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The fourth great achievement of Irish art was religious stonework.During the period 750-1150, Irish sculptors working within monasteries created a series of Celtic High Cross Sculptures which constitute the most significant body of free-standing sculpture produced between the collapse of the Roman Empire (c.450) and the beginning of the Italian Renaissance (c.1450).This High Cross sculpture represents Ireland's major sculptural contribution to the history of art.The ringed High Crosses fall into two basic groups, depending on the type of engravings and relief-work displayed.In addition to their role as centres of religious devotion and Christian art, they invested significantly in ecclesiastical icons, such as the above-mentioned chalices (Derrynaflan, Ardagh), shrines and processional crosses, the production of which required the maintenance of a busy forge and blacksmithery, and the retention of numerous craftsmen.Finally, as well as a busy scriptorium (for illuminated manuscripts) and forge (for precious metalwork), from around 750 onwards monasteries also paid for an important program of biblical sculpture which was to become the next great achievement of Irish art.With much of Europe experiencing a cultural stagnation due to the chaos and uncertainty which prevailed after the fall of Rome and the onset of the Dark Ages, the Church authorities selected Ireland as a potential base for the spread of Christianity and around 450 CE despatched St Patrick in the role of missionary.His success, and that of his followers (St Patrick, St.

The third great achievement of Irish art was the production of a series of ever more magnificent illuminated manuscripts, consisting of intricately illustrated Biblical art with lavishly decorated panels (occasionally whole "carpet" pages) of Celtic-style animal or ribbon interlace, spirals, knotwork, human faces, animals, and the like, all executed with the utmost precision and sometimes embellished with precious metals like gold and silver leaf.It was these Celtic designs - notably the Celtic spiral designs, the intricate Celtic interlace patterns and of course the Celtic crosses - that would inspire the next three major achievements in Irish visual art.Unlike Britain and the Continent, Ireland's geographic remoteness prevented colonization by Rome.These works can be viewed at Trinity College Dublin Library or the Royal Irish Academy.These biblical treasures gave rise to a gradual but significant renaissance in Irish art (sometimes called Hiberno-Saxon style or Insular art), which spread via the monastic network to Iona, Scotland, Northern England and the Continent.

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