Sunday, August 26, 2012

Irish illuminated manuscripts

A distinctive feature of Irish illuminated manuscripts are huge ornamented capital letters. Here is an example from the Stowe Missal with the letters INP joined together to start the page with the words in principio (in the beginning).

The Stowe Missal, strictly speaking is a sacramentary rather than a missal. It is written mainly in Latin with some Irish and dates from c. 750AD. In the mid-11th century it was annotated and some pages rewritten at Lorrha Monastery in County Tipperary, Ireland. Also known as the Lorrha Missal, it is known as the "Stowe" Missal as it once belonged to the Stowe manuscripts collection formed by George Nugent-Temple-Grenville, 1st Marquess of Buckingham at Stowe House. When the collection was bought by the nation in 1883, it and the other Irish manuscripts were handed over to the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it remains, catalogued as MS D II 3. The cumdach or reliquary case which up to this point had survived together with the book was later transferred, with the rest of the Academy's collection of antiquities, to the National Museum of Ireland (museum number 1883, 614a). The old story was that the manuscript and shrine left Ireland after about 1375, as they were collected on the Continent in the 18th century,but this appears to be incorrect, and they were found inside a stone wall at Lackeen Castle near Lorrha in the 18th century.

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