Abstract The Book of Kells is a medieval Insular Gospel manuscript that continues to be a topic of discussion long after its creation which is approximated to have taken place between the 7th to 9th centuries. The purpose of this article is to discuss the significance and meaning of a motif that prominently recurs in the full-page miniatures and text of the Book, namely that of the fish. It is argued that the consistency, placement and cultural context of the motif yields greater understanding of the manuscript. Among the topics explored are Insular understanding of the Eucharist and the importance of transmogrification to the Book's original audience, the fish as a visual cue and device and its iconographical attributes. Moreover discussed is the pagan/Christological design approach to understanding the motif, the World Tree and understanding the fish's cosmological importance, genealogy, full-page miniatures in the manuscript which have themes associated with those of the fish, multivalence, and memory and/or meditative use associated with the fish.
The Book of Kells is a large-scale, elaborately decorated Gospel manuscript dated between the 7th and 9th centuries AD and now resides under the call number MS 58 at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Its provenance is linked to the British Isles, especially to the Isle of Iona located west off the coast of Scotland and to Kells Abbey located in County Meath on the east coast of Ireland. The Books' influences and beginnings are widely discussed: “there is no clear-cut boundary between the end of paganism and the beginning of Christianity in Celtic Europe. The old gods lingered long, but during the fourth century AD Christianity was officially adopted as the state religion by the Roman world, and in Britain and Ireland, where Celtic traditions were arguably sustained longest, the Celtic Church was established during the fifth century AD”1 Even though the Universal Church exiled the Irish Church due to its insular traditions, Roman and Near Eastern sources continued to influence the monks that created the Book on Iona and at Kells Abbey. Being aware of other Christian cultures, there were monastic practices that were motivated apart from Rome. That included the special usage and incorporation of large-scale Gospel manuscripts like Kells, especially during High Masses and/or festival days like those during the season of Lent or Easter. The holy practitioners of Iona and Kells were not through the tradition of Saint Peter but of Saint Columba, the renowned Celtic missionary and evangelizer at the time the Book was created.2 It was for Saint Columba that the Book was made and dedicated to in a period of tumultuous political rift regarding the determination of Easter's date. Many aspects of this manuscript have been examined, as its significance has been explored for generations of scholars, but its decorative motifs and their social significance to understanding the purpose of the manuscript as a monastic missionary piece for the people has been greatly underestimated. Visual breaks like the fish used in Kells is suggestive of the Books' use: "the decoration of its text may be seen to have been related in some way to several systems of textual structuring, including indications of lection incipient and articulation of text, much as punctuation structures text, in ways that could have served public reading."3 The use of visual articulation explored here in this examination of The Book of Kells is unique to the Universal Church. This study seeks to better define the purpose of the fish decorative motif as an exegetical device of the Insular monastic tradition summing the entirety of the Gospels' meaning for an audial and visual audience. Specifically addressed is this motif's significance in relation to where it first occurs in the Book on the Chi-Rho-Iota folio 34r (figure 1, 1a) to the subsequent consistency of its iconographic and its thematic representation throughout the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
These qualities lead me to believe the Book used an early form of punctuation called percolaetcommata, or a demarcation of the beginning and/or ending of text to be read, and was not simply an object of display. Previous scholarship has mentioned the motif recognizing it as an important point of interest as a symbol of Christ.4 Scholars give the motif a broad stroke of interpretation, asserting its connotation as Christ's symbol prevalent in the latter part of the 1st century and the beginning of the 2nd century in Early Christian culture.5As an ancient symbol of Christianity, the fish has become associated with various sayings and meanings, like its Greek term, ichthos, which is also an acronym for the title of Christ as “Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour”. It is moreover associated with the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist. The symbolic significance of the fish in Kells around the 8th and 9th centuries in the British Isles, as Francoise Henry notes, is closely related with the Eucharist and the Body of Christ. As we shall see in this study, each fish contributes to the meaning of Christ's Body being broken but whole throughout the entirety of the text, the defining characteristic and quality of the Eucharist.
Like the Eucharist, the Celts believed, according to their mythos, that there was fluidity of form, alluding to the transubstantiation, or the miraculous change of the bread and wine's substance to Christ's Body and Blood. In Celtic culture, “an important element in sacred myth was the absence of rigid boundaries between animal and human form. This meant that, in iconography, deities could be envisaged as semi-zoomorphic. The myths of the vernacular literature abound in enchanted animals which had once been human, and divinities in human form who could shape-change to the form of an animal at will. Apart from the evidence of images and myths, the importance of animals in Celtic ritual is clearly demonstrated by the complexity and diversity of animal sacrifice.”6The fish is known to have supernatural powers associated with wisdom and is an animal that gods like Loki shape-shift in to. In the myth of Culhwch, Culhwch encounters the Salmon of Llyn Llaw, the Salmon of Knowledge from the later twelfth century Fionn Cycle. The fish imparts attributes of holiness and wisdom to those that consume its flesh because its diet consists of nuts which fall from the holy Tree of Knowledge, otherwise known as the World Tree.7 The fish identifies for the spectator the space as sacred and the meal as Holy Communion: “in sanctuaries where ritual feasting took place, the consumption of food within a sacred space represented a kind of conviviality between the consumers and the divinities of the holy ground.”8 In this Book's Christological case, the fish defines the holy ground and the sacrifice as Christ's Body, the Eucharist, and/or the partaking Church.
As is previously mentioned, the fish motif first occurs on the incipit page or frontispiece of the Books' Matthew on folio 34r located at the bottom center of the page. Held in the mouth of an otter and/or seal, the fish points toward a scene of cats and mice at play over a Eucharist wafer.9The creatures are located beneath a central apex, a cross, an abstract way of representing the Tree of Knowledge, or the World Tree. There is a spring beneath it in which the fish and seal and/or otter are drawn. This type of imagery is popular in Celtic tradition; the connection between the creatures in these details are inextricably woven in the mythology of the British Isles10, but the artists have redefined them here in a Christological context. Iona and/or Kells Abbey wanted to cement themselves among competitors of the Columban circuit of monasteries as the primary Church and pilgrimage site of the 8th to 9th centuries.11 The center of the world was, for these holy people of the Book, wherever the Book and/or the Body of Christ was. Medieval tradition of the Celts venerated the axismundior the World Tree, the most center point of the world, which tied together the lower world, the middle world and the upper world. This enabled the viewer to travel between worlds past, present and future anchored by this tree or pillar. This thought is further understood where “a possibly related concept is that of the bile, an Old Irish word which means a 'tree or mast,' and especially used to refer to ancient or venerated trees. Sacred assemblies were held beneath these hallowed trees, and it was forbidden to damage them in anyway. Sacred places throughout the ancient Celtic world were referred to by the term nemeton, or 'Sacred Place.' Some of these sites were associated with sacred groves or trees, and it has been suggested that there may be a connection between these sites and the widespread veneration of the World Tree.”12 Through this Christological depiction of the World Tree on 34r, the sacred assembly is Communion and the artist depicts Christ as a deity that is not subject to time or place.
The fish is mentioned in an 8th century Irish manuscript which preserves a mythological depiction of the World Tree and the fish's cosmological place: “Finn mac Cumhall encounters a man sitting in a top of the tree with a blackbird on his right shoulder. He held a vessel of white bronze in his left hand, in which there was a trout and some water. A stag stood at the foot of the tree. The mysterious figure in the tree was cracking open hazelnuts, symbolic of divine wisdom. He gave half of the nut to the blackbird and ate the other half himself. From inside the bronze vessel he took an apple, symbolizing passages between the worlds, again giving half to the stag and the other half himself. He then drank a sip from the vessel so that he, the trout, the stag, and the blackbird all drank together. The blackbird symbolizes the Upper World, the stag the Middle World and the trout the Lower World.” This passage is reminiscent of traditional descriptions of the Norse World tree,Ygdrassil. In the Norse texts, an eagle and a hawk rested in the uppermost branches of the tree, horned animals (goats and harts) leap at the sides of the tree, and a serpent lay at the root of the tree. These animals correspond with the three worlds and with each other: Upper World (blackbird or eagle and hawk); Middle World (stag or deer and goats); and Lower World (salmon or serpent)”13Just like in the depiction here, the fish in the Book on 34r is located at the foot of the cross or tree, in the symbolic Lower World, in an abstract spring. Likewise, at the time of Kells' creation, the shift to the Lower World is made manifest: “while early evidence indicates that the Celts venerated gods or spirits in both the upper and lower worlds, by the time the myths of Ireland were set down in written form, the focus seems to have shifted almost entirely to the Lower World. The gods and goddesses of Ireland inhabited the sidmounds (under the earth) and also lived near or in bodies of water, as did many deities in Britain and the Continent.”14 The entire scene of the world tree, cats, mice, otter/seal and/or fish on 34r relates the wisdom and knowledge of Christ's deity as a device that describes his character as God throughout time, past, present, and/or future.
There is use of fish-man transmogrification in the genealogy pages of Luke demonstrating that “the close religious affinity between the Celts and animals manifests itself most clearly in two ways: the first concerns the representation of the gods in semi-zoomorphic form; the second is the metamorphosis or shape-changing.”15 On 201r, the fish-man points to the line “Iona” (Figure 2). Scholarship has demonstrated this to be a means of understanding the Book's provenance with Columba, where he established a Christian community and pilgrimage point for the faithful on the island Hy, later to become known as Iona.16 This detail venerates Columba as the dove of the Church according to Adomnan, biographer of Columba and 9th abbot of Iona: “for indeed the dove (Columba) is a simple and innocent bird. Therefore a simple and innocent person was rightly called by this name, since he with dove-like disposition offered the Holy Spirit a dwelling in himself.”17 The fish-man draws attention to the line as the sign of Iona, Latin for Jonah, the sign which Christ gave. This sign appears to make known “the importance of animal sacrifice and ritual for the Celts and for other peoples, as a means of communicating with the supernatural, prompting the question as to what the animals represented. It is possible that beasts were perceived as being close enough to humans to be substitutes for human sacrifice”18 The detail on 201r displays not only a notabeneof the Book's provenance and importance to Columba, but also the significance of the transmogrification of the man-fish to fish throughout the Book and to an allusion of Christ's Eucharistic sacrifice.
Additionally significant regarding the detail on 201r and on 34r, the incipit page of Christ's genealogy, is each detail's association with genealogy. Genealogy is revered by the Celts as a means of associating themselves with ancestors: "the concept of lineage is important in traditional societies, and it is often perceived that the more ancient and more sacred the lineage, the better those ancestral foundations can support the community, The identity of ancestors as well as elders and teachers, often forms part of creation myths. Connection with the past helps members of a community realize their own sacrality and understand that they are part of a greater whole. The ability to walk in the footsteps of the ancestors and follow time-honored traditions guides people in their daily lives and religious activities, which in traditional societies are completely interwoven."19 The fact that a symbolic representation of Columba is grafted onto Christ's lineage founds him as a saint of great import to the Book and likewise connects the fish and/or Christ to the community in an ancestral context. Each part within the detail of the Book on 34r is significantly arranged symmetrically into a triad.20 The triad is the most common form of learning and summarizing a Truth in Celtic tradition and is often used to represent a single personage, namely a deity, but in this reference it is Jesus Christ. Carol Farr describes our context for Kells: "the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon elite who controlled textual and graphic interpretative figures and signs to link indigenous society with a prestigious, authoritative international system, Christianity, as well as to make Christian text and Latin language relevant to themselves and their tradition of learning."21As a readily understood, powerful form of visual communication reserved for honoring the divine, the triadic, symmetric structure increases the power of that deity, suggesting totality and completeness,22fully elaborating the Christological significance on the various Eucharistic levels to the viewer. In the Celtic visual tradition, deities appear accompanied by multiple symbols and the repetition of a given symbol, namely the fish in this instance, thereby magnifies its association with the deity.23 When the fish and other aspects of this detail on folio 34r are contextualized in the greater framework of the Chi-Rho-Iota, Christ's monogram, the fish not only becomes associated with Christ, it effectively changes into a representation of Christ.24 The example of the fish on 34r is a single line of oxgall ink, lacking any color to reveal the vellum or calf skin folio, making Christ effectively known as God Incarnate, literally God in the flesh. Since animals are considered companions and forms of deities in Celtic lore, the importance of the creature to a deity's identity is witnessed here in the fish.25 Its meaning develops dynamically with each occurrence thereafter in the Gospel text. The personage of Christ or Christiand the meaning of the Incarnation is then illustrated with didactic vibrancy, filling in the initial outline of a fish with exuberant, life-like color throughout the text.
Christ's imagodei, or the relation between God and humanity, is expanded where the fish occurs next to text in which Christ speaks or acts out the characteristics of His deity nearly forty times. It predominantly recurs facing the left as an abbreviation punctuation device that contracts the title IesusHominumSalvatoror Jesus Saviour of Men to IHS. The motif also recurs as a cross-stroke device. These qualities of the motif provide a fundamental foundation for learning about Christ's divinity; Christ died on a cross to become Savior of Men. Most note-worthy, where a Jesus Saviour of Men (IHS) and an and or “et” occur intersect together into a singular example, Christ's Eucharistic sacrifice is made clear for the viewer. This example and the verse together on 282v intersect to emphasize the broken body of Christ as He dies on the cross (Figure 3). The crucifixion text reads "and (et) when they came to Calvary they crucified Him there with the robbers. Jesus Savior of Men (IHS) said 'Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing'." At this point in the Gospel, the fish is literally defined and made synonymous with the cue to recognize Him as Saviour of Men through His death on the Cross. The other examples emphasize his personage as Savior of Men who died on a Cross.
The motif's multivalent quality which visually and textually articulates the main tenets of the Gospel, Christ's imagodeiand/or Salvation, continues to occur elsewhere in the manuscript, particularly through full-page miniatures (Figures 4, 5). Christ and His Body as a meditative focal point and the means of Salvation is a theme on 202v and on 114r Carol Farr argues refers to the Passion and specifically to the Crucifixion, where Christ's Body and Blood becomes the Eucharist. Christ's Body is the primary visual point of interest on 114r, where He prostrates Himself in a posture of prayer, in the orans pose, like the faithful assumed. Regarding 114r, “Suzanne Lewis has suggested that the chiastic figura of Christ's Body grasped on either side may depict the cofractiopanisof Iona's Eucharistic rite. The unique text of the institution of the Eucharist presented in Kells supports her suggestion. To the end of verse 26 (hocestenimcorpusmuem), the text of Kells adds quodconfringiturproseculivita, which is 'broken in pieces for the life of the world', using the verb confringo, the root of the term for shared breaking of the host.”26 It is specifically illustrated by the holy enacting Crossfigell, or vigils of the Cross. In InterpretatioRomana, the Celtic divinity Cernunnos, an all-encompassing godhead figure prevalent in the LaTenestyle, the period and style during which the manuscript was written, has been known to be featured in the same oranspose.27The ritual imitation and contemplation of Christ's Passion is instructed in DeArreis, a 7th century Irish text on penance. Accordingly this pose alludes to the triumph of Moses in the Battle of the Amalechites where Moses hands are raised by Aaron and Hur and to the cross as a symbol of triumph over death or Salvation, a device that the fish presents, i.e. the Cross-stroke. The pose is also associated with Transfiguration of Christ. Early exegesis elaborates that the iconography of the Transfiguration is Christ's Body on the Cross becoming the Eucharistic bread and wine. Jennifer O'Reilly has connected 114r with a vast range of patristic and Insular exegesis as an image for contemplation, or ruminatio.28 On 202v, Christ is represented as the head of the Church with its members inside walls that are literally formed by His Body. The column-like figure of this unit is its foundation and support, much like that of the World Tree on 34r. This figure is in the "Osirus Pose", which often appears in Insular art as an apotropaic, Salvific device. It is used as such by exegetes in visual imagery, particularly by Traconius and Augustine who interpret Salvation as the fundamental pillar of the Church, Christ's Body, throughout human history and/or time. The "Osirus Pose", according to Carol Farr thus reflects exegesis of Christ's Body and its members as one unit anchored by Salvation.29 Like these exegetical devices on 202v and on 114r, through ruminatio, the fish motif similarly relates and reveals a multivalent picture of what the Eucharist represents and becomes when instituted. Both examples, 202v and 114r, have been associated with Lent liturgy and exegesis.30 The fish can only be associated thematically and iconographically to these examples at present. It, too, may indicate pericopes significant to days during Lent, possibly proffering a text for each day of the Lenten season. This is particularly evident where the fish occurs on 116r (Figure 6), in the cycle of Christ on Mount Olivet shown on 114r, with the only SPS example reading: "SPS quidem prumtus est (caro vero infirma)" or "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". This example recalls the like unpainted example on the incipit page of the genealogy of Christ miniature, 34r, as the word made flesh. This pericope suggests avoidance of temptation while fasting during Lent.
Daniel McCarthy argues that the figures on 114r are the disciple brothers James and John, the disciple that Christ most loved.31 McCarthy says that John is the figure on the right, shown touching Christ's breast, imagery from the Last Supper. According to this interpretation, the figures are not the aggressors but actors in Christ's Passion playing out, supporting Him in His hour of need. Similarly depicted in the "Bosom of Abraham" is the fish articulating on 254r, crossing the F in Factum is the poor man Lazarus' reception into the comfort of the Father's arms (Figure 7). The reception of God's gift of sacrifice is being enacted for the poor in heart to have faith. This pericope, Luke 16:16-22, expounds upon the special honor endowed to those that lie in the bosom of the master of the feast, the feast being the Communion. In the time of Lent, the time especially connected to the full-page miniatures by Farr, the faithful are in a period of famine paralleling the neediness of the poor man Lazarus and emphasizes the importance of the feast of the Lord to gain deeper understanding of its meaning. This is the only mention of the Bosom of Abraham in both the Old and New Testament; the fish emphasizes its connection to the meaning of the Passion transubstantiating the Eucharist on 114r. The interpretation of James and John being Christ's support alludes to the Paschal controversy, recognizing John over Peter as the champion of the Latercus tradition which was formed in the 7th century. The scribes and artists of the manuscript repeated this multivalent motif nearly forty times over, a significant number that is also perhaps not coincidentally close to the number of days in Lent, to orally and visually disseminate the primary tenets of the Gospel: Jesus Christ, as the Incarnate Son of God, fulfilled mankind's Salvation through the sacrifice of His Body on the Cross.
The manuscript was partially destroyed in Viking raids, doing the most damage to the last Book, the Book of John, so we will never know the exact number of examples these holy men intended to include. However, when the manuscript as a whole and its parts are examined, a larger more definitive picture of what the Gospels represent to human history emerges in an Insular cultural context of transmogrification and mythology that explains the Eucharist. Through meditation, each example of the fish, when considered as a whole of the manuscript, creates an abstract image of the Incarnation, the Eucharist or the Body of Christ, Sacrifice, and collectively the message of Salvation, renewing or enhancing the faithful's understanding. It ascends the viewer(s) into an ethereal realm above the struggles of the present. At the very earliest proposal for Kells' existence, there lived a monk that followed Columba's post as the 9th Abbot of Iona circa 7th century. He wrote ColumbaeVitae (CV), a work on the life of the venerated Saint Columba. CV not only gives insight into how and why Columba became the purported dove of the Church, it provides meaningful awareness into monastic living. The author, Adomnan, set out to describe and provide understanding of its nature and goals and likewise on things monastic we have works from Saint John Cassian dated a century earlier. It was during this time, circa 5th and 6th centuries, that important writings on monastic theology were completed. These Fathers, specifically Saints Cyril of Jerusalem, Theodore of Mopsuestia and John Chrysostom, that compiled these doctrines called upon the faithful to put on their "eyes of faith" or "spiritual eyes". In this visual sense, the faithful experiences the Eucharist on a mental plane rather than that of a physical plane. On this mental plane, the faithful tastes one thing but sees another. It is through this contemplative process that the Eucharist's fullness of experience was understood which Georgia Frank calls "visual gymnastics of an imaginal body". The imaginal body had a "memory palace" that, when assembled together, put on a complete representation of the Eucharist and presented ritual cohesion. Mental imagery was lifted up to heaven to extend the sight of the soul to God. The inventory of fish in Kells, likewise when read and meditated on, creates mental imagery of Jesus Christ's Body and Blood as the Eucharist, or in other words, His Passion.
For the medieval mind to effectively practice mnemonic strategy, or memory devices, when reading and retaining words and/or images, the activity requires an oral and meditative approach. Memory itself has two methods: sight and hearing which are otherwise known respectively as painture and parole. When the artists and/or scribes of Kells composed the Chi-Rho-Iota folio 34r, they saw what Mary Carruthers calls the “visual form” of the work. In other words, the memory of the pages' text, rubrics, paraphs were recalled in their entirety when 34r was composed. Carruthers states that “memoria is stored and inventoried in such divisions (text, rubrics, paraphs), inscribed as visual images; this was the elementary pedagogy which Dante and Lydgate shared, and which long predates them both.”32 Just as St. Jerome exhorts that his distinguere (divisions, marks, punctuation and decoration) be preserved, so too did the scribes and/or artists preserve the iconographic integrity of the fish motif. There is memorial consistency and regard for the initial occurrence of the “visual form” of the fish which continues from 34r in Matthew to John. For the Chi-Rho-Iota initials, “the author is a 'painter', not only in that the letters he composes which have shapes themselves, but in that his words paint pictures in the minds of his readers.”33 Moreover, the visual forms in a book “'speak', they have parole, sometimes literally represented in the form of a voice-scroll,”34 which in a manner of sorts appears at the bottom on 34r as Christi autem generatio. It is an exemplary mnemonic diagram explaining through picturae the cosmological and iconographic locus of Christ. For, “composition begins with the laying out of a mental diagram or picture: 'intrinsica linea cordis'. Linea is often used in medieval memory advice for mnemonic scheme which one uses to store material, whether initially or for one's own composition.”35 This may be why the fish appears only as an outline on 34r; one looks to the rest of the book to flesh out its meaning and purpose. The reader builds a structure in their mind's eye and clothes it with verse: “first we put in place the foundation of the literal meaning [historia]; then through the typological significance we build up a fabric of the mind in the citadel of our faith; and at the end through the grace of our moral understanding, as though with added color we clothe the building.”36 These allegorical, spiritual structures were utilized time and time again: “the scriptural buildings were 'visited' frequently in the annual liturgy of the monastery, and their lineaments could also be cued and recalled sententialiter (reconstructive memory) in various ways by details of actual monastery buildings.”37 Because of the iconographic consistency and the “visual form” that the fish motif creates, Mary Carruthers' assertion that the Chi-Rho-Iota page is not a diagram-picture altogether is presumptuous. Indeed, it is a Christological map that provides a locus of a significant figure, that of the fish, which recurs in the pages to follow. The page 34r does not stand alone; it relates to the whole of the Book, using the fish as a cue that points subsequently to significant verses and loci. The scribes and/or artists developed a mental plane that, through mnemonic devices, the fish's inventio, its invention and its inventory, enables access to locis sanctis, a new Jerusalem, which is an idea conceived by Adomnán in De Locis Sanctis.
The fish is further emphasized as a symbol of Christ and His Body, literally “the word made flesh”, in the beginning of John's Gospel. There is a direct parallel between the fish and John's biblical perspective illustrated in Kells. Kells' full-page miniature of the Evangelist draws comparison directly to the Holy Land through the symbolic representation of John, specifically through the diagram that is his nimbus. This full-page miniature, according to Bernard Meehan, “bears a strong resemblance to the round church built over 'the Lord's Sepulchre' in Jerusalem, with corridors, three rotundas and twelve supporting columns.”38 Sources known to be available to the monks on Iona would have included Isadore's Etymologiae and De natura rerum. In these sources, examples which may have inspired the imagery for John's nimbus included T-O maps. These maps display a circle, with the outer most circle representing the Ocean in its entirety and the T in the center representing great rivers like the Danube and Nile. The negative space inside the circle surrounding the T includes the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The outer most circle is significant because the Ocean is a metaphor for the vastness of the desert and the trials ecclesiastics face in travel.39 This journey is imagined on Iona: “when a monk stood on Iona facing southeast, he would have imagined that once one had crossed two short areas of water (from Iona to Britain and from Britain to Gaul-- both trips frequently made) that ahead of him was a vast land-mass stretching on to Jerusalem and then out to the Asiatic coast of the same Ocean he was looking at. To his back the Ocean stretched an even greater distance. And the Ocean was a impassable body of water heaving and tossing without interruption.”40 There are also biblical connections to mapping the circle.
In the Gospel of Luke 24:27, concentric circles imagined the Ocean as the most outer circle, the next inner most circle represented the ends of the earth, the subsequent inner most circle represented places mentioned in the Scriptures and the very most inner circle is Jerusalem, making four concentric circles which parallels the number of concentric circles in the Saint John full-page miniature. The circle of the “ends of the earth” is to include the British Isles, for once the message is heard “it has been preached 'from the rising of the sun to its setting.'”41 We know the mapping of such an image is possible through sources from Isadore, for example, and the De Locis Sanctis (DLS) written in the 7th century on Iona by the Abbot Saint Adomnán. Arculf the Gaulish Bishop that was shipwrecked on Iona divulged his experiences and recollections of the Holy Land to Adomnán. He dedicated one-third of his book to Jerusalem; after reading it contemporary ecclesiastics had not only a sense of place but also a mental image of the city.42 Moreover, there is a continuity of topography between Adomnán's account and the Bible that the author emphasizes; the work is viewed as more than just Arculf the pilgrim's reiteration, it's a liturgical device that places you in the Holy Land.43 Adomnán viewed space in concentric circles with Jerusalem at the center of everything, literally the axis mundi.
The Christian faith in its entirety is based around the idea of a destination and “has been ideally suited to having geographical images as the basic metaphors in its spirituality.”44 In this tradition of topography, “we could tease out the traditional formula 'God became man in Jesus the Christ' to be 'God became man in Jesus the Christ who lived and died in the places 'according to the Scriptures.'”45 As is the case with the text and image in the Book of Kells, “text and drawing working as a single mental image played an important role in the DLS; Adomnán used the image, interacted with it, and developed it as a means of knowing his own location.”46 This connection between topography and Christ supplies greater understanding of Jesus, the study of Christology, and is thus the basis of research into these places where Jesus once dwelt.47 As a whole, DLS provides a moral lesson to travelers headed towards the Gates of Judgment, providing an image at the beginning of the Gates of Heaven and at the end the entrance to hell.48 The Father Augustine reflected on Jerusalem “on apostolic authority it becomes clear to us that the earthly city [of Jerusalem] points not only to itself, but also points to another city, the heavenly one of which it is the image and which is serves.” O'Laughlin sees this as suggesting every reference to the earthly city is also a statement about the one to come and suggests that Adomnán views the city as being nothing other than the house of God and the Gate of Heaven.49 The reader of the DLS sees the Body of Christ as a whole, without boundaries, no matter the location, beyond the Holy Land and all the way to Iona are as one; one cult and one liturgy.50 As a device of the liturgy, “the liturgical space of the monks was perceived by them as an analogue of the Holy City, at once the historical city of Jerusalem and the final city. Liturgy was perceived as transporting its participants backwards in time to the original events in Palestine, and bringing them forward to the final times in the new and eternal Jerusalem; in so doing it transformed their space from somewhere in the British Isles into being a ritual surrogate of the Holy Places.”51 There is a textual tradition that intermingles word with image evident between the fish and Saint John's full-page miniature which enhances the readers perception of the New Jerusalem, more specifically the heavenly Jerusalem, through which the Universal Body of Christ enters into the Gates of Heaven.
The visual devices of this Book related to the early insular holy men and their aristocratic networks that then in turn relayed the message to their communities.52 Their message to the community melded the gods and constructs of their culture with that of Christianity: "the Irish aristocracy, who had an interest in merging themselves with the international order of Christianity, updated and enhanced their high status by placing their pre-Christian history within this framework of the story of universal salvation."53 Examination of the motif, its corresponding text in relation to its contemporary Insular liturgy, and full-page miniatures that reflect the same themes provides further insight into its exegetical role, teaching a comprehensive meaning of the Eucharist and possibly serve a purpose in Lent or Easter for the practicing monastics and clerical elite. The conditions under which the Book was created is suggested as being literally in the dark. Historically for the Celts, creativity is believed to have especially occurred when there was a void of light.54Ailean Duinn, a song from the 1700s, alludes to the fish and the seal, both of which are located on 34r, as being the writers' light and security in dark times: “I am sitting alone under a shroud Early in the morning I am rising O dark Alan, death's journeys be with you. If the wood is your pillow If the seaweed is your bed If the fish are your bright candles If the seals are your watchmen Drinking a draught through rage with each one From the blood of your bosom, and you dead.”55 The song is a dirge dedicated to the dead and grievance. It was written as a gesture of reassurance that the dead be cared for in the Underworld with the fish as the guide of light and the seal as security. This song demonstrates a sense of symbolic purpose of the fish enduring well into modernity as a Salvific figure.
1 Miranda Green, CelticMyths, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993), 7-8. 2 Carol Farr, The Book of Kells: Its Function and Audience, (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1997), 18. 3 Carol Farr, The Book of Kells: ItsFunctionandAudience, 45. 4 E.H. Alton, EvangeliorumquattuorCodexCenannensis, (Bern:Urs Graf-Verlag, 1950) 40, 51. 5 Francoise Henry, The Book of Kells: ReproductionsfromtheManuscriptinTrinityCollegeDublin, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), 209. 6 Miranda Green, Celtic Myths, (Austin, University of Texas Press, 1993), 56. 7 Miranda Green, Celtic Myths, 63. 8 Miranda Green, Animals in Celtic Life and Myth, (London; New York, Routledge, 1992), 95-96. 9 Francoise Henry, The Book of Kells: Reproductionsfrom the Manuscript in Trinity CollegeDublin, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1977), 199. 10 Hilda Davidson, Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions, (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 75) 1988. 11 Carol Farr, The Book of Kells: ItsFunctionandAudience, 23. 12 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012), 65-66. 13 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, 67. 14 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, 68 . 15Miranda Green, Celtic Myths, 62. 16 Paul Meyvaert, The Book of Kells and Iona, Art Bulletin 71 (March 1989) 6-19. 17 Paul Meyvaert, The Book of Kells and Iona, Art Bulletin 71 (March 1989) 9. 18 Miranda Green, Animals in Celtic Life and Myth, 96. 19 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, 123. 20 Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition,(London, Routledge, 1967), 350. 21Carol Farr, The Book of Kells: Its Function and Audience. 22 Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art, (London: Routledge, 1989), 169. 23 Barry Cunliffe, The Ancient Celts, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 113. 24 Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art, 169. 25 Anne Ross, Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition, 7. 26Carol Farr, The Book of Kels: Its Function and Audience, 132-133. 27 Phyllis Fray, "Cernunnos: Origin and Transformation of a Celtic Divinity", American Journal of Archaeology 55, 1 (Jan. 1951) 14-15. 28Carol Farr, The Book of Kels: Its Function and Audience, 105. 29Carol Farr, The Book of Kels: Its Function and Audience, 71. 30Carol Farr, The Book of Kells: Its Function and Audience. 31 Daniel McCarthy, The Illustration and Text of the Book of Kells, Folio 114r, Studies in Iconography, Vol. 35, (Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University, 2014), 1-38. 32 Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory, 225. 33 Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory, 229. 34 Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory, 229. 35 Mary Carruthers, “The Poet as Master Builder: Composition and Locational Memory in the Middle Ages”, 889. 36 Mary Carruthers, “The Poet as Master Builder: Composition and Locational Memory in the Middle Ages”, 891. 37 Mary Carruthers, “The Poet as Master Builder: Composition and Locational Memory in the Middle Ages”, 893. 38Bernard Meehan, The Book of Kells: Official Guide, (London: Thames & Hudson, 2018), 55. 39Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 161. 40Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 163. 41Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 162, 164. 42Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places: The Perceptions of an Insular Monk on the Locations of the Biblical Drama, (London: T&T Clark, 2007), 7. 43Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 19. 44Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 149. 45Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 22. 46Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 151. 47Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 22. 48Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 139. 49Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 159. 50Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 169. 51Thomas O'Laughlin, Adomnán and the Holy Places, 209. 52Carol Farr, The Book of Kells Its Function and Audience, 116. 53Carol Farr, The Book of Kells Its Function and Audience, 134. 54 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, 71. 55 Sharon Paice MacLeod, CelticMyth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Belief, with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems andSongs, 200-201.