Besides articles of ornament, articles of use, such as bits for horses and household utensils, have been found, which show that the Irish smiths were as well able to produce articles for every-day use as the artificers were to create works of art in metal.
With the landing of the English in 1169 the arts and sciences in Ireland declined. Indeed, from that time on and for long afterwards, almost the only metalworkers needed were makers of arms and weapons of offense and defense.
British Museum, Bronze Age Guide; Coffey: Bronze Age in Ireland; Allen: Celtic Art; Abercrombie: Bronze Age Pottery; Wilde: Catalogue of the Royal Irish Academy’s Collection; Allen: Christian Symbolism; Stokes: Christian Art in Ireland; Petrie: Ecclesiastical Architecture in Ireland; Coffey: Guide to the Celtic Antiquities of the Christian Period perserved in the National Museum, Dublin; Kane: Industrial Resources of Ireland; O’Curry: Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish; Coffey: New Grange and other incised Tumuli in Ireland; Dechelette: Manuel d’Archeologie pre-historique; Ridgeway: Origin of Currency and Weight Standards.
By LOUIS ELY O’CARROLL, B.A., B.L.
In the dark ages of Europe, whilst new civilizations were in the making and all was unrest, art and religion, like the lamp of the sanctuary, burned brightly and steadily in Ireland, and their rays penetrated the outer gloom. Scattered through the libraries of Europe are the priceless manuscripts limned by Irish scribes. The earliest missionaries to the continent, disciples of St. Columbanus and St. Gall, doubtless brought with them into exile beautiful books which they or their brothers of the parent monastery had wrought in a labor of love; or mayhap many a monk crossed the seas bearing the treasured volumes into hiding from the spoiling hands of the Dane. Yet, fortunately, in the island home where their beauty was born the most superb volumes still remain.
From almost prehistoric times the Irish were skilled artificers in gold and bronze, and, at the advent of Christianity, had already evolved and perfected that unique system of geometrical ornament which is known as Celtic design. The original and essential features of this system consisted in the use of spirals and interlacing strapwork, but later on this type was developed by transforming the geometrical fret into a scheme of imaginary or nondescript animals, portions of which, such as the tails and ears, were prolonged and woven in exquisite fancy through the border. The artistic features of Celtic book decoration consist chiefly of initial letters of this nature embellished with color. Amongst the ancient Irish there was a keen knowledge of color and an exceptional appreciation of color values. Thus it was that in the early centuries of Christian Ireland the learned