The Art of the Celts

Celtic Art,  born of the melding of the principles of the Druidic religion and the oral traditions of the Celtic people, displays an intensity  of colour, intricacy and symbolism to equal that of the world’s finest styles of religious art.

Belt Buckle
Belt Buckle

It is generally agreed by both art historians and archaeologists that the term Celtic Art refers to works produced in Southern and Northern

The evangelist St. Matthew from the Book of Lindisfarne
The evangelist St. Matthew
from the Book of Lindisfarne

Europe, Britain and  Ireland from around 1000 B.C. until the Roman conquest.

The Celtic artist worked with stone, wood, leather metal and paint in a style which has become characterised by its abstract nature, balance of form, delicacy, brightness of colour and complicated knot works of labyrinthine design and exquisite  reproduction.


KNOT WORK DESIGNS  –  The Thread of Life

Knotwork Cross Grahame Atkinson

The human soul, it is believed, is a fragment of the divine and will ultimately return to its divine source.  Through successive rebirths the soul rids itself of accumulated, inherited, impurities, until it finally achieves the goal of perfection.

The interlaced knot work patterns so prevalent in Celtic art, symbolize the process of humankind’s eternal spiritual growth.  The concentration utilized in the demanding repetitive task of unravelling the knots is used in a similar way to a mantra or rosary beads to reach the very heart of our nature .

Entrance Stone, Newgrange  County Meath
Entrance Stone, Newgrange County Meath

SPIRALS  –  The Cosmic Symbols

The spiral is the natural form of growth.  In every culture, past and present, it has become a symbol of eternal life.  The whorls painted by

Spirals from the Book of Durrow
Spirals from the Book of Durrow

the Celtic monks represented the continuous creation and dissolution of the world; the passages between spirals symbolized the divisions between life, death and rebirth.  At the centre of the spiral, there is complete balance: the point where heaven and earth are joined.



The animals and birds were sacred to the celts and many of their gods and spirits are represented with bird or animal parts.  Shape-shifting, or changing of form, was said to have been used by the Druids and by the deities in early legends, and also by semi-mythological characters who adopted the form of an animal.

Examples from The Staffordshire hoard
Examples from The Staffordshire hoard

Zoomorphic and anthropomorphic ornaments show us that nothing is as it first appears; plants turn into tails,and interlacing and weaving develop a head, legs or feet.  These intricate patterns first appeared in the Bronze Age in Britain and Ireland.  The craftsmen fashioned them into a complicated contortion of bodies, but they kept the motif still logical and conforming with nature.TREE OF LIFE

Celtic Artist