cultures who all contributed to the long history of zoomorphic