Celtic Art in the Global Village
Interlaced-work, key-patterns, spirals,
and zoomorphs are to be found separately in the decorative art of many races and many
periods, but nowhere and at no time have these different elements been used in combination
with such consummate skill, as in the early Christian period in Great Britain and Ireland.
- John Romilly Allen 1893
Celtic Art is the art of decorated
manuscripts and carved stones, metalwork and jewelry produced by various schools
throughout Ireland and the British Isles during the Middle Ages (from the mid-seventh
to the mid-twelfth century). Collectively, these schools constitute the Insular
Yet, Celtic art is also a universal type of
art, relevant to the modern world. Even during the golden age, Celtic art had an influence
beyond the world of Celtic culture, as seen by early Carolingian illuminations which are
often decorated with Insular knotwork.
Irish - or Irish-trained - scribes were
waylaid by Charlemagne to brighten his libraries with their distinctive style of
illumination, although the further they traveled from their island monasteries, the less
Celtic became their knots.
In the courtly illuminations of the time,
scribes produce knots with little grasp of the method, and a limited repertoire. This is
why the knot designs in the mid-eighth century Book of Kells have no parallel in