Monday, September 24, 2012

Medieval female professions

Women in early medieval Ireland were not limited to the traditional housewife role, though many women did in fact follow this path. Instead, a woman could choose to pursue a professional career, often by learning her father's trade, especially if he had no sons. In this way, a woman earned honour separate from her husband's status, and she could advance very highly in the ranks of society. The ancient legal codes explicitly lay out several of the roles women could maintain, including most notably: banfili (woman poet), banliaig tuaithe (woman physician), embroideress, or hostpitaller.

The Ardagh Chalice

The Ardagh Chalice is the finest example of eighth century metalwork ever to have come to light. Standing six inches high it is made of silver, bronze and gold; the design and decoration indicating technical proficiency of the highest order.

According to the book Treasures of Early Irish Art (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: 1977):

"A wide range of materials have been used to create a work of perfection. The silver bowl, provided with handles for lifting, is linked by a gilded collar to a conical silver foot, made more stable by a broad horizontal flange … on the chalice, where decoration is used, it is sumptuous. Ultimate LaTene scrolls, plain interlace, plaits and frets abound. The techniques employed are engraving, casting, filigree, cloisonné and enamelling. Below the horizontal band of gold filigree on the bowl the names of the Apostles in shining metal standout in sea of stippling."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hiberno-Romanesque Style

Hiberno-Romanesque style. The richly decorated south doorway of the ruined late medieval church at the monastic site of Dysert O'Dea, near Corofin, County Clare, West of Ireland.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Derrynaflan hoard

The Derrynaflan hoard is thought to have been deposited during the ninth century.

The Book of Mulling

The Book of Mulling, (Circa 650AD) is preserved along with its jewelled shrine in Dublin at Trinity College Library. It is an Irish pocket Gospel Book that was probably copied from an autograph manuscript of St. Moling. The text includes the four Gospels, a service which includes the "Apostles' Creed", and a plan of St. Moling's monastery. The script is a fine Irish minuscule. The decoration includes illuminated initials and three surviving Evangelist portraits: those of Matthew, Mark and John (depicted f. 193).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The book of Dimma

The book of Dimma was written at St. Cronan’s Monastery, Roscrea sometime in the late 8th century. The book is a copy of the four Gospels written in Old Latin and a blessing to the sick and dying, which was added in the 10th or 11th century. It is one of the ten Irish manuscripts written before 1000 AD that have survived in Ireland.

The gospels other than John are "written for the most part in a rapid cursive script", while John is "by a different scribe, in neat minuscule bookhand". It was signed by its scribe, Dimma MacNathi, at the end of each of the Gospels. Legend says that Dimma wrote the book in forty days and forty nights without rest, food or water and because he did it like this Dimma thought he had done it in one day. Studies however by Dr R.I. Best show that the book was written by many hands. The Book is now housed in the library of Trinity College.

Image: The Eagle symbol of St John the Evangelist from the Book of Dimma folio 104v. (Dublin, Trinity College, MS.A.IV.23)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Purple - the colour of high status.

Purple (corcur in Irish) the royal or imperial colour. The ancient Irish were acquainted with the art of dyeing purple using a rock lichen and shellfish like cockles. Heaps of shells have been found, all broken uniformly at one particular tip, inside which was situated an elongated little sac containing the purple colouring matter. Evidently the shells were broken in such a manner that the object was the extraction of a precious little globule.

The purple dyestuff, however obtained, was produced in very small quantities, so that it was extremely scarce; and the colour was excessively expensive in Ireland as elsewhere: on the Continent in old times it was worth thirty or forty times its weight in gold. Partly for this reason, and partly for its beauty, purple was a favourite with kings and great chiefs, so that writers often designate it a royal or imperial colour.

Image: Book of Kells Folio 32v shows Christ enthroned. Note the purple garment indicating high status.