1st Edition

Early Medieval Text and Image Volume 1 The Insular Gospel Books

Edited By Carol A Farr, Jennifer O'Reilly, Elizabeth Mullins Copyright 2019
    392 Pages
    by Routledge

    392 Pages
    by Routledge

    When she died in 2016, Dr Jennifer O’Reilly left behind a body of published and unpublished work in three areas of medieval studies: the iconography of the Gospel Books produced in early medieval Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England; the writings of Bede and his older Irish contemporary, Adomnán of Iona; and the early lives of Thomas Becket. In these three areas she explored the connections between historical texts, artistic images and biblical exegesis.

    This volume brings together nine studies of the Insular Gospel Books. One of them, on the iconography of the St Gall Gospels (Essay 9), was left completed, but unpublished, on the author’s death. It appears here for the first time. The remaining studies, published between 1987 and 2013, examine certain themes and motifs that inform the Gospel Books: their implicit Christology, their harmonisation of the four Gospel accounts, the depiction of Christ crucified, and the portrayal of St John the Evangelist. Two of the Books, the Durham Gospels and the Gospels of Mael Brigte, receive particular attention. (CS1079).

    List of Illustrations



    1. Early medieval text and image: the wounded and exalted Christ

    (Peritia 6–7, Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland (1987-88) 72–118. By permission of the Medieval Academy of Ireland and the Editors of PERITIA)

    2. The Hiberno-Latin tradition of the Evangelists and the Gospels of Mael Brigte

    (Peritia 9, Journal of the Medieval Academy of Ireland, published by Brepols Publishers, Turnhout, Belgium (1995) 290–309)

    3. Gospel harmony and the names of Christ in Insular gospel books

    (The Bible as book: the manuscript tradition, ed. J. Sharpe and K. Van Kampen (The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, London 1998) 73–88)

    4. Patristic and Insular traditions of the Evangelists: exegesis and iconography (Le isole Britanniche e Roma in eta romanobarbarica, ed. A.M. Luiselli and E. Ó Carragáin (Herder, Rome 1998) 49–94)

    5. "Know who and what he is": the context and inscriptions of the Durham Gospels Crucifixion image

    (Making and meaning in Insular Art, ed. R. Moss, (Four Courts Press; Dublin 2007) 301–16)

    6. The image of orthodoxy, the mysterium Christi and Insular Gospel books

    (L’Irlanda e gli irlandesi nell’alto medioevo, Settimane di studio della fondazione centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, LVII (2010) 651–705)

    7. St John the Evangelist: between two worlds

    (Insular and Anglo-Saxon Art and Thought in the Early Medieval Period, ed. C. Hourihane (Penn State University Press, 2011) 189–218)

    8. Seeing the crucified Christ: image and meaning in early Irish manuscript art (Envisioning Christ on the Cross in the early medieval West, c.500–1200, ed. J. Mullins and J. Ní Gradaigh (Four Courts: Dublin 2013) 52–82)

    9. The St Gall Gospels: art and iconography



    Jennifer O’Reilly received her B.A. Honours degree in History in 1964, and her Ph.D. in Art History in 1972, both in the University of Nottingham. Her monograph, Studies in the Iconography of the Virtues and Vices in the Middle Ages was published in 1988. A book of essays in her honour was published in 2011: Listen, o isles, unto me: studies in medieval word and image.

    Dr Carol A. Farr is an art historian specialising in the early medieval art of Ireland and Britain. She teaches courses on early medieval manuscripts for the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

    Dr Elizabeth Mullins lectures in the School of History, University College Dublin. Her research interests include the exegesis of early medieval gospel books and the record-keeping traditions of Irish religious congregations.

    ‘Most users of these books will have read several of these essays before, but having them in one place is more than a convenience: it allows us to note continuities both within Jennifer O’Reilly’s work (thus making for a more fruitful engagement with her researches) and also to recognize continuities in the artefacts themselves. Moreover, we have not simply been given reproductions of the earlier papers ... but the works have been reset and all the appropriate illustrations have been reproduced in colour — more than 150 in total — close to where they are discussed allowing us to see exactly what is meant in the various iconographical analyses. These sharp, clear colour images, along with two indices, make these books works of scholarship in their own right. We are indebted to the editors for their work for us, as well as for having given us such an appropriate monument to a great scholar’ - Thomas O’Loughlin, Irish Theological Quarterly 2020, Vol 85 (3).

    ‘Everyone looked at the Book of Kells differently when they heard Jennifer O’Reilly talk about it. Her scholarship changed the landscape of the subject’ - Bernard Meehan, Peritia, 31 (2022).