Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A page from the 7th century Book of Durrow.
Note the paisley-like motifs that help support the circles.

Detail of embroidered Mass vestment from the Cathedral
at Loughea, built 1897-1903.

Since prehistoric times, it seems that the people of Ireland have been drawn to the visual power of circles and concentric shapes. Stone circles appear to have been dated there to the Bronze Age. Early Christian manuscripts are concentric super stars with illumination ranging from the long, skinny snake-like forms of St. Patrick's least-favorite animals to closely-knotted forms that work so well with the monk's calligraphy.  The Book of Kells of the 9th century is one best-known examples of this.

Although not in the center spotlight, paisley-like forms were generated as an occasional counterbalance to tightly-locked circular forms, see the page from the 7th century Book of Durrow.

The motif, called "boteh" in Persia and "buti" in India, owes its full formation to the leadership of Mughal Emperor Akbar (1542-1605) in the Kashmir valley of perfect goats, textile-dying conditions and master shawl weavers.

Throughout 19th century Europe, the vestments of Roman Catholic priests worn for Mass  often featured the motif, although there were some earlier evidences as well.  Here is an example from the Cathedral at Loughrea county, Galway, built 1897-1903.   Center is a trefoil paisley-like motif that most likely references the Trinity.  At the secondary circles, naturalistic ears of rye.  The outermost circles show the characteristic Celtic knotted motifs. JP