The Insular Tradition

Edited by Catherine E. Karkov, Robert T. Farrell, and Michael Ryan

Subjects: Archaeology
Series: SUNY series in Medieval Studies
Paperback : 9780791434567, 307 pages, October 1997
Hardcover : 9780791434550, 307 pages, October 1997

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents



Robert T. Farrell

1. The Bewcastle Cross: Some Iconographic Problems
Catherine E. Karkov

2. Symbols of the Passion or Power? The Iconography of the Rothbury Cross-head
Jane Hawkes

3. Worthy Women on the Ruthwell Cross:: Woman As Sign in Early Anglo-Saxon Monasticism
Carol A. Farr

4. Survival and Revival in Insular Art: Some Principles
James Lang

5. King Oswald's Wooden Cross at Heavenfield in Context
Douglas Mac Lean

6. Daniel Themes on the Irish High Crosses
Shirley Alexander

7. The Tower Cross at Kells
Roger Stalley

8. Variations on an Old Theme: Panelled Zoomorphic Ornament on Pictish Sculpture at Nigg, Easter Ross, and St. Andrew's Fife, and in the Book of Kells
Isabel Henderson

9. The Echternach Lion: A Leap of Faith
Carol Neuman de Veguar

10. Recent Finds of Insular Enameled Buckles
Susan Youngs

11. Filigree Animal Ornament From Ireland and Scotland of the Late-Seventh to Ninth Centuries: Its Origins and Development
Niamh Whitfield

12. The Menagerie of the Derrynaflan Paten
Michael Ryan

13. Innovation and Conservatism in Irish Metalwork of the Romanesque Period
Raghnall Ó Floinn

14. The Insular Tradition: An Overview
Rosemary Cramp



"A breadth of interdisciplinary voices" discuss how geographical insularity - specifically that of Britain and Ireland - has affected artistic tradition.


A generously illustrated collection, The Insular Tradition explores the various ways in which tradition becomes part of our definition of insular culture and cultural history. The essays are the outcome of a conference held within the Medieval Academy of America meeting at Kalamazoo in 1991. Scholars from America, Scandinavia, Britain, and Ireland came together to discuss the latest research on the remarkable Christian art which flourished among the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples in the Early Medieval Period. New discoveries and a renewed research interest are shedding light on the splendid manuscript illuminations, sculpture, and metalwork of the time. Historical sources are reanalyzed and, together with modern approaches to interpretation, provide fascinating new insights into the social, economic, and spiritual background of the creative artists.

This book presents a number of challenging reinterpretations of landmark achievements such as the Book of Kells, the Irish High Crosses, and the enigmatic symbolic and decorative systems of the Pictish people of Scotland. The contributors discuss the processes of creativity, the way in which influences are transmitted, the cross-fertilization of the arts in different media, and the role of trade and exchange and of the patron.

Extensive illustrations, some of them difficult to source elsewhere, and comprehensive up-to-date bibliographies make the volume especially useful to those wishing to find a suitable point of entry into this expanding and ever-changing field.

Catherine E. Karkov is Associate Professor of Art History at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Robert T. Farrell is Professor of English, Archaeology, and Medieval Studies at Cornell University. Michael Ryan is Director and Librarian, The Chester Beatty Library, in Dublin, Ireland.


"Within the field of Early Medieval Western European studies of material culture, 'insular' art occupies an important place. Given the number of recent finds and the volume of recent scholarship, these essays are timely and important contributions." — David Whitehouse, The Corning Museum of Glass

"…a breadth of interdisciplinary voices, usefully mixed but not homogenized in opinion or thrust." — Kelley M. Wickham-Crowley, Department of English, Georgetown University