Irish Celtic design is also called Insular Art . Celtic design includes interwoven knotwork, spirals and scrolls. We see stylised images of humans, animals and mythical creatures. The intricate knots and complex curvilinear patterns are typified by Ireland’s Book of Kells, Tara Brooch as well as other national treasures. The Irish have three great branches of Celtic design: Metalwork, Manuscripts and High-Crosses.
What are the origins of Irish Celtic Design?
St Patrick arrives in the 5th century, and now Christianity is spreading throughout Ireland. In the Gospel of St Matthew, Jesus instructs his disciples to bring the Word of God to all nations. He says He will be with them at the Ends of the Earth. The Irish monks are taking this command very seriously. In their remote monasteries on the very edge of the known world, they practise their devotion and are becoming skilled scribes and illustrators.
From the 6th century onward, the earliest manuscripts and metalwork start to appear in Ireland. Scribes and smiths take the traditional Celtic La Tène motifs and merge them with Roman, Germanic, and Early Christian ornaments. They create a new fusion style that is uniquely Irish. Finally, in the 8th century, their craftsmanship reaches unsurpassed perfection.
Whilst the rest of Europe is in a Dark age of turmoil and barbarism, the Irish experience relative peace. They are copying their sacred texts and gospels, and illustrating them like never before – “illuminated manuscripts” in every sense of the word. The Church is placing orders for Ecclesiastical relics. Wealthy patrons in Irish society are wearing fine jeweler of exceptional quality. This is the Golden Age of Celtic Art and Design.