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Early Christain Ireland
Transcript of Early Christain Ireland
Early Christian Ireland
From the sixth century onwards, many monasteries were set up throughout Ireland by saints such as Colmcille.
Holy men or monks spent long hours every day praying, working and studying to please God.
As well as being centres of learning, monasteries were stong economically while also maintaining their religious function.
The abbots of leading monasteries had a high social standing and strong connections with the secular rulers whose residences were the ring forts or raths and crannogs. The masters of the raths were the main patrons of artistic production for hundreds of years.
Large monasteries were built along important route ways such as Clonmacnoise on the River Shannon
Also many small monasteries were built in remote places such as Skellig Michael located on a tiny island off the west coast of Kerry.
As Christianity spread, some large monasteries grew larger and became 'self sufficient'. Many monks (when they were not praying or studying) worked on the monastery farm. This was important because it provided food, clothing and raw material for manuscripts.
Some monks worked in trades such as carpentry or masonry (stone building, marking).
Other monks wrote manuscripts, carved tall stone crosses or made beautiful chalices or other metal objects.
Some services provided by monasteries
Monasteries were the centres of prayer and religion.
Some monks were skilled in the use of herbs as medicines.
They provided 'health care' for the sick.
They gave 'alms' (food and other help) to the poor.
Offered shelter and hospitality to travelers at a time when there were no hotels.
Some monks were they few that could read or write. They often provided 'education' for boys and young men in Religion, Latin, and Greek.
Irish Monastic Art
Early Irish monasteries were famous for great works of art, which monks produced to honour God. Irish monks were famous for the production of manuscripts, stone crosses and metalwork.
Each large monastery had a 'scriptorium' where scribes copied beautiful manuscripts. They used 'quills' (goose feathers) to write on 'vellum (calfskin) or on parchment (sheepskin).
Skilled artists 'illuminated' manuscripts with beautiful coloured pictures and designs.
Bright coloured inks made for crushed berries, metals and beetles.
Patrick grew up in Roman Britain. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by an Irish raiding party and brought to Ireland as a slave and force to tend sheep in the mountains.
Patrick escaped and returned to Britain. Some time later he became a priest. He returned to Ireland around AD432 to spread Christianity here. By the time St. Patrick died, about thirty years later, Ireland was largely Christian.
Ireland is the only country in western Europe to which Christianity came without Roman conquest.
Although the Romans never invaded Ireland, it is certain that their influences reached here through the trade and contact with Roman colonies such as Britain.
One feature of this period was the development of a form of writing based on the Roman alphabet known as 'Ogham'.
We have very little knowledge of the process by which the pre-literate pagan society of the Iron Age developed into the civilisation of the Early Christain period when Ireland earned its title of the island of 'Saint and Scholars'.
The establishment of Christianity in Ireland marks the beginning of a great period in Irish Art.
Early Christian art can be divided into two phases.
1st phase- fifth to the mid-eight century
Time of early monastic settlements.
Few objects remain except some pins and brooches and the first decoration of capitals letters in manuscript eg. In the Cathach.
- dramatic development of Irish art with the early stone crosses and the book of Durrow.
2nd phase - Mid-eighth century to the ninth
This was the Golden Age of Irish Art when techical skill reached the height of its perfection and treasures such as the Tara brooch and the Book of Kells were produced.
- the time of the great stone crosses such as the crosses of Monasterboice and Moone.
While St Patrick was not the first man to bring Christianity to Ireland, he and other missionaries estalished small communities ruled over by their own bishop. This system however, gradually changed and during the sixth and seventh centuries a shift towards monastric foundations took place. The result was a Church organisation very different from that in neighbouring Britain or continental Europe. The Church in Ireland recognised the authority of the abbot of the monastery more than the bishop of the diocess.
Clonmacnoise - Mid 6th Century
Skellig Michael - Co.Kerry 6th-8th C.
What happened to Saint Patrick when he was sixteen years old?
How did Saint Patrick set about converting the Irish to Christianity?
'The Cathach' Ireland's oldest manuscript
The Book of Kells
The Book of Durrow
Some monks carved high stone crosses. The first crosses were simple in design. Later crosses, however, such as the 'Cross of Muiredeach' were complicated
Images of the saints and scenes form the Bible were carved on crosses and were use to explain religion to people who could not read
A stone circle joined the arms of the cross with the trunk of the cross. This helped to support the arm of the cross and so prevented the cross from breaking
The top of the cross was made to look like a small church
The Ardagh Chalice
Monks made beautiful objects of silver, gold and the other metals
They made chalices and 'crosiers' (bishops staffs) and Book shrines
Reliquaries were boxes or shrines used to hold relics or items that belonged to saints
Chalices were mainly made from silver and decorated with bronze and glass studs. The art of twisting and weaving gold wire is known as ' filigree'
Glendalough Co .Wicklow
Introduction to Christianity
Early Irish monasteries were usually enclosed with circular walls.
Larger communities often had two surrounding walls, with the centre being the area of more sanctity. the outer space was the area of economic activity, where thee everyday work of food production, craft, metalwork and trade took place.
The monastic enclosure usually surrounded a cemetery and a church. Buildings were usually constructed of wood or wattles and circular in shape. The abbot's house was near the church and it was surrounded by little huts known as beehive huts occupied by other monks and followers.
The stone huts built on Skellig Michael Island seven miles off the coast of Kerry are a well-preserved little monastic settlement. Perched high on a tiny rocky; island which rises to a sharp peak, it is dedicated to St. Michael the patron saint of high places. The little stone church of St. Michael is surrounded by six beehive huts. These little huts used the same corbel method of construction as found in Newgrange built 3,000 years before. The two small oratories are built in the same style, but these have adapted the corbel to suit the rectangular shape. Both have one window and a low doorway.
Beehive huts are dotted around the coast on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, where also is found the little church known as Gallarus Oratory. Here again the corbel is used in the rectangular shape. The wall slope inwards for strength and the little church as a low door and one window on the gable wall.
Round towers - tenth century.
Normally located to the west of the monastery with their doors facing those of the church. They were presumed to be bell towers but they were not equipped with hanging bells. There were probably a mark of status as the monasteries grew in wealth and sophistication. The round tower was tall, slender and tapering with a cone-shaped corbelled cap. They have usually four windows at the top, with one window for each story below. Each of these windows face a different direction. The towers may have been used to store valuables or as places f refuge as the height of the doorway - two or three metres from the ground-would suggest. The doorway was reached from outside by a ladder which could be drawn inside. Internally they had wooden floors also reached by ladder. The eleventh-century round tower at Glendalough is 31.40m high. The little church is known as St. Kevin's kitchen as was built about a century later. Eg. of round towers = Clonmacnoise, Co. Offally, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow.
Gallarus oratory 8-9th C.
Round Tower- 10th C.
Ardmore, Co. Waterford
Recapping on last week: Early Irish Architecture
1. Early Irish Monasterie
s = ________ enclosure.
2. Abbots house was near the ______ and it was surrounded by little huts known as _______ huts occupied by other _____ and followers.
3. Skellig Michael , Co. _____, 6th - ___ Century Monastic settlement.
4. The _____ huts on Skellig Micheal Island seven miles off coast of _____, are perched high on a tiny rocky island which rises to a sharp peak is dedicated to St. _______ the patron saint of ____ ______.
5. The little stone church of St. Micheal is surrounded by six _______ huts.
6. Same ______ method of construction as found in Newgrange built 3000 years before.
7. Gallarus Oratory, Co. Kerry, 8th - ___ Century.
8. The little church known as ________ _______.
9. The little church is ___________ in shape and the wall slope _______ for strength and a low door and one ______ on the gable walls.
10. Round Tower, ___________, Co. Wicklow.
11. The 30.48 metre tall round tower is divided internally into 6 stories by ______ floors, connected by _______. The four stories above entrance level are each lit by a small window; while the top story has four windows facing the cardinal compass points.
12. In medieval Ireland, round towers had many uses. They served as beacons to guide ________ from afar, ____ towers, _____houses, lookouts and places of refuge in times of ______. The door is about 3.5 meters from the ground, which is commonly believed to be a defensive practice with refuge seekers raising the ladder from within.
Manuscripts (Sixth to Eighth Century )
Christianity is a religion of the book.
Earliest missionaries to Ireland would have brought with them books written in the standard scripts of the 4th and 5th centuries, that of the "UNCIAL script".
The Irish hand attained great beauty and perfection and was to be taken abroad by the Irish missionaries to England and Scotland in the 6th and early 7th Century, where it became the national script of these countries.
Missionaries and scholars produced small gospel and missal books which could be carried.These were written in the "miniscule' script.
Large luxury productions used on the alter on special occasions were written in the solemn letter forms of the "majuscule script".
Copying the text was considered an act of devotion.
Manuscripts were produced in a room called a scriptorium and considerable wealth was required by the monasteries for the production of luxury books.
A large herd of calves was required for the production of vellum.
Colours = expensive ( often imported from abroad).
Traditionally, books were kept in leather satchels which were hung on the walls.
Special books = elaborately bound and sometimes stored in ornate metal boxes or shines.
Colmcille(or Columba) founded the monastery of Iona (Scotland) in A.D. 563 (Community that included monastery of Durrow , Co. Offaly) - Scribal activity/ Manuscript production was of greatest importance to Colmcille.
Cathach (of Columba) - 6th Century
Earliest surviving Irish manuscript- Library of the Royal Academy in Dublin.
The name 'Cathach' means battle book and earned its name when Colmcille took it into a battle fought over the first recorded breach of copyright.
In the year 561 the tale is that Colmcille took a rare and valuable copy of the psalms from St. Finian and copied them out in his own hand in the night. Finian appealed to the High King of Tara who ruled against Colmcille who took up the cause in battle.
The battle was fought near Sligo and ended with the death of 3,000 men.
Colmcille's offence was considered so grave that he was exiled to Iona.
The decoration is confined to the first letter of each paragraph.
It shows a very important feature of early Christian art, that of the adaptation of old Celtic motifs used in metalwork to script + stylised animal ornament which was to remain a particularly distinctive feature of Irish manuscript illumination during the next centuries.
The book is in black and white, with a small amount of colour such as red and yellow used here and there.
The Book of Durrow- probably intended alter use- too large to be carried around.
Traditionally associated with Columban monastery- probably produced there in mid 7th Century.
Book= 4 gospels + other material.
Script = Irish majuscule hand, pages decorated in red, yellow, green and deep brown against a background of black or the plain vellum page.
Pages = an ornamental capital letter, pure decoration -(Carpet pages).
Before each gospel is a symbol of the evangelist who wrote it, in a style that shows the full development of the beast in early Irish manuscripts.
Important feature of of early Christian art which first makes its appearance in the Book of Durrow are interlaced bands - many of the pages have thick bands of interlacing which accentuated by double lines around the edges.
Strongest characteristic of the Book of Durrow id the space allowed around the ornament- making a strong contrast between itself and later highly ornate Book of Kells.
Carpet page- folio 192c