Celtic Art

The Celtic artistic legacy is one of the most enduring to have been brought into Ireland . The Celts were a barbarian people who originated in central Europe and gradually moved to the fringes of the Continent as a result of Roman and Germanic domination.   The earliest evidence of their artistic influence in Ireland is an imported gold collar found in Ardnaglug (Co. Roscommon) of the third century BC, decorated with spirals and S-shapes typical of the Celtic art of Europe at the time.

Within a century or so, local craft centres had become established manufacturing high-status objects such as weaponry and items for personal adornment. These are characterised by ornament which consists of abstract plant forms, ultimately derived from the Greek and Etruscan worlds, trumpet forms and spirals, some of which terminate in bird heads. This artistic style is sometimes referred to as ‘La Tène’ after a site in Switzerland with similar artefacts.

Most of the objects surviving from this time are metal. Examples of carved stones, probably used in religious ritual are found at Turoe (Co. Galway), where a squat pillar stone is decorated with typical Celtic ornament, and a rare human representation – a three faced head – from Corleck (Co. Cavan). 

The influence of Celtic art endured far longer in Ireland than the rest of Europe with elements such as spirals still traceable in some of the great treasures of the eighth and ninth centuries AD, almost a thousand years after their first introduction to Ireland .

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