Modes of organisation within the early Irish Church continue to be debated with reference to texts and archaeological remains; recourse has not been made to the substantial corpus of extant high crosses. Focusing on those in the north of Ireland, this paper will bring together the material evidence presented by these monuments with that of the textual to demonstrate that the nature of their original sites can be greatly clarified by the physical contexts, purpose(s), and intended audiences of the crosses – information gleaned from the sculptures themselves. This will crucially illuminate the nature of the ecclesiastic communities – chronology, operational model(s), affiliations, and functionality – to significantly impact understanding of the practised reality of early church life and its observances.
The dramatic surge of interest in Celtic cultural tradition among the Scots and Welsh was due to fear of losing one’s own identity. Tensions cultural environment has led to convergence and partial fusion of Welsh and Irish traditions, where new time hero, cleric or monk, is substituted for the hero of the epic, original inhabitants of the Celtic world.
The Faddan More Psalter was discovered in Ireland in 2006, having been deposited in a bog soon after it was made in the 8th century. One of the most extraordinary aspects of the discovery is the survival of the leather cover, including around 30 decorative motifs inscribed onto it. This cover significantly adds to our understanding of early medieval book covers as it is unique among the few surviving examples, which include the covers of the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Cadmug Gospels. The motifs are comparable to trial patterns found on pieces of stone, bone, and wood, and they elucidate the function of working drawings in learning, developing, and circulating knowledge of decorative motifs in the early Middle Ages. Putting the cover in context with other surviving evidence begins to illuminate the importance of the cover of the Faddan More Psalter and what it reveals about the mobility of materials and motifs in the 8th century.