This year's 2016/17 Dalrymple Lecture Series is being delivered by Professor Roger Stalley on Ireland and the art of stone carving in early medieval Europe, beginning on Monday, November 14, 2016, at 6.30pm in the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow (corner of Gibson Street and University Avenue).

14-17 November 2016

Ireland and the art of stone carving in early medieval Europe

MonasterboiceThe art of stone carving was largely forgotten during the early medieval ages: only in Britain and Ireland was there sustained production of sculptured monuments. By the tenth century Irish craftsmen were producing remarkably ambitious crosses, embellished with panels of sophisticated figure sculpture and intricate ornament; these were the so-called ‘Celtic crosses’, later to become prime emblems of Irish national identity. In many ways it is surprising that Irish sculpture followed a very different path from contemporary carving in England and Scotland, the reasons for which have never been adequately explained. In recent decades attention has focussed on iconography and questions of meaning, but other intriguing issues are still to be explored. The ambitious engineering of the crosses, for example, deserves to be better known, so too the identity of the patrons who commissioned the crosses, as well as the sculptors who made them. Although recognised as great works of art, the significance of the Irish monuments in the history of European sculpture is yet to be fully defined.

6.30pm 14 November – 1. The sculptor and his craft: the major crosses of Ireland were remarkable pieces of engineering, something that has an important bearing on their function and the nature of their patronage. This talk will for the first time investigate how they made, tracking progress from quarry to finished product, a journey involving quarrying techniques, tools, transport, cranes and scaffolds.

6.30pm 15 November – 2. The search for meaning: the crosses were major investments but who commissioned them and why? The panels of figure sculpture offer some clues, but the iconographies can be difficult to interpret and their meanings likewise obscure. This talk will offer a critique of past approaches and suggest some new avenues of investigation.

6.30pm 16 November – 3. Artistic Identity: sharp distinctions in style are to be found amongst the sculptors, reflecting individual personalities and diverse experience; this talk will show that major craftsmen were clearly individuals of status, men like the so-called ‘Muiredach Master’, pre-eminent amongst the sculptors of early medieval Europe.

7.30pm 17 November – 4. Stone carving in the early medieval world. In the nineteenth century the high crosses were regarded as a spectacular proof of the civilization of ancient Ireland; but were they an indigenous development or dependent on models introduced from abroad from late Antiquity or Carolingian Europe? This talk will demonstrate that, when it comes to artistic expression, the importance of the local environment must never be underestimated.

Lectures take place in the Sir Charles Wilson Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow (corner of Gibson Street and University Avenue)


About the Lecturer

Until his retirement in 2010, Roger Stalley was Professor of the History of Art at Trinity College, Dublin. The author of seven books and over one hundred articles, he is a medievalist with a broad range of interests in art and architecture. His publications include The Cistercian Monasteries of Ireland (1987), Early Medieval Architecture (1999) and, as co-author, Irish Gothic Architecture (2014). He has given invited lectures to audiences in many different countries, both in Europe and the USA. As well as architecture, his interests encompass early sculpture in Britain and Ireland, along with the painting of the Book of Kells. In 2000 he was elected a member of Academia Europaea; he is currently serving as Vice-President of the Royal Irish Academy.