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Celtic Patterns

Celtic patterns represent a unique form of art influenced by earlier cultures and coming into its own in the 7th century. Like other forms of art, a review of its history will show commonalities as well as adaptations in its design. If, for nothing else, it is a fantastic journey into the evolution of Celtic art.

Celtic Patterns

History of Celtic Patterns

One of the most enduring patterns found in Celtic art is the interlaced knot. Though used by other cultures, Celtic art took this quintessential element to new areas of sophistication and intricate design. The design shows the influence of Christians on Celtic art.

Prior to the 7th century, Celtic art was filled with motifs of spirals, key, and step patterns. The evolution into the interlaced knot gave it what is now believed to be a symbolic meaning. The interlace knot forms an endless pattern of alternating lines. While the meaning is not clear, the prevalence of this design suggests it had some type of significance.

Other symbols appeared in Celtic art. Animal figures using the same type of endless design are also prevalent, suggesting almost a mythical function of early art. One can find several animal patterns fused into one interlaced design, not unlike the imaginary animals seen on family crests.

A religious influence certainly could be inferred with the publication of the "Book of Kells" around 800 A.D. The book depicts the Gospel with intricate, masterly designed artwork of Celtic patterns. From this high point, Celtic art rose and waned through the centuries until its revival in the 19th century. What remained constant was the endless pattern of overlapping lines.

Celtic Revival

The history of Celtic patterns is important to understanding what it has become today. One of the pivotal events was the discovery of the Tara Brooch in 1850. The popularity of Celtic art took off after jewelry copies were purchased by royalty including Queen Victoria. No longer was Celtic art the artwork of the ancients.

The design of Celtic patterns began to change. No longer were the old rules of design sacrosanct. Instead, the designs took on a life of their own. New patterns such as the High Crosses for public monuments began to appear. Variations of the interlaced knot emerged along with new design techniques such as crosshatching.

Modern Celtic Design

Today's Celtic design is a blend of ancient art, craftsmanship, and innovative design. While the sophistication and elegance of Celtic art still exists, the retro designs are their own art form.

While the meaning of the symbolism of the designs is unconfirmed, modern Celtic design is quick to assign modern meaning to Celtic symbols. What could be a greater sign of love and devotion than the interlaced knot with its representation of infinity?

Celtic knots may represent other religious symbols such as the Holy Trinity. The endless design of the High Crosses could be a symbol of the continued presence of God and religion. Viewing ancient art with modern eyes cast all kinds of contemporary meanings to patterns that may have meant something very different in context of the time.

Recreating Design Elements

Another aspect of viewing Celtic patterns considers how the symbols were created. Looking back at the interlaced knot, the spirals, and animal-like designs, one has to wonder how the ancients created these symmetrical designs. In some ways, they are not unlike the ancient Egyptian pyramids since their methods of design and creation are lost to the ages.

In 1951, George Bain developed a method for creating Celtic knots that was later revised by his son, Lain. The use of a simple rectangular grid of squares makes these designs workable for just about anyone. The mystery solved, new avenues opened up for taking the Celtic design elements on new paths of creativity and innovation.

Celtic art merely laid the foundation for what is now its own type of art. The art designed by the ancient Celts is now done digitally by computers. The mystery of the ancient symbols is open to new interpretation and the shroud of the mystery of Celtic art has been drawn back for all to see.