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Summary: Art as a Spiritual Practice

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Celtic Spirituality of Art

God at the Pub – Earthed Spirituality

Grace – How the Irish Saved Civilization, p 174

Take up homework

1) book of prayers – choose one & use it

2) write a Celtic prayer that fits your life/work.

Art Show and tell

The Celts & Art

I think that if you would ask an ancient Celtic Christian about the relationship between Spirituality and art, they would look at you like you were talking Klingon!

Many of us made our first connection with Celtic faith through the arts.

The Celt’s whole life was integrated with art. Even the pre-Christian Celts were great artisans, they added ornamentation to almost everything – from tools to weapons, to their homes to their bodies. When they became Christian, they brought their art with them into the Kingdom. They added Celtic design to crosses, icons and church architecture.

The Celts had a love for beauty as can be seen in this story about St. Columba. Saint Columba was the founder of the Iona Community in Scotland, and he is a patron Saint of Ireland.

“An intense man, Columba loved beautiful things, the heritage no doubt of his privileged childhood, and was especially sensitive to his hometown of Derry—”angel-haunted Derry,” he called it—where he founded his first monastery and of which he sang in sensuous poetry that can stand beside any in the early Irish canon. But if Columba loved anything more than his native place, he loved books, especially beautifully designed manuscripts. As a student, he had fallen in love with his master’s psalter, a uniquely decorated I book of great price He resolved to make his own copy by stealth, and so we find him sitting in Finian’s church at Moville, hunched over the coveted psalter, copying it in the dark. According to legend, he had no candle, but the five fingers of his left hand shone like so many lights while his right hand assiduously copied. The legend is embellished with many such details; but the sum and substance of it is that Columba was found out and brought before King Diarmait, who issued his famous decision: “To every cow her calf- to every book its copy.” It was history’s first copyright case.”

- Tomas Cahill,“How the Irish Saved Civilization” pp 169, 170

What the king means is that Columba had to give his copy back to the Church. I saw on the web that someone wanted to make Saint Columba the patron saint of file-sharers!

What Tomas Cahill teaches us in the book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” is that with Christianity came literacy, and the Irish monks took great joy in making copies of the scriptures as well as other classical literature. In fact, what Cahill says is that while the rest of Europe was in the dark ages, Ireland was keeping the classic libraries alive by copying everything they could get there hands on!

One of the most famous Irish manuscripts is the Book of Kells. It is a copy of the Gospels illuminated in Irish motif and written in Celtic script.

c. 800

It is from the book of Kells that everything that we know of as Celtic art springs – the motifs, the swirls, the knot work, the mazes… as well as what we call the Celtic font or script


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