Early Medieval Text and Image Volume 1: The Insular Gospel Books, 1st Edition (e-Book) book cover

Early Medieval Text and Image Volume 1

The Insular Gospel Books, 1st Edition

By Jennifer O'Reilly

Edited by Carol A Farr, Elizabeth Mullins


360 pages

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When she died in 2016, Dr Jennifer O’Reilly left behind a body of published and unpublished work in three areas of medieval studies: the iconography of the Gospel Books produced in early medieval Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England; the writings of Bede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 One of them, on the iconography of the St Gall Gospels (Essay 9), was left completed, but unpublished, on the author’s death.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.

Table of Contents

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


About the Author/Editors

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.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at Michael.Greenwood@informa.com

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General