A Study Of The Interrelationship And
           Development Of Fantastic Beasts In Manuscripts
           And Metalwork Of The Sixth To Eighth Centuries
                       In The British Isles.

                                        Karin Hilton
                                        Hatfield College, Univ. Of Durham
                                        Combined Social Sciences
					January 1991

List Of Plates						       3
List Of Figures                                                4

Introduction : On the Trail of the Beast                       6

Ireland : Historical Background                                8

Britain : Historical Background                                12

The Book of Durrow : The Fifth to Late Seventh Century         16

The Lindisfarne Gospels : The Eighth Century Onwards           21

The Book of Kells : The End of the Eighth Century              27

Brooches and Metalworking                                      29

Conclusion : The Final Chapter                                 35

Bibliography                                                   37
Plates and Illustrations                                       39

                          List of Plates

            No                      Illustrations
1.        Ornamental Page from the Book of Durrow
             M.S A4.5 folio 3v

2.        Ornamental Page from the Lindisfarne Gospels
             40 M.S Cotton Nero D IV folio 26v

3.        The Donore Hoard : Handle and Backplate,          41

4.        The Hunterston Brooch                             42

5.        The Londesborough Brooch                          43

6.        The Cavan or " Queen's" brooch                    44

7.        The Tara Brooch, Bettystown                       45

                          List of Figures

No                  Illustration                            Page

1.   Enameled Escutcheon, Benty Grange                      46
2.   Initials, Cathach of St. Columba                       46
3.   Detail, Book of Durrow animal page                     46
4.   Detail, Saxon Disc, Caenby                             46
5.   Detail, Saxon Sword Pommel, Crundale Down              46
6.   Detail, Book of Durrow carpet page                     46
7.   Detail,Book of Durrow                                  47
8.   Detail, Fure Gilt Ornament                             47
9.   Torshov Pail Fragment                                  47
10.  Detail, Sondre Pail                                    47
11.  Detail, Book of Lindisfarne                            47
12.  Detail from Bucket, Birka, Sweden                      48
13.  Detail, Sondre Pail                                    48
14.  The Birka Pail, Sweden                                 48
15.  Anglo-Saxon Gold Clasp, Sutton Hoo                     49
16.  Anglo-Saxon Great Buckle, Sutton Hoo                   49
17.  Anglo-Saxon Escutcheon, Sutton Hoo                     49
18.  Buckle, Faversham, Kent                                49
19.  The Monymusk Reliquary                                 50
20.  Copper Alloy Sprinkler, Norway                         50
21.  Pictish Silver Plates                                  50
22.  The Donore Hoard : Zoomorphic Handle Assembly          51
23.  Decorative Page ,The Book of Durrow                    52
24.  Cruxiform Page, Lindisfarne Gospels                    53
25.  Text Page, Lindisfarne Gospels                         54
26.  Chi-Rho Page,Book of Kells                             55
27.  Dunbeath Penannular Fragment                           55
28.  The Hunterston Brooch, Strathclyde                     55
29.  The Ardagh Chalice                                     56
30.  The Derrynaflan Chalice                                56

             Introduction : On the Trail of the Beast

     A study of Late Celtic or Insular art is one which
resembles somewhat the search for the  Holy  Grail.  One
finds  information scattered through many texts, in many
different forms.  The  items themselves are spread
throughout many  different  lands,  Ireland, Britain,
Scandinavia, much of the continent and further afield  to
Egypt and the Middle East. Even those items that are found
within the  British  Isles  are  often  hidden  away  in
university  and cathedral libraries as well as in  private
collections.Thus  when undertaking a study of this sort ,
one  is  inevitably  limited  a certain extent  to
paraphrasing,  quoting  and  amalgamating  the opinions and
views of other earlier  writers.An  unfortunate  fact
but one that has made itself steadily more obvious
throughout  my research.
      Again, a year  is  not  really  enough  time  to
learn  and understand the amount of information and
knowledge  necessary  to comment on a subject as broad and
as frequently covered as insular art.Perhaps ten years would
be enough but I feel  Francoise  Henri is heading more in
the correct direction : a lifetime.
     Finally a subject such as the study of the form of an
animal is one that is severely hampered in at least two
directions .First of all, Celtic art is such that the eye of
the  beholder  is  all important. Where one man may see a
tree , another may see  only  a small shrub; where one may
see a dog-like creature, the other  may see a fire breathing
dragon ; where one sees a harmless bird,  the other  may
see  a  predatory  hawk.Thus  different  authors    see
different values and styles within objects, although on the
whole the academics are united in viewpoint. Secondly,
similarities  are being searched for  in  an  art  which  is
recognized  to  be  as beautiful as  it  is  because  of
its  fluidity  and  ability  to change.This, combined with
the fact that the archaeological record is inevitably an
incomplete and broken one, make it very  hard  to decide how
to define a type of creature. How does  one  decide  to
classify respective to each other two   creatures  with  the
spiral shaped hips , yet a completely different jaw line ?
Salin, at the turn of the century went a long way  towards
solving  that problem in his "Thierornamentik" , but the
problem still remains.
     In defining a time period which encompasses the  most
period of change and growth within Irish and Insular art,
confines the  problems  somewhat  to  a  limited  number  of
objects      and
manuscripts, but this in itself creates  problems.Where
does  one start and end ? How does one  cope  with  influx
from  later  and earlier time periods that have clearly had
an  influence?  This  I have attempted to resolve by using
the title and date restrictions in a flexible manner :
interpreting the Book of Kells as the  last major work and
restricting the accompanying metalwork to the  year 900 AD,
accepting influences from outside the time period but  not
dealing with them in any great  detail  unless  they
specifically require it.

                 Ireland : Historical background.

     Ireland, situated as it was on the western periphery
of  the Roman Empire never became a province:  the  proposed
invasion  by Agricola that we are told of by Tacit  us  (the
Roman  historian) never took place. Indeed Ireland had
suffered  no  invasions  and little contact with the outside
world since the Celts of the 3rd / 2nd century B.C. (La Tne
Period), although  some  traces  of  the proximity of the
Romans have filtered through.
     Thus we are left with a society that was  remarkable
in  its homogeneity,  in  particular  for  one  which  had     avoided     the
regimentation of Roman law. From an early date it had  a
standard vernacular  language  preserved  today  as  the
oldest   European vernacular literature. This literature
shows no trace  of  dialect variation and its  content
reflects  a  uniformity  of  religious practices. Despite
this  uniformity  of  language  and  religion, political
Ireland of this era consisted of many  small  fragmented
kingdoms, each with its own ruler. This period  being
shadowy  in Irish history, renders it unclear as  to
whether  this  political situation occurred  at  the  start
of  the  sixth  century  as  a continuation of earlier
social and political trends; causing it to be described as
             "tribal, rural, hierarchical and familial"
                           (Dibh P Crinn, T.W.O.A.,
1989, p.12) or whether there was an emergence of new
political  groupings  and dynasties,  collapsing  the  old
tribal  forms  of  society.  The writings of St.  Patrick
(432  A.D.)  demonstrate  the  localized nature of Irish
society in the fifth century A.D.: the traveller's
necessity of purchasing the goodwill  of  both  kings  and
brehon (lawyers) and the inability of those not belonging  to
the  nemed (sacred or learned), brehon, or royal classes  to
travel  without running grave risks of injury or death. Yet
this proliferation  of kings, despite their lack of land,
nurtured the artistic explosion of the seventh century and
onwards, for  without  their  financial support, few of the
great works we  have  today  would  have  been possible.
     In the early decades of the fifth century Ireland was
touched by a force which was to change it greatly:
                  'the Rome of Sts Peter and Paul'
heralded by the arrival of St. Patrick (432 A.D.),  although
some earlier contact  is  thought  to  have  taken  place
through  the European trade routes with Ireland and via the
Irish  colonies  of Dal Riada in west Scotland and those of
south west  Wales.  Almost simultaneously the Roman Empire
was routed from  much  of  western Europe by the Germanic
invasions and England was conquered by  the Saxons, isolating
Ireland once again just as she appeared to be on the brink of
joining the European world.
     Christianity brought many changes to  Ireland  which
gestated from the fifth century through to the early  seventh
century.  The most notable introduction was that of writing:
Christianity  is  a religion based on books and gospels and
these were brought over                             by
the early missionaries. These texts were seized upon by the
Irish, displaying an avid proclivity for copying texts. They
developed  a characteristic script which has since  become
known  as  'insular' script, due to its meticulous
reproduction by their english  pupils thus becoming the
common property of the  peoples  of  the  British Isles.
Another major change was within the church itself. Initially
the Roman church came with its territorial dioceses  based
on  the Roman military regions. This had no equivalent  in
Ireland  during this period and the episcopal church
disappeared during the plagues of the mid sixth century. They
were replaced  by  a  new  style                      of
monastic churches, which developed hand in hand with the
small  but dynamic dynasties which seized control of Irish
politics  for  the next  two  centuries.These  families  held
both political              and
ecclesiastical power, kings and bishops within the same  kin-
group, as at Leinster, where the fortunes of the Ui Dunlainge
family  were closely tied to those of  the  monasteries  at
Kildare.  The  most famous of these restrictive practices is
the  island  monastery                              of
Iona established by St. Columba off the west Scottish coast
in  563 A.D. All but one of the abbots were from the  same
kin-group,  and all twelve disciples of the founder were
relatives of his.
     From Iona the Irish spread  Christianity  eastwards
into  Dal Riada (where one family had ruled on both  sides
of  the  sea  for several centuries) and across the north of
England culminating with the founding of Lindisfarne (the
Holy Isle) in 635 A.D.  The  monks brought with them the
knowledge  of  the  insular  script  and              of
contemporary metalworking, disseminating  this  knowledge  as
they went. Many English from the north of England and Dal
Riada went                  to
Ireland, some to study and return, some to remain there.  All
were welcomed by the Irish monks and those  who  returned
brought  with them the scripts and other Irish techniques.
     Other directions of missionary travel were not
neglected:                  in
590 A.D. Columbanus left Bangor, County Down with eleven
companions for the courts of the Burgundian and Frankish
kings. From there           he
was expelled over the mountains  from  Switzerland  to
Italy.  The route he travelled can  be  traced  through  the
manuscripts  left behind and the monasteries  set  up  by
companions  (monastery                              of
Bobbio, Milan  and  monastery  of  St.  Gall,  Switzerland).
Other continental libraries bear silent witness to the one
time  presence of Irish monks all over Europe.
     The development of  monasteries  led  in  several
directions: firstly a desire for ascetism in the Irish  monk
hence  many  were built  in  desolate  areas  (e.g.  Skellig
Michael).  Secondly                                 it
provided an outlet for the missionary zeal of the  Irish
monk:  he could go abroad and create a monastery as a symbol
of  his  faith. Finally it provided a breeding ground for the
art form now known as insular or Celtic by bringing together
workmen of different  trades all with a similar purpose i.e.
the decoration and devotion of                      the
monastery to Christianity. Hence  similarities  can  be
traced  in manuscripts and metalwork both in image and

                  Britain : Historical Background

     With the collapse of the Roman Empire, troops were
withdrawn to the continent and the ravaging of Germanic
tribes  meant  that they never again had the power to
resupply Britain with troops. In 410, Britain became  an
independent  country.  From  this  period onwards historical
records become unclear  for  approximately  two centuries.
     With the withdrawal of Rome, Britain became cut-off from
the body of the Mediterranean, and thus the  majority  of
historians. Communications however, between South Britain
and  Gaul  remained possible for quite some time. This is
shown  by  the  arrival                             of
Saint Germanus in reply to the call of  the  British  Church.
     His arrival in 428/9 shows us that town  life  in  the
Roman style was still continuing, however, he  recorded
raids  by  both Saxons and Picts. In 424 AD Vortigern became
ruler of Britain.                               We
have  numerous  references  to  Vortigern  showing  that  he   was
operative both in Kent and Wales. As  Vortigern  means
Leader                                          or
High Chief it may be possible that the references are  to
two               or
more different people, particularly as some of the
references  are chronologically inaccurate. In order to
defend Britain,  Vortigern invited Saxons in as paid
mercenaries in 428 AD, paying them  with land, as was the
Roman tradition.
     Around 440 AD, historical references  show  that  the
Saxons rebelled against their "Masters"  and  took  control
of  southern parts of Britain. They formed an  alliance
with  the  Picts,  and together  caused  havoc  and
devastation,  taking  over  kingdoms wherever they went.
This cumulated with the arrival of Hengist and Horsa between
450-57 AD. The expulsion  of  Saxons  from  Frankish land in
460s caused an influx of new Saxons into Britain, by  then
almost completely controlled, in the south, by  the  Saxons.
With Clovis's defeat of the Roman Emperor and total  control
of  Gaul, all Saxon migrations were diverted to Britain(486
AD).  This  lead to the settlement of Sussex in the 480s AD.
While  in  the  490s, another Saxon dynasty,  that  of
Cerdic,  established  itself                        at
Southampton, and by the turn of the century had gained
control                                         of
southern Britain. The other English kingdoms are harder to
trace - Kent, Sussex, East Anglia,  Mercia,  as  there  are
few  records. However,  the  most  important  kingdom,
Northumbria,  is  better served. The Venerable Bede himself
supplies material for the sixth century, and detailed
accounts of the seventh century. The history of Northumbria
begins in 547 AD, when Ida began to rule. He  built
Bebbanburh,  Bamburgh,  defended  initially  by  a   "hedge"   and
afterwards by a wall. After a century and a  half,
Bamburgh,  and Deira were used as springboards for an
assault  on  the  Votadini. This was bitterly contested and
eventually lost. The accession                      of
Aelfrith towards the end of the sixth century finally
consolidated the Anglian hold on Bernicia as well as Deira,
and  ensured  that Northumbria was to be the dominant power
in northern Britain.
     For the whole of middle England, there is a blank,
     until  the
appearance of Penda of Mercia in the 630s. Much of  what  we
know about him is due to his alliance against Northumbria
with Gwynedd. Further west, in Wales, the dynasty of the
Dsi,  was  founded                                 in
Dyfed. This is thought to have been caused by a migration
of  the Dsi in the fourth or beginning of the fifth century
as a response to the removal of Roman troops. This is
thought to be because  the Irish who had been raiding the
Welsh  coast  found  there  was                     no
formal opposition and so moved in. The dynasties of North-
West              are
represented by Maelgwn  and  Cinglas  according  to  the
Historical Miscellany these are both descended  through  a
common grandfather from a certain Cunedag or Cunedda. An
early section of the Historia Brittonum we are told that the
Irish obtained land in Dyfed, Gower, and Kidwelly until
driven out  by  Cunedda  and  his sons. Of the kingdoms in
western Britain only  Dyfed  and  Gwynedd have dynastic
origins which can  be  traced  with  any  degree  of
confidence. The Historia Brittonum attributes the Powysian
dynasty to Saint Germanus and lands further south were given
to  Pascent, son of Vortigern by Ambrosius. Both of these are
highly  dubious. Of the northern British kingdoms we have odd
notes as  to  rulers, such as Urien of Rheged, Ceretic of
Strathclyde,  and  others.  In general, the history is fairly
     North of the British princedoms lay Pictland and the
kingdom of Dal Riada from the fifth century. The  Antonine
Wall  remained roughly the southern border of Pictland. It
has been suggested  by Bede that the Picts were divided north
and south, but this may  be a geographical rather than
political division.  By  the  reign  of Bridei, son of
Maelcon, in  the  late  sixth  century,  the  Picts comprised
of an united kingdom. However, in  the  long  term,  the
dominion of Scotland, north of the Antonine Wall was  to  be
with the Scoti.
     Dal Riada is important to this period because it  was
founded by migrants from north-east Ireland to the west coast
of Scotland.  The date of the initial invasion is in dispute.
It is place at 501 AD by the Annals of Tigernach, but may be
40  years  earlier.  The Irish occupation of this area proves
to be of great importance in transporting items from  foreign
cultures  to  Ireland.  This  is reflected in Irish art, in
particular,  metalwork  and  manuscript (viz. Book Of
     By the end of the sixth century  the  Christian
missionaries arrived amongst the Anglo-Saxons, bringing a new
element into  the society. Although Christianity already
existed in Britain  at  the time of the Saxon invasions the
ecclesiastical organization itself vanished from fifth
century England. This is thought to be because the  Roman
towns  disappeared  and  the  christianizing  of        the
countryside had not proceeded very far.

                        The Book Of Durrow:
               The Fifth to the Late Seventh Century

     The period of the fifth to the mid seventh century  in
Irish history is one of elaboration, a flowering of the
skills that  had taken so long to nurture.Influences from
many  areas,  both  close and far from home where accepted
and blended to form a style which was both restrained in its
use of various elements yet  was  fluid enough to be able to
create an  astounding  air  of  vitality  and life.The Irish
monks produced manuscripts  which  echoed  elements from as
far  afield  as  Syria  and  using  designs  seen  in  the
metalwork which surrounded them.In the  same  way  craftsmen
used forms from manuscripts altering subtly to create new and
different designs.
     The best known example of early illumination  is  the
Gospel Book of Durrow (Dublin, Trin. Col. Lib., MS.
57[A.4.5])  which  is generally dated to the  middle  or
second  half  of  the  seventh century.A small book ( 9  by
6  inches ), it  was  kept  at  the Columban  monastery  of
Durrow  until  its  dissolution  in                     the
seventeenth century.It was then kept near to Durrow  by  a
farmer until it became the possession of the Library of
Trinity  College, Dublin, where it is kept today.(Plate 1,Fig
     The  Gospel  shows  the  earliest  clear  examples   of   the
interrelationship  between  metalwork  and  manuscript
zoomorphic forms .Both Merovingian and Anglo-Saxon jewelry
show patterns that are  closely  related  to  the  animal
interlace  found  in    the
Gospel.The most distinctive feature of  the  interlace
itself  is
that of the individual  forms  of  beast.In  the  decorative
page prefacing the Gospel of St John, one can identify three
different arrangements of the Lacertine beast that is known
as  the  "Durrow Beast" .The first is designed with an
elongated head and
a biting snout; two legs, of which the hind  one  is  so
flexible below the thigh that it can form a knot around the
creatures  own neck.The second animal is found in the short
vertical bands of the carpet page, with a distinctive
shorter body  and  more  prominent ears           .The third
form is stretched into an mimicry of an  eel  like
form and those found in the two inner bands of the page
have  the foreleg placed far back from the head.
     The  Durrow   Beast   draws   its   antecedents   from
many sources.Unlike most of the later creatures of Insular
Art, it  has much stronger links with  the  Saxon
zoomorphic  forms  found  in Britain in the seventh
century.Evidence as to the specific origins of the Beast
comes in two forms : firstly that of the  layout  and style
of  zoomorphic  decoration  in  earlier  manuscripts  ,  and
secondly through contemporary and slightly earlier
     The only earlier manuscript with comparable
illumination  is the Cathach of St Columba.Four elements of
the Book of Durrow  can be seen to have their rudimentary
beginnings in  the  Cathach:  of these four only one of
these is zoomorphic.  Within  the  Cathach, one can see the
initial appearance of  the  use  of  open  mouthed animals
as terminals (Fig.2a &  2b).  Comparable  animals  can  be
found in the illuminations of the Book of Durrow.The Durrow
beast has many parallels in metalwork.It has been frequently
compared to both the Crundale Down sword  pommel  and  the
silver  disc  from Caenby (Figs.4 &  5.)  (T.D.Kendrick,A-S
Art,p.96).  Despite  the similarity of the Caenby and
Crundale Down beasts they  illuminate the essential
differences between Celtic and Germanic decorations. The
Germanic creature has a broken, disjointed body,  and  in
the Book of Durrow the creature is reassembled in a
coherent,  flowing manner(Fig.6). A continental manuscript
which  is  thought  to  be either of insular origin or
written by an insular scribe, M.S. 13 displays an animal
with the head  of  the  Caenby  beast,  yet  an evolved and
more realistic body than that of the Durrow  creature. The
similarity can also be seen with  the  zoomorphic
escutcheons from Benty Grange(Fig.1..).Both creatures show a
strong similarity in head shape, with the fine long curved
jaws clamping  down  over the elongated bodies and tails of
their counterparts. All of these creatures are identifiable
as or derived from the animal known  as Salin Style
II.(Salin, Thierornamentik, 1904, p.322 )
     The Durrow animal is more precisely derived  from  the
Saxon version of the Style II animal (G.Speake A-S Animal
Art)  and  is directly traceable to a Anglo-Saxon background
similar to that  of the Sutton Hoo burial finds  (Bruce-
Mitford,E.Q.C.Lindis.  ).  The animal interlacing of the
upper and lower horizontal bands of                     fo
192v,The Book of Durrow can be compared closely  to  that
of  the Sutton Hoo ornaments (Figs 15,16,17). Again, if one
compares  the animal ornament found at the tip of the Sutton
Hoo buckle and  the border of the gold clasp with those of
the Durrow manuscript,  one finds the same sinuous bodies
and double contours, the  relatively short hind legs from
pear shaped hips and the long slim  stretched forelegs
twisting and looping; at Sutton  Hoo,  around  their  own
bodies, in the Durrow manuscript they writhe and intertwine
around the legs and bodies of neighboring beasts (Fig 3 &
7).  A  similar looping and knotting can be seen on the
Faversham buckle where two long bodied and rampant creatures
twist and knot themselves  in  a Durrow-like fashion (Fig
18). Further examples of the proximity in style of the
Durrow and Sutton Hoo creatures can be  seen  between the
animals on the maplewood drinking  cups  and  the
interlinked frieze of animals from the Book of Durrow.
     An item of ecclesiastical metalwork that has been dated
to  a later period than the Durrow manuscript and which
shows  creatures that  have  evolved  from  the  Durrow
Beast  is   the   Monymusk reliquary.(Fig 19) It is a house
shaped  shrine  carved  from  two
blocks of wood and consisting of a rectangular casket and a
hinged lid in the form of a  hipped  shaped  roof.  Believed
to  be  the "Brecbennough of St. Columba",  a  sacred
battle  ensign  of  the Scottish army, the reliquary is
dated to the  eighth  century  and shows a combination of
the Pictish and Irish styles, a combination which appears in
manuscripts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels.  The silver
plates on the front and lid of  the  casket  are  decorated
with beasts leaping and twisting , and biting at their tails
on  a spotted field. The stippled  punch  marks  are
characteristically Irish and can be seen reflected in the
Durrow  manuscript  by  the use of tiny red dots as
background  filler.  Different  viewpoints have been raised
as to the origins of  the  beast  with  Francoise Henri
(Irish art,1940,p.70) claiming them to be an evolved form of
the  Durrow  creature  and  Susan  Youngs  and  Michael
(T.W.A.,1989,p.135) describing them as :
               " characteristically Pictish, both in the
style  of the beasts, and the distinctive pointille
technique used "
My personal feeling is that it  is  a  fusion  of  the  two
forms explained by the Irish missionary work at the time of
St.  Columba amongst the Picts.
     The  Durrow  beast  develops  after  the  execution  of   the
manuscript and this can  be  followed  in  metalwork  and
through manuscripts. Most notable of the  manuscripts  are
the  Lichfield Gospels, which are dated towards the end of
the  seventh  century. These are unusual in that the
illuminations display  the  parallel development both of the
Durrow animal and the Lindisfarne  animal. Another
manuscript which shows  an  evolved  form  of  the  Durrow
animal is the Durham manuscript M.S.  A.11.17  which  is
kept  in Durham cathedral library.

                     The Lindisfarne Gospels :
                    The Eighth Century Onwards

     The Lindisfarne Gospels, attributed to  Eadfrith,
bishop  of Lindisfarne (698 - 721) are dated to  the  turn
of  the  century, about 700 AD (Fig 24,25,Plate  2).  It  is
the  closest  work  of illumination that we have in a fairly
complete form to the Book of Durrow. Within it one can see
the application  of  the  decorative style that was maturing
in the  Durrow  Gospel:  the  elements  of
interlacing,animal interlacing and spirals are  all  present
but, unlike the Book of Durrow they are not kept apart but
                    "constantly juxtaposed ,and sometimes
                    mingled" (Francoise Henri,Irish
The scale and elaborateness of the decoration in  the
Lindisfarne Gospels is much greater, animals appear with
greater frequency and with much more fluid forms of
construction: fol 95(Fig. 25)  shows the use of biting
animal interlace in  the  bars  of  the  initial monogram as
well  as  stopped  knot  and  plait  work  design  and
diagonal  stepped  patterns.  This  contrasts  with   the
Durrow manuscript where in the initials  the  only
decoration  used  was interlace  and  trumpet  patterns.
Again,  in   the   Lindisfarne manuscript red dots are used
profusely; not as  background  as  in Durrow but as animal
patterns between letters.  Animals  developed not only as
decoration within borders and initials, and throughout the
background, but also in a more prominent form. Bird and
animal heads are used as terminals  both  in  the  borders
and  in  some letters. They expand in size and in
complexity, with open  roaring mouths and hooked predatory
beaks .
    The Durrow animal is changed beyond recognition, keeping
only the basic principle of twisting animal bodies, to a
creature  with a slight semblance to a dog,  whose  body
stretches,  twists  and intertwines until it threatens to
lose itself within the  maze  of its own form.Clues to this
change, from the  Irish  interpretation of the Saxon Salin
Style II beast found in the Book of Durrow,  to the flexible
elongated and lively little monster found in the Book
of Lindisfarne can be found in intermediate  manuscripts
such  as the Lichfield Gospels, but most clearly the
transitional form  are found in pails and gilt objects found
in  Scandinavia.  An  object found at Fure (Bergen Museum,
V.Ant.,V,pp  51-52),  has  preserved various stages of the
transformation of the animal, from  the  two affronted
beasts  on  either  side  of  a  vine  tree  to  animal
interlacing (Fig.8). In the eighth century sprinkler in the
Bergen museum the method of reconciling vegetable scrolls
and animal form is found: the animal's form coils into
itself, taking the place of the branch and forming a
continuous entwinement of  scroll  shaped animal bodies (F.
Henri, Irish  art  I.E.C.P.,1965).  The  beast's spiral hips
and gaping jaws show a similarity with  animal  motifs found
in Hiberno-Saxon manuscripts such as the Lichfield  Gospels,
suggesting that there also an intermediate form of the
Lindisfarne monster can be found.
     The new formed beast associates with a bird, equally
elastic in form, which stalks through  fantastic  vine-like
flora,  which when observed closely, transforms and
dissolves into the  body  of the bird or  monster. Again the
origins of the bird form are found not  in  the  British
Isles  but  in  Insular  objects  found  in Scandinavia. The
pail found in Birka, Sweden (Fig  14)  shows  the first
form: caricatures of spiral-hipped  birds  marching  through
the coiled lifeless branches of little trees (Fig.12a &
12b). This vine-scroll decoration is suggested by Leslie
Webster to be  proof that the pail originated in Northumbria
(T.W.A.,1989,p.121).  The second form is that shown by the
pail from Sondre  (Norway)  where the  trees  disappear
leaving  the  birds  alone  interlinked  by feathers and
neck(Fig 10). In insular manuscript this bird appears as the
strutting complex avian of  the  Lindisfarne  Gospels  (Fig
11). Later manuscript, the Lichfield Gospel in particular
shows  a form of the Lindisfarne bird contemporary with an
evolved form  of the Durrow beast.  This  shows  that  the
Durrow  beast  did  not disappear and change into the
Lindisfarne type, it developed in  a parallel fashion,
perhaps at a  different  group  of  monasteries. Here
manuscripts and metalwork divide in style: the beast with
the coiled body and more  particularly  the  bird  become
popular  in manuscript and become
     "The fundamental ornament of eighth century
                  illumination"    (F.Henri, Irish Art, 1940
yet in Irish metal work they remain almost totally ignored.
Those items found in Scandinavia showing the growing phases
of the  bird form, seem to suggest from style that they are
not of purely Irish manufacture, rather that they are the
results of the  mingling  of two art forms across the
borders of two cultures. Similarly  those items of metalwork
which shown the  final  form  are  those  which would appear
to have developed in a very strong Irish  atmosphere,
leading Henri to suggest that the final solution only
occurred  in places such as Iona and Lindisfarne. Only  a
few  items  of  pure Irish metalwork, the Stavanger brooch
and the Tara brooch show the pure Lindisfarne bird.
     Having looked  at  the  links  between  manuscripts
and  the development of the "animal and bird" type, it is
also important to consider the links that this type and the
parallel  survival  form of the Durrow beast have in
metalwork of this era.
     The Lindisfarne Gospels are unique in their formation
in many ways. Unlike manuscripts  that  originate  in
monasteries  within Ireland,  foreign  influences  are  much closer   to   home
Northumbrian   monasteries,   resulting   in   a   complex   style
incorporating many different cultures. Pictish influences
can  be seen on metalwork with intermediary styles  of
zoomorphic  motifs such as the Birka bucket and Vinjum
censer plant and  bird  motifs flourish in contrast to the
engraved or openwork ribbon  interlace and geometric
patterns of home  manufactured  Irish  pails.In  the Pictish
hoard found at  Norries  Law  and  dated  to  the  seventh
century, a pair of matching silver plaques  with  incised
Pictish decoration bear the head and torso of a dog-like
animal  :similar
dog heads appear in the Lindisfarne Gospels(Fig.21).
     A group of finds that has been seen as important
evidence  of the adoption of the Lindisfarne style  in  the
East  midlands  of Ireland is the Donore Hoard, found in
County Meath.Later  in  date than  the  Lindisfarne
Gospels,  they  clearly  illustrate     the
movement of  ideas  from  illumination  to  metalwork.The
objects appear to be a series of handles, frames and
backplates  and  are thought to have originated from a
church,  either  from  Kells  or nearby Dulane. They bear
elements that are similar not only to the Lindisfarne
Gospels but also to the Tara  Brooch.  The  zoomorphic
handle assembly (Fig.22 & Plate 3) consists of  three
parts,  the animal head handle with ring and tang, the disc
plate and a lugged circular frame which fits neatly around
the plate.  The  execution style is one closely comparable
to the Lindisfarne Style  and  the Tara brooch. The animal
head itself is clearly modeled with  clear arched  teeth,
an  S-scroll  covered  snout   and  the  head  has
zoomorphic elements similar to those found on the Tara
brooch.The disc  bears  a  complex  detail  of  interweaving
animals   which intertwine and coil, all in  profile.All
creatures  have  incised joint spirals, a clear  indication
of  their  stylistic  origins. Other finds were  engraved
disks,  an  enameled  handle,  and  an engraved plaque and
frame. Another  find  whose  evidence  can  be taken in
conjunction with the  Donore  Hoard  is  the  belt-buckle
found at Lagore Crannog, County Meath.Found in a disturbed
context outside a palisade it is dated earlier than the
Donore objects, to approximately  mid  seventh  century.
The   buckle's   zoomorphic decorations Germanic in style,
closer to  the  Durrow  animal  and Salin style II, than to
the Lindisfarne beast. However the  scroll work style is
fairly close to that of the Lindisfarne Gospels  and the
Tara brooch.These items provide clear indication of  the
flow of inspiration  from  metalwork  to  manuscript  and
vice  versa, showing in this case the derivation of
zoomorphic  ornament  from the Lindisfarne Gospels into the
metalworking tradition.
     Metalworking in the late  seventh  into  the  eighth
onwards reflects the expansion of Insular art with an
explosion of sumptuous rich and glittering metal objects.
Churches gained  book cover which glittered with silver,
croziers, censers, and chalices made of gold and silver, and
covered with decorations of amber and enamels. The Irish had
already  learnt  many  different  forms  of ornament from
the Anglo-Saxons,  now  they  learnt  techniques  of

        The Book of Kells : The End of the Eighth Century.

The Book of Kells is dated to between 760 and 820 and is
thought to be from named after  the  monastery  of
Kells.However  it  was largely written and illustrated at
the monastery of Iona.The kells manuscript is incomplete
with areas  of  decoration  uncolored,and text unfinished;
however it contains  a  wealth  and richness  of color and
illumination that is impossible  to  .describe.  Animals run
wildly through the pages chasing themselves  their
neighbors and humans. Others sit in naturalistic groups such
as the cats and the rats in  fol  34   (Fig.26).  Animals
display   the  familiar Hiberno-Saxon style, lacertine
animals twisting and  writhing  in the same firm and
cloisonne style that dates back to the  Book  of
Durrow.Other new forms arrive , naturalistic and mythical  ,
most importantly to this topic the change  in  the
Lindisfarne  avian, still there in its original form, but
now also seen  chasing  and tearing at human forms . Other
new creatures  appear  :  in  those pages illuminated by the
" Goldsmith " as  Francoise  Henri  calls him, the page of
eight circles , the Chi-Rho page and others , one sees  an
almost  perfectly  traditional  repertoire  of  mythical
beasts : the elongated animals , the spiraling avians, and,
a new note, the constant use of thin ribbon shaped  snakes.
Another change in the use of zoomorphic form is found in the
capitals: in
Durrow they end in spirals,in  Lindisfarne  they  develop
terminals (as do the brooches of this time), and in  the
Book  of Kells   initials   are   formed   from   complete
creatures                                           or
combinations of several .
     The Book of Kells marks a  junction  point  between  the
two regimes of metalworking and illumination : where once the
art  was such that it could be  communicated  between  two
such  different materials, now the creatures change from the
decorative  mythical monster to the more naturalistic and
superbly alive animals of  the Kells Manuscript, leaving
behind metal working as the  more  rigid and inflexible
     Thus a convenient breaking point is found where the
skill  of the Insular craftsmen had reached its most talented
and  beautiful point, and before the art of the Irish began
to change as                                        it  was
influenced by foreign cultures and styles.

                     Brooches and Metalworking

     An important part of  metalworking  of  this  period  is
proliferation of brooches, both penannular and annular in
these the development of zoomorphic forms can be traced  from
the origins of fantastical animals, the Salin style II  beast   through
to its many and varied developed forms Irish  penannular
brooches appear to be have been a development from small
Anglo-Saxon  ring brooches of the fifth and sixth century. An
important  series  of ring brooch mould from Dunadd (seat of
the  kings  of  Dal  Riada) includes many forms found in the
seventh and continuing  into  the eighth centuries. In the
eighth century the Irish brooch  develops into an annular
brooch, the terminal joined  by  a  bar  or  solid panel. The
ring is purely decorative and could not be  used  as  a
locking device, unlike the early penannulars. These continue
into the ninth century. Finds from Dl Riada  are  few,
however  other Scottish brooches have been studied in detail
and  are  known  as Pictish as the majority come from the
North and East of  Scotland, the main area of Pictish
     The Hunterston brooch, found in West Kilbride, Ayrshire
is of Irish type and is dated to  the  late  seventh  or
early                                                eighth
century (Plate 4,Fig 28). It is possibly the second most
important brooch of its kind due to the complexity of  the
design  and  the high quality survival of the decoration. It
is a large  brooch  of gilded cast silver with  filigree
insets  on  the  front                                   of
brooch. These include eight main panels each of which
contain  an interlaced beast executed in beaded wire.  The
central  panel  on each terminal is flanked by  four  smaller
panels  of  interlaced filigree serpents and at the junction
between  the  arms  and  the terminal of the brooch there are
two bird heads. On  the  reverse, one finds a pair of
interlaced beasts of the same style  of  those on the front
executed in filigree on the hoop. The reverse of  the
terminal has  bird  beaks  and  heads  as  decoration.  These
are reminiscent  of  similar  decorative  panels  on  the
Lindisfarne Gospels. The simplified bird heads which project
from the                                            outline
of the ring, were compared to  those  from  Germanic
brooches  by Stevenson. On the Germanic brooches, eagle heads
form the                                            outline
of the brooch, which carries a central cross (Stevenson,
1974  p. 94, 1983) Scroll work on the reverse is also close
in style to the zoomorphic trumpet scrolls of the Lindisfarne
Gospels and the Tara Brooch.
     The Westness brooch pin was found in 1968 in a mound
covering a rich ninth century female Viking burial. The
brooch  itself  is dated to the eighth century. It is a cast
brooch  pin  ornamented with panels of filigree and set with
amber and red glass.                                It  has
the appearance of a penannular brooch through  the
decoration  of the terminals, however the terminals are
joined  by  paneling  and studs. On the outer edge there is
an animal head which is cast  in full relief holding
(originally) a thin metal ring. The  terminals of the brooch
are  filled  with  panels  of  zoomorphic  filigree
surrounded by border panels of glass. These panels  of
glass  are capped by animal  heads  (outside)  and  bird
heads  (inside).The elaborateness of this brooch pin  and
its  wealth  of  zoomorphic decoration make it by far the
best specimen to have  survived.  It shows close links
stylistically to both the  Tara  and  Hunterston brooches
and to the Dunbeath fragment.  These  brooches  all  show
cast animal heads in profile along the margins of their
     The Londesborough brooch is an annular brooch cast in
dated to the late eighth  -  early  ninth  century(Plate
5).  The brooch front is thickly gilded and is covered  with
a  wealth  of wildlife : birds and animal interlace
dominates the  body  of  the brooch and the terminals are
dominated by a pair of raised bosses, divided up by ribs. In
the panels between the ribs  small  animals teem, and in the
reserved panels  between  the  bosses  interlaced animals
with hatched bodies and pronounced eyes and  jaws  can  be
found. Part of the field of the pinhead is filled  by  two
beasts with open jawed mouths and long fangs, hatched  jaws
and  bodies. These hatched animals are reminiscent in style
to those  found  on the Tara brooch. However the open jaws
and the long fangs are  far more reminiscent of the animals
of later date: such as those found on the Paris mounts and
Helgo mount.  They  are  also  similar  to animals found in
the Book of Kells, where the birds  also  can  be seen to
have distant relatives.
     The "Cavan" or "Queens" brooch  is  one  of  developed
Irish annular style and is dated with some fluidity to the
end  of  the eighth century (Plate 6). It bears delicately
modeled animal heads separating cusps found on each pseudo-
terminal, and the background of the terminals is decorated
with animal motifs: each beast has a hatched or a billeted
ribbon shaped body, a  backturned  head  and long snout
grasping its own trunk. These creatures seem to be  the
forerunners of the Irish animal style of the  ninth
century.  The reverse although it is generally plain has
some simple beast heads with prominent  fangs  and  a  long
tongue,  reminiscent  of  the creatures of the Londesborough
     A penannular brooch found in  Lough  Ravel  Crannog
and  now currently in Belfast museum shows an unusual form
of  beast,  cast in bronze. It is clearly a survival of the
Durrow  creature  which has developed in more or less
parallel line with  the  Lindisfarne animal and bird theme.
     Throughout these brooches one can see the  interlinked
trend of zoomorphic ornament progressing through time.
However  so  far perhaps the most important brooch of all
has been missed out : the Tara brooch (Plate 7). It was
found at  the  mouth  of  the  Boyne river in a wooden box
also containing Viking  artifacts.  Made  in bronze with
compartments in relief for ornament, it is  unique  in the
delicacy of its construction, and small size  (3   inches
in diameter).  The  Tara  brooch  is  close  stylistically
to   the Hunterston brooch,  as  well  as  bearing
similarities  to  other brooches. It is arguably later in
date, although it  displays  the same trait of having an
earlier style of decoration on the reverse and a later more
up to date style on the front. The front  of  the brooch is
ornamented in beasts designed in fine traceries of  gold
wire, fierce looking reptiles which skirt around  the
outside  of the jewels. In addition, there are enameled
studs, amber bands and two amethyst human heads. Decoration
on the corner lobes resembles corner ornament in the Book of
Durrow. This  combined  with  later resemblances to
Lindisfarne style shows the interlinked effect  of metalwork
and manuscript on each other. On the reverse, the  style is
very different, that of the early seventh century with
spirals, animal interlacing and cast bronze  border  birds.
It  has  three panels which recall the decoration found on
the  reverse  on  the Stavanger Brooch. Spiral and animal
decoration  are  an  near  as possible to the bird and
animal  type  found  in  the  Lindisfarne Gospels. The birds
are identical with those found in  borders  and the body
shape of the animals scroll-like  as  it  is,  is  nearly
identical to the Lindisfarne type. The animals which are
on the front of it with a double outline,  sinuous  body,
flaring snout and  hip  or  shoulder  spiral,  is  the
dominant  form  of zoomorphic ornament in eighth century
metalwork.  Similar  wreaths appear on a brooch from Mull,
presumably Scottish or  Pictish,  as it is a true
penannular, on the silver hanging bowl from the Saint
Ninian's Isle treasure, and other eighth century metalwork.
These creatures are  missing  in  southern  Britain  where
there  is  a stronger Germanic flavour although their
ancestors can  be  traced in a hybrid form of the Style II
of  the  Sutton  Hoo  Lindisfarne animals. Close parallels
of the animal heads in  particular  found on the Tara
pinhead can be seen on the Cavan brooch and also to be found
on the animal headed mount of the Donore hoard. Other  items
found in the hoard also display Tara style zoomorphic
decoration, such as the zoomorphic handle assembly
     Another major  piece  of  metalwork  which  is  of  the
same standard of manufacture as the Tara brooch is the
Ardagh  Chalice (Fig 29). It was found under a thorn bush in
the rath  of  Ardagh, County Limerick. It contains none of
the superfluous richness that even such a delicate work as
the Tara Brooch has. Great  areas  of silver have no
decoration reflecting the glow  of  the  ornaments. Animal
terminals are engraved on the cup under the gold band,  and
discrete panels  of  filigree  animals  can  be  found.  It
shows evidence of style similar to  the  Derrynaflan.  The
animals  are characteristically  Irish  in  stylisation  but
the surrounding
filigree patterns are Mediterranean style vine-scroll
suggesting a link with the Lindisfarne Gospel.
     Another chalice that is close  stylistically  to  the
Ardagh Chalice is the Derrynaflan Chalice (Fig 30).  The
layout  of  its ornament is similar, however it has no
filigree animal  interlace. Animals on this are cast beasts
or single filigree animals,  often griffon type creatures.
The lack of animal interlace suggests that it was created
after the eighth century or close to the end of it, at the
start of the Viking occupation.
     Metalwork evidence suggests that the initial impetus
for  the creation of the Celtic creature  came  from  this
craft,  however ecclesiastical illuminations have continued
the trend,  developing the creature which is seen in
metalwork.  Although,  for  example, the Book of Durrow
creature was  developed  into  the  Lindisfarne beasts.
Objects such as the Lough Ravel Crannog penannular  brooch
show the parallel survival of the Durrow beast. Other
examples  of this are found on the Moylough reliquary,
although the  animal  on the boss is far more Germanic in
style, and would appear  to  have been derived from sources
with a greater Saxon input. Metalworking craftsman were
artists in their own right. Yet they worked hand in hand
with the  ecclesiastical  scriptoriums  created  the
insular style.
                  Conclusion : The Final Chapter

    " After many hours  of  research,  reading  and  study;
after desperate battles with recalcitrant computers, we
reach the  final chapter..."

      We have seen the start of the Golden years of Irish
Art, the dawn of a tradition which is still revered today as
one which  has produced  articles  of  outstanding
workmanship.One   which   has
affected an entire island group and one which  has
reflected  the thoughts, beliefs, and ideals of a culture.
The development of the Insular style of art is one which
took many years to develop,  the majority of them in a state
of isolation. Yet this has  led  to  a richer form of
communication, and this art unlike others  has  had the
flexibility ,not only to bend under the wind of other
cultures but to absorb into itself elements which it
transformed  in  many cases from the broken lifeless forms
that they  were  in  to  a  a joyous melee of color ,
movement and activity.
     Starting at the Cathach of St. Columba  one  can
follow  the development of animal forms from
hesitant,disjointed  and  unreal
monsters brought in by the Germanic traditions through the
rigidly controlled forms of beasts found around the  time  of
the  Durrow Manuscript, to the acrobatic lively and colorful
creatures of  the Lindisfarne  Gospels.   Metalwork   follows
step   showing   the intermanuscript development  stages,
while  adding   other  forms  which  are  created  by  the
ever  present  flow  of  ideas   and influences.
Ecclesiastical metalwork shows the  earliest  evidence of the
beast form of the period - hot off the press  as  it  were,
but secular designs seem to provide the new  inspiration  for
the ecclesiastical artists to work with.


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