Lecture Series - Ancient & Early Christian Ireland

January 04, 2021

If you are unable to attend the live session, do not worry - all those who register will automatically be sent copies of the lecture to view in your own time (from around four hours after it takes place).


Ancient & Early Christian Ireland

AI Book of Kells           

Ireland has had a long and troubled history, inevitably linked to that of its near neighbours – Scotland, Wales and England - though this shared history is also marked with many fruitful exchanges, not least our common language. However, influences from the wider European world were often of equal or greater importance. This is especially true of the early settlement periods when man first appeared on Irish soil, followed by the arrival of the Celts and the later introduction of Christianity. This first pair of webinars (in a sequence of three pairs) will be an appropriate introduction to a world mostly known to specialists, one which produced not only remarkable archaeological sites such as Newgrange, but also some of the finest metalwork in bronze and gold from pre-classical Europe. This heritage found continued life when Celtic art forms and Early Christian devotion led to the making of some of the greatest religious works of art in manuscripts such as The Book of Kells, and metalwork such as The Ardagh Chalice.


The Irish Nation Takes Shape: People, Language & Faith - Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Irish pre-history lacks one vital tool to assist us in reconstructing its outline – written records. Thus we are left with the mute witness provided by the surviving stone monuments and works of art with which the island of Ireland is so richly endowed. From the passage graves in the Boyne Valley to the stone dolmens on the Burren, we sense a culture with a rich ritual tradition, now lost to us. Then there are the remarkable contemporary hoards of bronze implements and weapons, with amazing personal ornaments fashioned from gold, new examples of which still appear with regularity, dug from Irish bogs and fields. The arrival of the Celts in the first millennium BC added another dimension with their new language, social and cultural traditions and artistic language. It is at this time that the Irish ‘nation’ truly began to be formed. The process was completed (according to some historians) when St Patrick and the other early missionaries brought Christianity to Ireland.... but, as always, the reality is more complex.  

The Work of Angels: The Book of Kells & Irish Christianity - Wednesday, 13 January 2021 

The arrival of Christianity in Ireland brought about a fusion of cultures. Celtic influences had invigorated Irish art via the use of new technologies based on iron and its accompanying and distinct, ornamental embellishment. In the fifth and sixth centuries AD, these traditions were pressed into the production of a wide variety of liturgical objects for the new rituals of the recently established Irish church. To the native love of abstract ornament, artist-craftsmen added the human figure as Christian narrative joined the repertoire of the metal workshop, the stonemason’s yard and finally, the monastic scriptorium. Great works of art such as the Ardagh Chalice and above all, The Book of Kells were produced in large numbers. The rise of Irish missionary activity and the consequent foundation of Irish monasteries in Scotland, the north of England and throughout Europe saw these particularly Irish styles known as “Insular” art forms spread far and wide. They are considered one of the principal glories of early medieval art. In their own day, some were considered (to quote the words of one medieval source, Giraldus Cambrensis) to be the work “not of men, but of Angels”.

Format for Lecture

Tom will give two one-hour illustrated lectures. During the lecture you will have the chance to submit written questions which Tom will answer at the end - if time permits.

You will not need to download any software and the lecture will work in any browser. For the best experience use a desktop or laptop - but it will also work on an iPad or similar tablet. You will be also able to re-watch or watch a recording after the lecture.

Register for Lecture Series - 12 & 13 January at 11am


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