Christian - The Book of Kells 2

Carpet Page  Click to enlarge


Various spiral patterns

In earlier books so called Carpet pages were often popular. Named because of their resemblance to woven textiles, the Book of Kells however contains only one of these pages, shown above. It contains two interlinked crosses with the rest of the page consisting mainly of abstract decoration. Inside the various panels can be seen spirals and key patterns as well as many interlaced knotwork human and animal forms. These bright ornamentations were produced with a range of animal, vegetable and mineral based inks. The text for example was written with ink derived from the pulp of oak apples mixed with iron sulphate while red and white lead, chalk and woad were readily available to the illustrators. Deep blues could be produced by using lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan, pinks came from the turnsole plant (called Folium), bright red from a Mediterranean insect (Kermes) and yellow Orpiment from arsenic sulphide.


St Matthew  Click to enlarge

Key Patterns

Two Portrait Pages survive in the Book of Kells, along with a single portrait that is believed to represent Christ Himself. One page is dedicated to St. John while the page above illustrates St. Matthew. He is shown in front of a high throne with a large halo around his head and holding a copy of his Gospel, surrounded by the symbols of the other tree evangelists. In the arch above him, the scribes have filled the space with key-patterns -  complex panels of repeating and interlocking geometrical shapes used throughout the book and in all manner of Celtic artifacts.


The Virgin and Child  Click to enlarge

Human Figures

This Illustration Page is one of three contained within the Book if Kells, the other two show the Arrest of Christ and the Temptation of Christ. The Virgin and Child, taken from St. Matthew's Gospel, demonstrates how the representation of humans had changed from the early abstract form of the old Celts to the more figurative approach seen in manuscripts and on the great stone crosses of the period. It is interesting that the Virgin wears Greek robes (a maphorion), and it is believed that the illustration is based on an original that could have come from the Eastern Church of Byzantium. This theory is borne out by the devices that the surrounding angels are carrying - they are flabella's - a fan used by the deacons in the Eastern Church to keep flies from the altar and used in this case as a symbol of purity.


Back to Celtic Index | Previous | Next
Home | Stone Circles | Pre-Raphaelite Pictures | Links | Email:

Bookmark and Share