Jennifer O’Reilly



               From the extensive range of Early Christian iconography in the Mediterranean world the theme which dominated insular gospel book illustration was that of the four gospels themselves, depicted by portraits of their authors and of their symbolic beasts, the man, the lion, the calf and the eagle.  The Book of Durrow and the Echternach Gospels preface each of the four gospel texts with a whole-page picture of its appropriate Evangelist symbol, a practice followed in the surviving fragments of the gospel book now divided between London, B.L. Cotton Otho C V and Cambridge, C.C.C. 197B.[1]  Alternatively, as in the large and splendid Barberini Gospels, the Evangelists were each depicted enthroned in whole-page author portraits; the small Irish ‘pocket gospels’ such as the Book of Mulling, the Book of Dimma and the Cadmug Gospels also preface each gospel with a portrait of its author, but usually show them standing.[2]  In the third main type, (for example the Lindisfarne, Lichfield, St Gall and Macregol Gospels) Evangelist author portraits prefacing individual gospels are each accompanied by the appropriate symbolic beast.[3]

               In addition to these three main types used to preface the four individual gospels within a manuscript, the codex might have a prefatory whole-page depiction of all four symbolic beasts arranged within the quadrants of a Cross (as in the Book of Durrow, the Trier Gospels and the Macdurnan Gospels).[4]  In the Lichfield Gospels it is possible that each of the four gospels originally had such a prefatory four-symbols page, in addition to a portrait of its own Evangelist accompanied by his appropriate symbol: the manuscript would thus have had at least eight whole pages, rather than the more usual four or five, devoted to the depiction of the Evangelists and their symbols.  In the Book of Kells, where the range of figural subject matter is much increased, the symbolic beasts extend into the prefatory glossary of Hebrew names and the canon tables and the gospel theme fills thirteen folios: more are almost certainly missing.[5]

               The images have been variously interpreted.  Pictures of the Evangelists may be seen as deriving not only their form but their function from antique author portraits.  Evangelists and their symbols could be regarded as forming pictorial captions or title pages for the codex and its four constituent texts or as part of the decorative enrichment of a book that was also an important liturgical object.  Some images of the Evangelists or their symbolic beasts have been seen as apotropaic guardians of the sacred text; some Evangelist portraits, such as the numinous images of St John in the Lindisfarne Gospels f. 209v and the Book of Kells f. 291v, may have functioned as devotional icons.  Such reasonable and compatible interpretations do not fully explain why the Evangelists and their beasts rather than, say, Christ and the apostles, should form the insistently recurring subject matter - usually the only figural images - in books produced in various insular locations over a long period of time in a society which was open to diverse cultural influences.

               Paul Underwood, Herbert Kessler and others long ago argued convincingly that certain images of the Evangelists and their symbols in Carolingian gospel books and New Testament frontispieces have an exegetical function and convey theological concepts developed in patristic exegesis on the four gospels which had already to some extent been expressed in pictorial form in Early Christian art.[6]  The problems of similarly discerning theological meaning in the highly stylised or abstract idiom of early insular art are formidable.  Carolingian scholars have the advantage of working with images which have appropriated the modes of Mediterranean representational art much more fully, have a more detailed iconography and are often helpfully annotated with tituli.  Specific features of the images of gospel harmony which open the gospels in many Carolingian manuscripts

have been explained by the standard prefatory materials in which they are positioned, especially Jerome's exegetical text on the four gospels known by its opening words as Plures fuisse.  Scholars can also point to other evidence of continued Carolingian interest in specific themes in this patristic tradition by referring to Carolingian exegesis, notably the work of Hrabanus Maurus. 

               In 1971 Robert McNally drew attention to a considerable body of earlier, Hiberno-Latin exegesis on the four Evangelists.[7]  This literature is extensive and varied.  The theme occupies some twenty-two double-columned folios in the late eighth-century compilation known as the Irish Reference Bible and the text-book nature of other works which also had a continuing life in the Carolingian period suggests a wide audience.  Studies of insular gospel book illustration have

     made relatively little use of the material, however.  There are understandable reasons for the scholarly divide, apart from the problems of interpreting early insular images already referred to.  The expanding corpus of exegetical works now thought to have been produced in Ireland in the seventh and eighth centuries and in continental houses influenced by Irish traditions, has survived only in ninth-century and later continental manuscripts with didactic and encyclopaedic functions different from those of illustrated gospel books designed for liturgical or devotional purposes. Technical questions concerning the date, origins and inter-connections of Hiberno-Latin texts containing material on the four gospels remain unresolved; none of these texts has been translated, very few are available in critical editions, important examples remain unpublished.[8] 

               Also, it would be misleading to imply that this material holds the key to the instant unlocking of the ‘meaning’ of insular gospel book illumination.  The pictures do not directly illustrate the exegetical texts and their iconographic conventions proceed from other, non-literary sources.  What the texts offer the modern cultural historian is the testimony of Irish or Irish-influenced material on subject matter shared with contemporary insular gospel book images which may reveal something of the mind of the contemporary reader and of the intellectual rather than the artistic milieu in which the images were produced.  The texts show both a close familiarity with patristic traditions on the four gospels and a continuing, vigorous exegetical tradition with its own characteristics.  The single most influential patristic source is Jerome's Plures fuisse text from the introduction to his commentary on Matthew's gospel.  A number of the Irish texts also restate or elaborate Jerome's explanation of the Eusebian canon tables of gospel concordances which is set out in his letter Novum opus; as will be seen one, two or even all three of these fourth-century works on the harmony of the gospels were included in the prefatory materials of many insular gospel books.  The practice of placing images of all four Evangelist symbols in the prefatory materials of some insular gospel books and of positioning the individual Evangelists (or their symbols or both) either facing or preceding the enlarged and highly embellished opening words of their respective gospel texts finds some broad parallel in the Irish commentators' development of the patristic technique of characterising the four gospels, both their individual distinctiveness and their unity, through describing their authors and symbolic beasts and by identifying them with the opening lines of their respective gospels.  Study of the exegesis may give some insight into what kinds of associations the gospel book images could have prompted for contemporaries.

               As a preliminary to such future research the present paper has the limited objective of making the Hiberno-Latin exegetical tradition on the four gospels more widely known.  It surveys some of the inherited themes and acquired characteristics of the tradition, partly by citing examples not included in Robert McNally's paper, notably from Angers 55, Munich Clm 6235 and Munich Clm. 6233.  Secondly, it gives an example of how this material might be of use in the study of insular gospel book illustration. 



               The two well-known scriptural visions of the four winged living creatures with the features of a man, a lion, a young bull and an eagle do not, in fact, associate them with the gospels at all and provide few of the visual details for the representation of the four Evangelists' symbolic beasts in the West.  The theological significance of the visions is important, however, for understanding features of the large body of interpretation they attracted.  The Old Testament association of four living creatures with the revelation of the divinity of Yahweh in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek 1:4-16) is drawn upon in the New Testament as a means of revealing the divinity and majesty of Christ.  The series of apocalyptic visions revealed to St John in which the four living creatures appear around the divine throne amid cosmic portents forms an extended theophany evoking all creation, encompassing all time and space (Rev. 4-7).  The very number of the living creatures is underscored by the four-square nature of the earth, with angels standing at its four corners, holding back the four winds (Rev. 7:1).  Apocalyptic literature was traditionally concerned with the revelation of the secrets of the cosmos and in patristic exegesis the four living creatures were assimilated to existing cosmological concepts in which space, time and matter were seen as part of a fourfold ordering: the four winds or cardinal directions; the four seasons of the year; the elements of earth, air, fire and water; their properties of heat, cold, dryness and moisture; the four humours of the human microcosm.  The underlying unity of this quadripartite world was seen to flow from its divine Creator made known in Christ and revealed in the harmonious testimony of the four gospels. 

               The cosmological significance of the number four was therefore a key to the exegetical identification of the four living creatures as symbols of the four Evangelists.  This in turn became an important part of the early Church's manifold attempts to define and defend orthodox teaching against heretics and unbelievers critical of contradictions within scripture and particularly of discrepancies between the various gospels.  One solution was that of Tatian who produced a single harmonised version of the various accounts known as the Diatessaron, but the main thrust of Christian apologists was to demonstrate that the four gospels were in fact a single Gospel whose fourfold expression revealed distinctive but entirely complementary facets of the same source and truth.[9]  This was given practical demonstration in concordances, notably the canon tables devised by Eusebius of Caesarea.

               The process of defending the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - from heretics who would add to their number or detract from their content however, began long before the authoritative inclusion of the four in Jerome's Vulgate or the eloquent resolution of their differences in Augustine's

De consensu evangeliarum.  Already in the work of Irenaeus (c.131-200) the argument is well-developed: since God the great artificer made all things in due proportion and measure it is fitting that the outward aspect of the Gospel too should be well arranged and harmonised and its fourfold form should ‘admit neither an increase nor diminution’.  The argument is substantiated both by reference to the self-evident quadripartite formation of the whole universe and then by reference to scripture, particularly the two visions of the four living creatures.[10]  The four beasts are mystically interpreted as images of the Son of God.  Each is related to one of the four Evangelists and the opening passage of each gospel is expounded to reveal a particular facet of the nature of Christ the Creator-Logos.  The four gospels are shown to be in harmony with each other and, indeed, to embody the unity of the whole of divine revelation through the four epochs of human history.  The fourfold gospel is the unifying pillar and ground of the whole Church (cf 1 Tim 3:15) which extends to the four cardinal points of the world.

               Expositions of other scriptural ‘fours‘ became incorporated in a growing body of patristic exegesis on the fourfold Gospel.  St Ambrose in De paradiso cap. 3, for example, took the Genesis description of the garden of Eden and the four paradisal rivers flowing from a single source (Gen 2: 8-14) as an image of the fertile soul watered from a single fount, Christ, by the rivers of the four cardinal virtues each associated with one of the four ages of the world.  The related interpretation of the paradisal garden as the world-wide Church watered by the four gospels became one of the most constant features of the patristic tradition inherited by Hiberno-Latin writers appearing in Genesis commentaries and introductions to the gospels.  Jerome's introduction to his commentary on Matthew's gospel used the image in defending the four canonical gospels against spurious and heretical versions through expounding the significance of their number and its parallels concealed in Scripture.  The four rivers of paradise watering the whole earth are, like the four rings at the corners of the Ark of the Covenant by which the shrine was carried, thus revealed as prefiguring the relationship between the fourfold Gospel and the Church.[11]    

               Secondly, Jerome demonstrates the veracity and authority of the four gospels by supplying details about the place and circumstances of their composition and particularly their sources of information: Christ himself in the case of Matthew and John, Peter and Paul in the case of Mark and Luke.  Finally, Jerome links and expounds the two scriptural visions of the four living creatures.  Characterising each gospel by reference to its opening passage, he relates each of the four faces of the four living creatures in Ezekiel's vision to one of the four Evangelists in an order which differs from that of Irenaeus but was to become standard: the first face, that of a man, designates Matthew who opens his Gospel by recounting Christ's human descent, beginning with the words, Liber generationis Iesus Christi filii David filii Abraham.  The second signifies Mark in whom the voice of the lion in the desert is heard, Vox clamantis in deserto: parate viam Domini, rectas facite semitas eius.  Luke is prefigured in the third, the face of the calf or young ox because his gospel opens with the priest Zachariah; fourthly, the gospel of John soars on the wings of an eagle and hastens to tell of the Word (an allusion to John's opening passage about Christ's divinity, ‘In the beginning was the Word...’ which Jerome had already quoted in describing the gospel writers).

               In his commentary on the Book of Ezekiel, Jerome again parallels the four beasts with their corresponding Evangelists and gospel openings, linking the four living creatures in Ezekiel's vision with St John's apocalyptic vision of Christ's majesty and also with a third theophany, Isaiah's vision of the seraphim in the Temple (Isa.1:1-6).  Jerome then relates the quadriga of the gospels which go out over all the earth to other sets of four whose diverse components also form a unity: the four elements, the four seasons, the four cardinal virtues, the four directions or parts of the earth.[12]

               Gregory's homilies on Ezekiel, delivered in Rome in 593, reinforce Jerome's identification of the four living creatures of Ezekiel's vision with the four Evangelists in the order Matthew-man; Mark-lion; Luke-calf; John-eagle and allude to the four gospel openings which explain those pairings:

               Nam quia ab humana generatione coepit, iure per hominem Mattaeus; quia per clamorem in deserto, recte per leonem Marcus; quia a sacrificio exorsus est, bene per vitulum Lucas; quia vero a divinitate Verbi coepit, digne per aquilam significatur Iohannes, quii dicens, In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum.[13]


Gregory's important contribution to the tradition was to show how each gospel, as epitomised by its opening lines and characterised by its symbolic beast, reveals a particular aspect of the redemption of humanity wrought by Christ who became a man at his birth, a (sacrificial) ox at his death, a (waking) lion at his resurrection and an eagle at his ascension.  The image of the four creatures which was applied both to Christ and the four Evangelists was also applied at length to the individual spiritual life.  Gregory devoted eight homilies to Ezekiel 1 alone, every detail of the physical appearance of the four creatures prompting theological exposition.  They had the likeness of a man (1:5), referring to him who 'took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men' (Phil 2:7).  Each of the four creatures had the face of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle because each Evangelist shares in the fulness of truth, for example in Matthew's insight into the Incarnation; each had four wings on which to fly and contemplate the incarnate Lord's divinity; they all had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides signifying the four cardinal directions and the corners of the world to which the Gospel is taken and the four cardinal virtues.  Ezekiel's enigmatic description of the four living creatures et aspectus earum et opera, quasi si sit rota in medio rotae, (Ezek 1:16) is seen as revelatory of the relationship of the Old Testament containing or prefiguring the New, of the fourfold harmony not of the gospels alone but of the Law and the Prophets, the Evangelists and the Apostles.  The harmony of the whole of divine revelation in the Old and New Testaments is also demonstrated in the image of the two cherubim placed over the propitiatory of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:18-22). 


                                               TRANSMISSION OF THE PATRISTIC TRADITION

Although Jerome's order and pairing of the Evangelists, followed by Gregory, became the standard one, there were variant elements in the patristic tradition which were also preserved by insular commentators.  The Book of Durrow, for example, presents the texts of the four gospels in the usual Vulgate order of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but the individual symbol pages prefacing each gospel are arranged in the order: man, eagle, calf, lion.  This is the order of pairing favoured by Irenaeus and used in anonymous verses which prefaced some copies of the fourth-century biblical epic Historia Evangelia by Juvencus and they are inscribed, in whole or in part, in three other illuminated gospel books of Irish origin or association, the Cadmug, MacRegol and MacDurnan Gospels.[14]  In the prologue to his commentary on Luke's gospel, Bede defends another order: Matthew-lion, Mark-man, Luke-calf, John-eagle which he had used in his commentary on the Apocalypse, citing the authority of Augustine's De consensu evangelistarum I, 6.  Augustine's preferred ordering is also quite frequently cited in Hiberno-Latin exegesis.[15]  The modern editor of Adamnán, the ninth abbot of Columba's monastic foundation at Iona (679-704) notes Adamnán's familiarity with Jerome's Vulgate biblical text and his commentary on Matthew's gospel and observes that 'practically the whole corpus of Jerome's writings must have been known and

 studied throughout the Columban monasteries at this time’'.[16]  Nearly a century earlier Columbanus, who had been educated at Bangor, wrote from the continent to Gregory the Great in 600 showing great veneration for Jerome and specifically mentioning that he had read the first six books of Jerome's commentary on Ezekiel and requesting that Gregory should send him a copy of his own recent tracts on the same subject.[17]

               Patristic tradition on the four gospels became familiar in insular monastic culture not only through the transmission of exegetical texts on the two scriptural visions of the four living creatures in Ezekiel and the Apocalypse, as other scriptural passages could also inspire comment on the four gospels or on particular aspects of them.  Exegetical or encyclopaedic compilations were another important means of transmission, notably Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae which is used in several seventh-century works of Irish exegesis including the pseudo-Jerome's Expositio quatuor evangeliorum.[18]  Book VI.2 of the Etymologiae gives a succinct account of the order, language and place of composition of the four gospels, briefly characterises each gospel through comment on its opening words and shows how the Evangelists were prefigured in the four living creatures of Ezekiel's vision.  It translates the word evangelium as bona adnuntiatio, as Hiberno-Latin commentators frequently do.

               Sedulius's gospel epic, the Carmen Paschale c.425-50, which was known to insular writers, also conveys many elements of the exegetical tradition on the four gospels including the image of the waters of baptism, the four rivers of paradise flowing from a single fount and the taking of the four gospels to the four corners of the world (3:170-5).  The four Evangelists are related to symbols of cosmic harmony: they are shown to be of the same number as the seasons and, through their dissemination by the twelve Apostles, they are further related to the twelve months of the year and the very hours in the day.  In a Carolingian manuscript (Antwerp, Museum Plantin-Moretus, M.17.4, f.13) which may be derived from an insular copy of an Early Christian illustrated Carmen Paschale, is a scene of the four Evangelist symbols flanking a draped triumphant Cross denoting the risen and exalted Christ.  It is set between two lines of text explaining that the four Evangelists though scattered throughout the world, sing of Christ with a single voice.  This allusion to Ps 18:5 immediately follows the famous quatrain which relates the Evangelists, their symbolic beasts and their gospel openings (1:356-59): 

               Hoc Matthaeus agens, hominem generaliter implet.

               Marcus ut alta fremit vox per deserta leonis,

               Jura sacerdotis Lucas tenet ore juvenci.

               More volans aquilae, verbo petit astra Johannes.


The lines were often detached from the text to serve as tituli for Evangelist portraits in Carolingian gospel books but the earliest extant appearance of this practice is in a sixth-century Italian gospel book (Cambridge CCC 286) which was brought to Anglo-Saxon England very early, possibly by the Gregorian mission.[19]

               Although some insular gospel books have lost some or all of their prefatory materials and a few, following very early practice, may never have had them, Eusebius's canon tables of the gospel concordances and Jerome's explanatory letter Novum opus appear in a number of insular gospel books and in others are combined with the extremely influential introduction to Jerome's commentary on Matthew, the Plures fuisse.[20]  The essential points of the tradition were also familiar from the liturgical traditio evangeliorum.  This ritual opened the ceremony of the apertio aurium in which the four Gospels, the Apostles' Creed and the Our Father were symbolically handed on to catechumens in the context of a mass and as part of the Lenten scrutinies preparing them for the initiation of Baptism and the reception of the Eucharist at Easter.  The ritual is described not only in the early Roman ordines but in the Old Gelasian sacramentary and the ‘eighth-century Gelasian’, including the Gellone Sacramentary, as well as in Gallican sacramentaries including the Bobbio Missal and is twice cited by Bede.[21]

               The four gospels were carried in solemn procession from the sacristy accompanied by light and incense, and placed at the four corners of the altar.  Their identification as the bona

adnuntia­tio, the good news of the coming of Jesus Christ, was expounded first by reference to the theophany of Ezekiel's vision of the four living creatures and by each of the four gospels in turn being carried ceremonially to the ambo from which its opening lines were declaimed.  After each gospel reading by a deacon, the priest gave a short homily explaining the relation­ship between each gospel and its symbolic beast.

               Éamonn Ó Carragáin has stressed the importance of such public enactment for the illiterate as well as the learned, providing a mnemonic of the sacred texts.  He has speculated that whole page illustrations of the individual Evangelist symbols (such as those introducing each of the four Gospels in the Book of Durrow and the Echternach Gospels) or portraits of the four Evangelists accompanied by their symbolic beasts (as in the Lindisfarne and Lichfield Gospels) may, together with their enlarged and decorated incipits, have been displayed at suitable moments during the ceremony. [22]

               Both the communal ritual of the traditio evangeliorum and the learned exegetical tradition summarised in Jerome's Plures fuisse and elaborated in Hiberno-Latin commentaries, feature the pairing of the Evangelists with the four beasts of Ezekiel's vision and explain that pairing by reference to the opening lines of each gospel, which were clearly seen as representing the whole of each gospel and encapsulating its particular characteristics.  Both liturgy and exegesis were concerned to show the

individual­ity of the four gospels yet their essential unity and harmony as symbols of Christ.  Moreover some of the features in the Hiberno-Latin texts which are additional to the Plures fuisse are also contained in the liturgical ceremony, suggesting not direct borrowing but a shared tradition. 

               The link between Baptism and the four gospels was made in the early identification of the sacramental waters of Baptism with the paradisal water of life which issued from a single source in Eden and divided into four rivers to water the whole earth, just as the four gospels flow from Christ to water the whole Church.  The blessing of the font in the Irish Stowe Missal (c.800) includes the common evocation of the rivers of paradise during the rite of baptism.  The opening lection of the pre-baptismal apertio aurium ceremony begins, ‘All you that thirst come to the waters’ (Isa 55:1), a text applied by Christ to himself:  ‘If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  He that believes in me, as scripture says, "From his breast shall flow fountains of living water" ’ (Jn 7:37-8).  The Johannine text was part of a patristic exegetical chain expounding the New Testament's own interpretation in I Cor 10:4 of the water struck from the rock by Moses as a prefiguring of the water struck from Christ's side, the living water of Christian baptism.  In the earliest surviving scriptural commentary the connection of this allusive text with the four rivers of paradise is already made.  Christ, the inexhaustible source from which the four rivers flow to water the earth ‘is announced to the entire world by those who believe in him, according to the words of the prophet:  "Out of his breast shall flow rivers of living water" ’.[23]  An eighth-century text of Irish influence, Quaestiones vel glosae in evangelio, in Angers 55 quotes Jn 7:37-8 precisely in the context of describing how the four paradisal rivers figure the four gospels which issue from a single fountain, Christ, and through the teaching of the Apostles and other preachers, water the whole earth.[24]  Angers 55 then quotes from Ps 18:5, ‘Their sound has gone forth into all the earth and their words to the end of the world’.  The psalm text, as used by St Paul in allusion to preachers of the Gospel in Rom 10:18, is also incorporated in the composite opening lections in the apertio aurium ceremony.

               The instruction of catechumens in the form of the handing on of the four gospels and the baptism for which the apertio aurium ceremony is a preparation are a response to Christ's final command to his disciples:  ‘Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Mtt 28:19).  The trinitarian baptismal formula and the

injunc­tion docete omnes gentes were commonly viewed through the image of the twelve disciples taking the four gospels and belief in the Trinity to the four cardinal points or corners of the world.  The prefiguring of the Matthean text and the numerologically charged image it evoked was discerned in various Old Covenant exemplifi­cations of the numbers three, four and twelve.  In a rare surviving quotation from the lost work of the fourth-century exegete Fortunatianus, Angers 55 cites the typological example of the twelve bronze oxen which supported the water laver in Solomon's Temple, grouped in threes around the rim of the bowl and facing outwards towards the four winds or cardinal points (3 Kgs 7:25).[25]  Bede gives the same interpreta­tion of the twelve oxen and the water laver in relation to Mtt 28:19 but in the context of a pastoral and theological exposition on baptism which forms part of his sustained reading of the Temple as an image of the Church.[26]  Both approaches stem from a common hermeneutic but the abbreviated text-book enumerations favoured in some Hiberno-Latin exegetical works can obscure from modern readers the associations which standard images and listings could hold for an audience which was also familiar with scripture in the context of lectio divina and liturgy.  Angers 55 is of particular interest in documenting some of those associations.

               There was, then, a large body of exegesis on the four gospels transmitted through various media and known at different levels of sophistication.  In a liturgical and pastoral context it could be applied to the sacramental and spiritual life but the patristic tradition on the theme of the four gospels could articulate an entire world view encompassing the human microcosm; time, space and the structure of the universe; the nature of Christ and the process of Redemption.  In appropriating this common tradition in a variety of literary contexts Hiberno-Latin commentators responded to some of its features more readily than to others and developed their own distinctive voice.  Alongside the traditional pattern 'other modes of thought and expression emerge which at times deviate from the patristic comprehension, complement or transcend it'.[27]  Further discussion of Angers 55 and other examples may briefly suggest the nature of this tradition.


                                     THE HIBERNO-LATIN TRADITION OF THE EVANGELISTS

               The Plures fuisse text was clearly a major source for the Quaestiones vel glosae in evangelio nomine in Angers 55 ff.1-12v whose editor describes it as a teaching manual or notebook reflecting the Irish biblical tradition on the continent in the late eighth century and combining elements of both the Antiochene and Alexandrian traditions of exegesis.[28]  It quotes Jerome's own opening in its defence of the canonical gospels against rivals by stressing the importance of the number four and by showing that the canonical gospels are prophesied in scripture, most notably in the four rivers of Paradise and the four carrying rings of the Ark of the Covenant.  Like the Plures fuisse text, Angers 55 combines such images of Gospel unity and harmony with descriptions of the four gospels' individual characteristics, partly by presenting details of the place, circumstance and original language of their composition, partly by expounding Ezekiel's vision.  The four living creatures are related to the Evangelists and their gospel openings in Jerome's order and are also related to the living creatures of St John's apocalyptic vision of Christ's majesty.

               Some of the ways in which Angers 55 supplements the introduction to Jerome's commentary on Matthew with scriptural quotations have already been indicated.  It also uses additional patristic and apocryphal material to emphasise the way in which the four gospels - the quadriga of God - are figured in other quaternities.  The cosmic tetragrammaton of Adam's name, ultimately derived from the apocryphal Book of the Secrets of Enoch, is cited in various contexts by Augustine and Bede, but it is a recurring theme in Hiberno-Latin treatments of the four gospels.[29]  Angers 55 explains that in Hebrew, Greek and Latin the name of the first man is formed from four letters just as he was formed from the four elements.  Adam was expelled from paradise per quattuor elimenta peccando.  Christ the second Adam comes without sin offering healing; through the four gospels humanity is restored to life and the hope of eternal salvation.  The four Greek letters of the name of Adam are related to the four parts of the world to which his seed was scattered: Antholim, Dissis, Arctus et Missimbria.  Id est, oriens, occidens, acquilo et meridie(s).  From the four corners of the world humanity will be drawn to salvation by the fourfold Gospel.  Brief quotations show that this is what was prophesied in Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones of the house of Israel being brought to life by the breath of God coming from the four winds (Ezek 37:9); this is what is promised in the gospel when Christ reveals that the new chosen people will ‘come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south and shall sit down in the kingdom of God’ (Lk 13:29).

               The very contents of the gospels form a tetrad - aeterna, futura, agenda and facta - related to the fourfold interpretation of scripture - the anagogic, allegorical, tropological and historical senses; the Gospel's fourfold nature is also shown in the four cardinal virtues[11-13].  The idea of the four gospels defending the Church from temptation and evil is prefigured in the fourfold dimensions and timbers of Noah's Ark.  The saving of its eight human inmates from the Flood, already interpreted in I Peter 3:20-21 as an image of Baptism, is noted here and further related to the eight Beatitudes[13-14].  The harmony of the four gospels with each other and with the whole of divine revelation is shown through their traditional comparison with the four carrying rings of the Ark of the Covenant which contained two stones signifying the Old and the New Testaments.         

               The Quaestiones text in Angers 55 is thus not simply a listing of authorities, quaternities, etymologies, numerology and arcane knowledge but presents a coherent theological view.  It has been seen that the standard image of the four gospels proceeding from Christ their centre, like the four rivers from paradise, to draw all humanity to Christ from the four corners of the world, is here given a strongly sacramental interpretation through allusion to Jn 7:37-8 and the baptismal water of life and that it is closely related to the idea of the Evangelists, apostles and other teachers going out to the ends of the earth (Ps 18:5) to fulfill Christ's command in Mtt 28:19.

               The second example of this exegesis is from Munich, Clm 6235, a ninth-century manuscript probably copied, McNally suggested, from an Irish exemplar and reflecting work of c.750-775 which shows the strong influence of the Irish biblical schools.[30]  Folios 32v-33v, Pauca de libris catholicorum scripto­­rum in evangelia excerpta, takes the form not of a gospel commentary but of a systematic investigation of scripture which is very different in character from Angers 55, though they had access to a common tradition of material on the Evangelists and the gospel quaternities.  Clm 6235 has several features which often help characterise Hiberno-Latin exegesis: an interest in explaining terms in the three sacred languages, the technique of structuring the material in short questions and answers and of enumeration and etymologies.  It investigates the gospels' composition not only under the customary headings of tempus, locus et persona which Gregory the Great thought must first be established in prophetic speech before elucidating mysteries but under fourteen categories and lists instances of first occasions - the first time the word evangelium is used in the Old Testament and the New, the first words and the first parable of Christ in the gospels etc.

               Clm 6235 establishes the individual identities of the four gospels by investigating questions such as the time, place, language, order and authority of their composition, the origins of their authors and significance of their names.  The gospel openings are not paired with the four Evangelist symbols but with the particular ‘rule’ characterising each gospel: Matheus scripsit secundum regulam fidei et electionis dicens primitus de Abraham et David qui est caput fidei, ut est: Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii David, filii Abraham; Mark wrote according to the rule of the prophets, Luke to the rule of priests and John according to the rule of Christ[11].  The harmony of the four gospels' testimony is demonstrated by reference to cosmic and scriptural quaternities[15-19].  In all examples except the four seasons there are specific pairings with the Evangelists and sometimes brief explanations.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are signified in the elements (earth, water, air and fire respective­ly), the four rivers of paradise (Eufratis, Tigris, Geon, Fison), the four living creatures of Ezekiel's vision, the four seasons of the year and the four parts of the world, (east, south, west and north, also given as anathole, misimbria, dissis, arctus though there is no explicit reference to the name of Adam).  The qualitates evangelii are characterised: id est precepta, mandata, testimonia, exempla[20].  The traditional images of the Apocalyp­tic vision and the Ark of the Covenant, are here missing but other scriptural fours are introduced: the four men who carried the bed of the palsied man (Mk 2:3, also used in the eighth century commentary on Matthew preserved in Orléans 65) and the four soldiers who cast lots for Christ's garment at the Cruci­fixion (Jn 19:23).  Finally, Clm 6235 lists various numerical features of the gospels - how many gospels, chapters, verses, culminating in quite a detailed examination of the Eusebian canon tables, their number, arrangement, function and authority together with brief scriptural quotations illustrative of each canon[21-23].  The material is also taken up in the late eighth-century Irish Reference Bible which devotes some seven columns to the canon tables alone.[31] 

               The evident concern of exegetes to repeat and supplement material which is set out in the gospel concordance of the Eusebian canon tables and in Jerome's brief explanation of them in the Novum opus is in some way mirrored in the elaborate decorative embellishment of these prefatory materials in insular gospel books.  In the Lindisfarne Gospels the Cross carpet-page frontispiece is faced by the ornate opening words of the Novum opus enlarged to fill the whole page under the rubric Incipit prologus X canonum; the opening word of the Plures fuisse and of Eusebius's letter to Carpianus, which again explains the canon tables, are enlarged and decorated (ff.5v,8) and the canon tables themselves, set out under stately architectural arcades, spread over sixteen magnificent pages (ff.10-17v).[32]  Parallel columns of numbers display the correspondence between a particular numbered section of text in one gospel with a similar passage in one or more of the remaining three gospels.  Nine canon tables systematically list the numbers of the sections which are shared by all four gospels, then by any three of them, then by any pair of them and the tenth table records the sections unique to each gospel.  Jerome's prefaces are missing from the Book of Kells in its present state but the canon tables form one of the most splendid decorative sequences in the book.  The Evangelist symbols appear in the arcades but are not simply inserted like captions at the head of individual columns of numbers relating to their respective gospel texts.  In the first two double openings (ff 1v-3r) and in the last page before the sequence changes from arcades to a grid pattern (f5r), the symbolic beasts are placed in the tympanum overspanning the subsidiary arches which contain the individual gospel entries.  The beasts' various striking groupings, exchanged glances, overlapping and interwoven pinions and limbs, their hybrid forms borrowing each other's features, seem to articulate the interconnectedness of the gospels they represent and to form a pictorial exegesis on the harmony of the four gospels which the canon tables were devised to demonstrate.[33]  The iconographic interpretation is strongly reinforced by evidence of the extent and early origins of insular interest in the canons and not only in the literature of gospel quaternities.

               Already in the seventh century the Irish scholar Aileran of Clonard (d.665) had produced an exegetical poem ‘On the

evangeli­cal canons’ which is closely modelled on the structure of the concordance to the four gospels provided in the ten Eusebian canon tables.  Aileran visualises ten tableaux in which the gospels are represented by their symbolic beasts in harmoni­ous discourse revealing the number of passages in which, in any particular canon table, they ‘speak together of the Lord’, ‘with one voice’, ’in equality and unity’.  The poem suggests that canon tables illustrated with the Evangelists' symbolic beasts may have been known in seventh-century Ireland.  Aileran's poem has survived in the context of gospel books, including two with clear insular connections.  In Poitiers Bibl. mun. 17 it appears on f.26 immediately following the canon tables.  The Augsburg Gospels opens with a copy of Aileran's poem facing a diagrammatic evocation of the single truth of the fourfold Gospel (ff 1v-2r) placed before the Plures fuisse, Novum opus and canon tables.  A closely related gospel fragment, the Maeseyck Gospels, which was also produced in the early eighth-century at the eclectic insular centre at Echternach, depicts the Evangelists' beasts in its canon tables.[34]

               Nancy Netzer has argued persuasively that the two related Echternach manuscripts, Augsburg and Maeseyck, had access to an Irish gospel book which combined Aileran's poem with a copy of the canon tables of the same recension as Augsburg's and possibly illustrated by the Evangelist symbols.  This would have important implications for the dating and iconography of the Book of Kells whose famous depiction of the Evangelist symbols in its canon tables, apparently without insular precedent, was for long seen as the result of Carolingian influence.  Quite the reverse may have been the case.  Irish canon tables with Evangelist symbols may have influenced eighth-century continental books which in turn influenced the gospel books produced in Charlemagne's court scriptorium.[35]                                                        

               The fourth example of Hiberno-Latin exegesis on the four gospels is from the introduction of an unpublished commentary on Matthew's gospel in Munich, Clm. 6233, ff.1r-7v, thought to have been written in southern Bavaria, perhaps Tergensee c. 770-80.[36]  Like Jerome's introduction to his commentary on Matthew it shows the distinctiveness of the four gospels through the biographies of their individual authors and their essential harmony through the images of the four rivers of paradise and the carrying-rings of the Ark; the Evangelists are shown to have been prophetically figured in the two scriptural theophanies revealed to Ezekiel and St John.  Like the Hiberno-Latin pseudo-Jerome, it adds the etymologies of the Evangelists' names, the associ­ation of the four gospels with the four letters of Adam's name and the four elements and includes the Gregorian connection between the four Evangelists, their symbolic beasts and the four mysteries of Christ: his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.  Where Clm 6233 differs from both Jerome and pseudo-Jerome is in its use of three of these standard scriptural quaternities - the four rivers, the Ark and Ezekiel's vision - as a framework on which to base theological expositions, developed through the association of words and images, through etymologies, further compressed scriptural allusions and the enumeration of allegorical interpretations.  The source of the four rivers of paradise, for example, is expounded not simply as Christ but as the incarnate Christ, the divine Saviour who descended into the womb of Mary and from there moved through four mysteries: de utero in presepium, de praesepio in crucem, de cruce in sepulchrum, inde surgens a mortuis angelorum agminia penetravit (f. 3v).  Gregory the Great in his gospel homily 29 had also used the image in connection with the Incarnation: `Truth having made himself known in the flesh, gave some great leaps for us to make us run after him'; the leaps are described as from heaven to the womb, from the womb to the manger, from the manger to the cross, from the cross to the sepulchre and from the sepulchre he returned to heaven.  Gregory refers to Ps 18:6 and the Song of Songs 1:3, 2:8 and the passage is taken up by Bede in his commentary on the Song of Songs.  In Munich Clm 6233 the image, reduced to four stages, is subordinated to describing Christ, the source of the four rivers, but is also related to the spiritual life.  Paradise, the locus deliciarum watered by these rivers, is likened to the Church which receives a diversity of spiritual gifts or graces from God, id est, aliis sapientiam sermonum, aliis gratiam curationum, aliis scientiam sermonium, aliis gratiam virtutum (f. 3v).

               The new quaternity depends on the Pauline use of the body as a metaphor for the Church, individual Christians with a variety of abilities and functions being the limbs or members of the one body of Christ (1 Cor 12:4-31; cf. Rms 12:4-8; Eph 4:4-13).  By implication, this image of diversity in unity is applied to the four gospels.  Similarly, the image of the Ark of the Covenant with four carrying rings as prefiguring the Church whose sound doctrine is carried by the united testimony of the gospels, is also developed further through allusion to the major exegesis in the Epistle to the Hebrews which treats the Old Covenant Tabernacle, Ark, priesthood and blood sacrifices as figures of Christ as the new Temple, High Priest and victim.  The specific connection made in Clm 6233, f. 4v between the manna contained in the Ark (Heb 9:4) and the Eucharist quotes from Christ's own extended comparison of the manna with himself as the living bread come down from heaven Ego sum panus viuus qui de caelo discendi (Jn 6:31-58).  Thirdly, Ezekiel's vision of the four living creatures in the midst of fire is interpreted according to Jerome and especially Gregory but is also seen as an image of Christ the mediator between God and man, of his human and divine natures (f.5r) and elaborates on how the only begotten Son of God was truly made man (f. 6r).  The spiritual

signifi­cance of the positioning of the creatures within the tableau of Ezekiel's vision and the prefiguring of Christ's incarnation, passion, resurrection and ascension in the faces of the man, the calf, the lion and the eagle respectively are explained in Gregorian fashion.  The standard gospel quaternities are therefore used in Clm 6233 as starting-points for a series of sophisticated theological and mystical expositions on the divine descent testified in the gospels.  Meditation on the fourfold Gospel illumines different aspects of the body of Christ: incarnate, glorified, ecclesial and sacramental.  Finally, the three-fold Sanctus unendingly chanted by the four living creatures around the divine throne in the apocalyptic vision (Rev 4:8) is seen as testifying to the four gospels' confession of the Trinity (f.7v).

               The last example of this literature is by far the best known.  The pseudo-Jerome's Expositio quatuor evangeliorum which may have been compiled in late seventh-century Ireland, was widely influential on Hiberno-Latin exegesis.[37]  Its introduc­tion is a succinct summary of the Irish tradition on the gospel quaternities.  The whole world is composed of four elements and the linking of John - air, Matthew - earth, Luke - fire, Mark - water is explained by very brief scriptural quotations, three from the gospel incipits.  Each Evangelist is then specifically related to one of the four named rivers (listed with their etymologies) which flow from the single fountain, Christ, and water both the Church and the individual soul with the four cardinal virtues.  Similarly, the human body is shown to be composed of the four primordial elements which in turn are related to four human elements (aer:flatus; igne:sanguis; aqua:flamma; terra:corpus) and even to four parts of the body.  The four Evangelists are shown to be related not only to this quadripartite structure of the universe and mankind but to the cosmic tetragammaton of Adam's name; as all mankind is born of Adam, so all come to the faith through the four gospels.

               This cosmic symbolism of the fourfold harmony of the gospels is echoed by the elaboration of traditional scriptural images of the four dimensions of Noah's Ark and the four carrying rings of the Ark of the Covenant as figures of the four gospels' united testimony in defending and supporting the Church against heresy.  Their individual identity is expounded through the common etymologies of their authors' names:  Matthaeus donatus. Marcus donum excelsum. Lucan consurgens. Ioannes gratia Dei.  Two are Apostles, two are disciples.  The pairing of the four living creatures in Ezekiel's vision with the four Evangelists follows Jerome's order but adds Gregory the Great's symbolic identifica­tion of Christ with the man, calf, lion and eagle at his birth, death, resurrection and ascension.  Without any explanation whatever the four Evangelists are linked with a final and curious set of four:  Mattheus mel.  Marcus lac.  Lucas oleum.  Ioannes vinum.  Though each of these substances or liquids has biblical and sacramental significance, they do not appear in scripture as a quaternity but they are found together in apocryphal vision literature.[38]  The introduction of pseudo-Jerome's commentary on the gospels therefore combines cosmic, scriptural and apocryphal quaternities and the harmony of the macrocosm and microcosm (though without using those terms) in its numerological exposi­tion on the unity of the four gospels.



               What kind of contribution can the study of this exegetical material make to the study of insular gospel book illustration?  One long-standing art-historical debate may be cited by way of example.  There has been increasing refinement in modern interpretations of medieval abstract images of divine order, particularly in the didactic inscribed and figured diagrams which were common from the Romanesque period.  Of its nature, however, it is difficult to substantiate from early insular monastic written sources the suggestion that certain geometric shapes in insular art can, in particular contexts, have a religious as well as a decorative or functional significance.  Otto Werckmeister, for example, has argued that the rhombus at the centre of the four-symbols page on f.290v in the Book of Kells has a cosmologi­cal significance (plate 5).  The scholarly reserva­tions expressed about such hypotheses contrast with the general acceptance of a cosmological interpretation of the rhombus in some Carolingian schematised images of gospel harmony.[39]  The versions of the Carolingian Maiestas image which appear in the St Gauzelin Gospels at Nancy and as gospel frontispieces in the Touronian bibles including the Vivian Bible (Paris, B.N. lat. 1, f.329v, plate 3) have a strong quadripartite structure focused on a central lozenge or rhombus with the apocalyptic Christ enthroned at its centre and the Evangelists and their symbolic beasts variously disposed in circular medallions at the four cardinal points of the lozenge and in the spandrels or four corners of the rectangu­lar outer frame.  It has often been assumed that underlying such frontispiece images are late antique cosmological schemata depicting the tetragonus mundus as a quadrangular figure - a square or lozenge - inscribed with the names of the four cardinal points, four elements and so on (as in the example preserved in a Carolingian astronomical manu­script, possibly from Salzburg c.818, Vienna, National bibl. Cod. 387, f.134r).  Kessler further argued that the lozenge-shaped figure of the tetragonus mundus was introduced into the St Gauzelin  Maiestas image to designate the paradisical world watered by the four rivers of living water which, both in patristic exegesis such as the Plures fuisse text prefacing the gospels and in contemporary Carolingian exegesis, are identified with the four gospels proceeding from a single fount, Christ.[40]

               If this is so, the interpretation offers a pictorial parallel to the process whereby the early Fathers had made use of existing concepts of the fourfold nature of the cosmos to argue for the divinely-inspired harmony of the fourfold Gospel and to show that both cosmological and scriptural demonstrations of the importance of the number four centre on the Creator-Logos.  The interpretation depends on the assumption that an informed contemporary reader of the Carolingian Maiestas image would, in this context, read the abstract motif of the lozenge not simply as a compositional device, decoratively dividing the picture space, but as also having symbolic significance.  The particular cosmological associations it might suggest would stem from contemporary familiarity with antique schemata and the explicit identification of the four-sided lozenge with the world in Carolingian exegesis and carmina figurata.[41]

               The Carolingian authors usually cited in this connection are however, Charlemagne's Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin and his pupil Hrabanus Maurus, who were familiar with insular exegesis.  Hrabanus's De universo does metaphorically describe the world as being quadrangular but so do Hiberno-Latin exegetes and

specifi­cally in the context of discussing cosmic quaternities which demonstrate the harmony of the four gospels.  In the late antique  tradition of carmina figurata Alcuin does have a figural poem arranged in the form of a cross-inscribed lozenge but this technique had been used in a gospel book with strong insular affiliations in the early eighth-century and with very particular relevance to gospel harmony. 

               The Augsburg Gospels which, as has been seen, opens with a copy of a seventh-century Irish poem on the Evangelical canons, has on the facing folio a word square containing repetitions of the words Evangelia veritatis.[42]  Stemming from a shared initial 'E' at the central point, the word Evangelia is written out four times like the four arms of the Cross extending to the four cardinal points of the square frame.  The letters are faced in such a way that the arms of the Cross imply a circular motion.  The remaining repetitions of the word Evangelia are arranged so that the last four letters 'elia' of each repetition, which are coloured, form the clear outline of a lozenge joining the cardinal points.  The preceding four letters ‘vang’ form an inner lozenge immediately around the shared central initial ‘E’.  The second word in the phrase Evangelia veritatis is repeatedly and continuously written out to fill the four spandrels or corners of the square outside the lozenge.  The terminal letter of veritatis is not actually written out with each repetition but can be read in the decorative flourish of the single ‘s’ placed diagonally outside each of the four corners of the square.  The word Evangelia thus begins from a common centre and goes out to the four cardinal points of the world and veritatis literally fills its four corners.  The combination of the central Cross and the lozenge in this context strongly suggest an aniconic representation of the Creator-Logos from whom the gospels proceed to the ends of the earth, their fourfold harmony figured in the tetragonus mundus.  In this case the symbolic interpretation of an abstract figure is supported by its inscription and context.  The phrase Evangelia veritatis has echoes from the epistles of the spoken and heard word of the Gospel taught by the apostles (Quam audistis in verbo veritatis evangelii Col 1:5; cf. Gal 2:5).  It forms an appropriate accompaniment to Aileran's poem which, through reference to the canon tables, sometimes in the form of a riddling numerology, shows how the four gospels ‘speak together of the Lord’, ‘in one voice’; this ingenious double opening is immediately followed in the Augsburg Gospels by the text of Jerome's Plures fuisse.

               Although no Irish manuscript has survived showing a direct equivalent of the antique schemata of the tetragonus mundus preserved in the Carolingian manuscript in Vienna, (Cod. 387,

f. 134r), insular knowledge of such diagrams can reasonably be inferred and knowledge of the information conveyed by such schemata can certainly be demonstrated.  The Carolingian example shows a lozenge within a square.  The names of the four winds or directions are inscribed in medallions at the four cardinal points and the names of the four elements and their properties are inscribed in the four spandrels or corners.  The central lozenge is divided into three and inscribed with the names of the three known continents, Asia, Africa and Europa, information available for example in Isidore of Seville's section De orbe in his Etymologiae: Divisus est autem trifarie: e quibus una pars Asia, altera Europa, tertia Africa nuncapatur.  In Hiberno-Latin exegesis the combination of a quadrangular world and a three-part division occurs in the mid-seventh century Liber de ordine creaturarum, in conjunction with the theme of the letters of Adam's name and the four directions.[43]  It also appears

specifi­cally in the context of expounding the unity of the four gospels.  The eighth-century compilation, the Irish Reference Bible, speaks of Mundus iste quadrangulus constitutus.  In iii partibus divisus (interpreted as signifying the four gospels and the Trinity to which they testify).[44]  This three-fold division is clearly distinguished from the concept of the four-fold ordering of creation.  The immediately following passage elaborates the traditional naming of the various locations in which the four gospels were composed in order to associate each of the four Evangelists with one of the four directional winds or parts of the world:  Matheus quippe in Iudaea.  Id in oriente praedicavit.  Marc ad austrum. in Alexandria.  Lucas. ad occidente. in Achaia. Iohan. ad aquilonem.  in Asia Minore praedicavit et scripsit.

               The single doctrine of the fourfold gospel is then described as being taken a iiii partibus orbi.  The unity of the gospels is expounded through various cosmic quaternities and then by the scriptural quaternities cited in Jerome's Plures fuisse.  Moreover the passage is preceeded by a reference to the harmony of the whole of scripture, shown by the prefiguring of the four Evangelists in the Old Testament prophets.  The Carolingian Touronian bible images of Christ enthroned within a rhombus depict the four prophets as well as the Evangelists and their symbols and show the Evangelists writing at the four corners of the design against arcs of stylised landscape to designate the four parts of the earth (plate 3).

               Antique schemata are now known imperfectly from textual references and medieval copies or derivatives but the continuing ancient encyclopaedic tradition including cosmological material can be traced to some extent in the work of Isidore of Seville (560-636) and Bede (673-735).  The subsequent importance of Bede's De Temporibus, 703, and especially of De Temporum Ratione, 725, has tended to overshadow earlier Irish interest in

computis­tics.  Dáibhí Ó Crónin has confirmed the mid-seventh century Irish provenance of the computus used by Bede, however, and has commented on the prodigious accumulation of computistical and related exegetical materials stimulated in Ireland by the Easter dating controversy and already evident in the letter of Cummian, De controversia pascha, c.632.[45]  Computistics was not narrowly confined to technical explanations of the solar calendar and the Paschal table but, in revealing the divine order underlying the whole of creation, was closely allied to


               Isidore's De natura rerum, which was used in seventh-century Irish exegesis and influenced Bede's early work of the same title, contains diagrams which are didactically referred to in the text.  Surviving manuscripts show rotae, whether copies of antique models or devised by Isidore, which demonstrate the harmony of the year and the seasons, the harmony of the elements, the harmony of the macrocosm and microcosm and the attempt to render the four-part world as a cube.  Carolingian and later scriptoria reproduced these and other didactic diagrams in compilations of computistical and related materials.  Text-book schemata could either serve as frameworks for substantial explanatory inscriptions or they ‘could give visual expression to broad syntheses of a given subject; to show correlations between its parts, and even to indicate interpretations of various themes’ and could become detached from their text and serve as frontispieces.  This tradition was continued particular­ly in the tenth-century scriptorium of Fleury which had close ties with the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Ramsey.[46]

               Byrhtferth, a monk at Ramsey, compiled a computistical manual c.1011 which is preserved in an eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript, Oxford, Bodl. Lib. Ashmole Ms 328.  One of its several diagrams is now damaged but thought to be substantially reproduced on f.7v of the large computistical miscellany in Oxford, St John's College Lib. Ms 17, c. 1110 (plate 4).  Byrthferth's diagram, as Madeline Caviness has noted, is much closer in format to the geometrical framework of the elongated rhombus and medallions in the Carolingian Maiestas image (plate 3) than is the square tetragonus mundus in the Carolingian astronomical manuscript in Vienna usually cited for compari­son.[47]   Byrhtfert­­h's closely inscribed diagram, De concordia mensium atque elementum, sets out the harmony of the macrocosm and the microcosm through correlat­ing various quaternities of time, space and matter: the four seasons, together with their related months and parts of the Zodiac; the four cardinal directions and winds; the four elements and their properties; the four humours and ages of man.  The inner of the two rhomboid figures on which the diagram is constructed is inscribed with the name of Adam.  One large letter of the name appears at each of the four cardinal points of the lozenge which are also inscribed with the Greek equivalents of the letters - Anathole, Disis, Arcton, Mesembrios - and the names of the cardinal directions they represent - oriens, occidens, aquilo, meridies.  These in turn are correlated with inscriptions of the four seasons, winds and elements inscribed in circular medallions at the cardinal points of the outer lozenge.  At the centre of Byrhtferth's diagram, within the lozenge inscribed with Adam's name, is a small representation of the Creator-Logos in the form of a combined cross and chi-rho monogram of Christ's title. 

               Several rotae in Byrhtferth's Manual also set out concordant quaternities discussed in the text and his closing treatise on the symbolism of numbers dwells on the importance of the number four which is 'reverently upheld' by the existence of four letters in the name of Christ (Deus) and in the name of the first created man.  The Greek letters of Adam's name are related to the four regions of the world and are given a detailed numerological interpretation; the number four is honoured in the four winds, elements, seasons and ages of man and, significantly, it is 'adorned with the doctrines of the four Evangelists' who are identified with the four creatures of Ezekiel's vision.[48]

               The learning represented in 'Byrhtferth's diagram' has been broadly described as coming from Bede[49] but the insistent reiter­ation of quaternities which characterises both the diagram and part of Byrhtferth's Manual is not a striking feature of Bede's work.  The pseudo-Jerome's Expositio and other works in the Hiberno-Latin tradition outlined here do, however, combine microcosm and macrocosm, cosmic quaternities and the cosmic tetragrammaton of Adam's name and, moreover, in the context of describing the four Evangelists and their revelation of Christ their centre and source. 

               Jerome's Plures fuisse text, whose proximity to Maiestas pictures prefacing Carolingian gospel books helps explain their depiction of Christ enthroned at the centre of a four-fold gospel harmony, simply does not feature cosmic quaternities and cannot of itself explain the use of a dominant rhomboid framework in this iconography.  Hiberno-Latin exegesis which used cosmic quaternities to demonstrate the divine order and authority underlying the fourfold gospel was certainly known to Carolingian commentators.  The pseudo-Jerome's Expositio quatuor evangeliorum survives in over forty early continental copies.  It seems likely that this Hiberno-Latin exegetical tradition, and possibly insular computistics and schoolbook schemata, may have

contrib­uted to the formulation of the Carolingian quadripartite images of gospel harmony which incorporate the lozenge as a cosmological symbol.  Before considering whether the rhombus which is incorporated in the very different pictorial idiom of a four-symbols page in the Book of Kells f.290v (plate 5) reflects such a tradition, it may be useful to look first at a more readily legible example of the insular four-symbols iconography.

               The Trier Gospels is an eighth-century manuscript from the same Echternach scriptorium as the Augsburg Gospels and the Maeseyck Gospels which have already been discussed in connection with Aileran's poem and the origins of the beast canon tables.  In the frontispiece of the Trier Gospels four Evangelist symbols of the rare insular ‘terrestrial’ type stand in the quadrants of a Cross (Plate 1).[50]  At the four cardinal points the arms of the Cross meet and merge with the rectangular frame.  Four small human heads, now faint and often unnoticed, are placed just beyond the four corners of the frame, looking inwards.  There are comparisons for these heads in the insular and possibly Irish gospel book fragment at Turin and in the later Anglo-Saxon pictures in the Athelstan Psalter.  Both these examples depict the Second Coming, the Athelstan Psalter f.21v with some quite specific iconographic allusions to the apocalyptic vision, including the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth and holding the four winds (Rev 7:1) and the related gospel prophecies of the gathering of the elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth (Mk 13:27; Mtt 24:31).[51]   The four human heads placed outside the corners of the upper frame of f.21v have tendrils billowing from their mouths and are clearly derived from classical personifications of the winds.  Similarly, the four winds which are combined with the Apocalyptic beasts in the Trier Gospels frontispiece, give it an eschatol­ogical as well as a cosmic dimension.  Like the portrait bust of Christ within the medallion at the centre of the Cross, the personifications of the winds indicate that Mediterranean as well as insular pictorial influences were at work in the Echternach scriptorium.

               These additional figural components, as well as the context in which the Trier frontispiece is placed, greatly assist in reading this version of the insular four-symbols image.  The four Evangelist symbols all look right towards the facing page and the handsome opening of Jerome's Plures fuisse which is then followed by a second illustration facing the Novum opus, ff. 5v-6.  This second image is identified by inscription with the names of the four Evangelists but depicts a single tetramorphic figure with features of all four Evangelist symbols, evoking Ezekiel's vision in which each of the four living creatures has the features of all four.  The Trier frontispiece in contrast shows four distinctively individual beasts, each inscribed with its name - homo, leo, vitulus and aquilo - yet their fourfold harmony is exemplified in the quadripartite world in which they are set with its emphasis on the four cardinal points, four corners and four winds (Plate 1).  The insular adaptation of the Early Christian convention of reading the exalted Cross as an image of the glorified Christ enables the four-symbols page to be read as an evocation of the apocalyptic vision of the four living creatures around the throne of Christ's majesty.  The idea of Christ as the source and fount of the fourfold Gospel taken out to the four parts of the world is conveyed both by the positioning of the beasts in the four corners and by the decorative golden interlace which flows continuously from the central portrait medallion, along the four arms of the Cross to the four cardinal points and into the border of the quadrangular world described by the image.

               The modern reader of the four-symbols page in the Book of Kells f. 290v is denied the kind of aids to interpretation offered in the case of the Trier Gospels four-symbols frontis­piece by Trier's additional figural images such as the four winds and the central bust of Christ, by the use of inscriptions and the proximity of Jerome's prefatory texts.  Readers of the Book of Kells image are instead confronted with a magnificent piece of largely abstract design.  A stepped cross has been set diagonally across the page.  At the centre of the great X shape which spans f.290v is a richly decorated lozenge (Plate 5).  The four cardinal points and four corners of the outer rectangular frame are given marked decorative emphasis.  The symbols of the four Evangelists are placed in the four cardinal positions, entirely filling the triangular spaces between the four arms which radiate from the four sides of the lozenge.  If read in the standard Vulgate order used in the text of the Book of Kells the symbols of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, positioned to the north, west, south and east of the central lozenge form a circular unity, like a rota, clearly beginning with the frontally-presented symbol of Matthew at the top.  The diagonals are extended beyond the four corners of the frame by four leonine heads, all turned in the same direction suggesting a clockwise moti­on around the border.  In a well-known diagram of celestial harmony preserved in a twelfth-century manuscript (Rheims, B.Mun. MS 672, f.1) the splayed arms and legs of a human figure span the page forming its diagonals and extend beyond the frame of the heavens to meet directly at the four corners with the four named winds.  They are rough-haired winged heads all facing and blowing clockwise.[52]  In some examples, including the Hereford mappa mundi, the winds are depicted by animal heads.  It is possible that the four highly stylised leonine heads with protruding tongues in the Kells picture represent an insular decorative adaptation of the convention. 

               The incorporation of a portrait bust of Christ at the centre of the Cross, seen in the sixth-century apsidal mosaic of San Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna and adapted to the context of the insular four-symbols page in the frontispiece of the Trier Gospels, had Early Christian variants.  In the restored vault mosaic of the archepiscopal chapel in Ravenna four caryatid angels stretch from the corners to the centre, their bodies forming a large diagonal cross; they support a central medallion containing not a portrait but the monogram of Christ, the chi-rho.  The four Evangelist symbols are arranged around it in the triangular spaces formed by the diagonal cross.  In an apsidal chapel mosaic in the Roman church of San Stefano Rotundo, c.645, a portrait bust medallion of Christ is placed over the top of an exalted, jewelled Cross which has a rhomboid shape at its centre.  It may be argued that in some insular four-symbols pages the place and possibly the function of the portrait medallion of Christ is assumed by a symbol.  The motif of a stepped cross (i.e. a cross with small square projections at its four angles) is repeatedly featured in the interlaced background and on the terminals of the double-barred Cross on f.1v of the Book of Durrow.  It directly faces the earliest surviving example of the insular four-symbols page:  on f. 2r the cosmological Cross with expanded terminals meeting the frame and the four Evangelist symbols disposed in the rectangular spaces has four tiny square projec­tions in its four angles and, at its very centre, a lozenge shape is formed by the decorative interlace.  This focus on a symbolic inner cross or lozenge is not a feature of the four-symbols pages in the Lichfield Gospels, p. 219, or the Book of Armagh, f.32v, but a small stepped cross is placed at the centre of the main cross on the four-symbols page prefacing Matthew's gospel in the Book of Kells, f.27v (plate 2) and a tiny lozenge within a medallion is at the centre of the cross-symbols page in the McDurnan Gospels, f.1v.

               The closest pictorial parallel to the distinctive form of the Cross on the four-symbols page on f. 290v in the Book of Kells is with the chi-rho monogram on f. 34r in the same manuscript.  The x-shaped initial letter chi, incorporating a diagonally-disposed stepped cross and a large golden rhombus at its centre, spans the entire page highlighting the name of Christ which here opens the gospel account of the Incarnation (Mtt 1:18).  As in many examples of Early Christian art and in patristic tradition known also in Isidore's Etymologies, the chi can allude both to the Cross and to the sacred name of Christ.  Suzanne Lewis, following Werckmei­ster, persuasively interpreted f. 34r in the light of the cosmological tradition of the Fathers, particularly Irenaeus, who related the incarnation of the Creator-Logos and salvation through the Cross 'within the allegorical matrix of the sacred name'.[53]

               Another important element in deciphering the four-symbols page on f. 290v is its context within the manuscript.  It is one of three surviving cross-symbols pages in the Book of Kells.  Those positioned before the gospels of Matthew and Mark on ff. 27v (plate 2) and 129v use the conventional upright cross spanning the four cardinal points of the frame; the diagonal chi-Cross on f. 290v with the lozenge at its centre is placed before the gospel of John.  It may be read not simply as a gospel harmony page prefacing an individual gospel but as the first image in a three-page sequence: it is immediately followed by a double opening of an author portrait of the Evangelist facing the opening words of his gospel:  'In principio erat verbum ...' (ff. 291v-292r).  The words, which recall the opening of Genesis and the account of creation, encapsulate the profound theological insight of John's prologue to his gospel, namely the identity of the Creator-Logos and the incarnate Christ:  'In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was God...  All things were made by him...' (Jn 1:1,3), 'And the Word became flesh' (Jn 1:14).

               As early as Irenaeus patristic interpretation of the four living creatures as figures of the four Evangelists used the evidence of creation itself, in which the Creator is also revealed, in order to demonstrate the divinely-inspired unity of the Gospel's fourfold testimony.  Irenaeus's allusion to the divine Artificer who made all things in due proportion and measure is to Wis 11:21, omnia in mensura et numero et pondere disponsuisti.  This text had an enormously important exegetical history, particularly in commentaries on the account of Creation in Genesis, a connection which was utilised by St Augustine in his influential commentary on St John's gospel and specifically on its opening lines.  Supporting his exposition on the uncreat­ed, all-creating Word in verses 1-2, he cites Wis 11:21 as a gloss on Jn 1:3, Omnia per ipsum facta sunt et sine ipso factum est nihil.  Wis 11:21 is therefore used to show how all things were made by the Creator-Logos, namely by measure, number and weight.[54]

               The Wisdom text was also frequently cited in computistical works.  It is twice quoted in Byrhtferth's Manual in descriptions of the work of the Creator and is directly related to the cosmic quaternities in which divine harmony and order may be discerned, as in the work of the four Evangelists represented by the four creatures of Ezekiel's vision.  It has been seen that the numerological and cosmological aspects of the exegesis on the four gospels had particularly attracted Hiberno-Latin inheritors of the patristic tradition and provided them with images of Christ himself.  The Kells four-symbols page on f. 290v. is illumined not only by the rich exegetical associations of the opening words of St John's gospel on f.292r but by the iconographic traditions evident in the accompanying author portrait on f.291v (to be discussed more fully elsewhere).

               Twelfth-century and later medieval figured diagrams use the human body as a structure on which to inscribe the harmony of cosmic quaternities and of microsm and macrocosm.  The figure of Christ or Adam is shown in syndesmos pose, that is, with arms outstretched, binding creation together.  A sub-category of diagrams depict the human figure as partly concealed behind a geometric shape such as a mappa mundi with only the head, extended hands and feet protruding at the cardinal points.[55]  The well-known Anglo-Saxon convention of depicting the Creator-Logos as a figure partially concealed by his creation is an early variant within a tradition.

               On the portrait page of John the Evangelist on f.291v immediately following the four-symbols page in the Book of Kells, four equilateral crosses project into the frame at its four cardinal points.  Decorative panels in sets of fours show the quadriform nature of this world.  From behind the cardinal points of the frame emerge the head, hands and feet of a figure whose body remains concealed beneath the framed picture.  This cruciform figure undergirds and holds together the quadripartite world and may suggest both its divine creation and its redemp­tion.  Overlaying the concealed figure is the author portrait, as imposing as an enthroned Maiestas Domini. The haloed figure sits with pen poised and holds up a gospel book, which is emblazoned with a chi-inscribed lozenge; the image suggests in authorship of the divine word another act of creation.  The picture on the preceding page, f.290v, may be read in this larger context (plate 5).  The lozenge at the centre of the great chi-Cross attended by the four Evangelist symbols could have functioned for contemporary monastic readers not only as a cosmological image but as an aniconic representation of Christ the Creator-Logos holding together the quadripartite world at the centre and also present throughout his fourfold creation and his fourfold Gospel.

               Unlike a diagram, the insular four-symbols page is a powerful evocation and celebration of a mysterious heavenly reality and could act as a mnemonic or aid to focus further meditation.  It does not attempt to illustrate literally in figural terms the various scriptural and cosmic quaternities which characterise patristic and Hiberno-Latin exegesis on the four gospels but gives visual and symbolic expression to a shared understanding of the revelatory quality of number and harmony. There is an earlier Italian example of half-length winged Evangelist symbols with attributes around an unframed Latin Cross and there are later derivatives[56] but the development of the geometrical and cosmological dimension of the framed image, its proliferation and refinement are insular achievements.  The mentality underlying the distinctive insular gospel books' four-symbols image, particularly as developed in the Book of Kells, f. 290v, finds some counterpart in early insular exegesis in which the cosmological, numerological and especially quadripartite aspects of patristic interpretation of the four Evangelists and their symbols are particularly emphasised and

further developed.









                                                                             LIST  OF  PLATES



Plate 1   Trier Gospels, Trier, Domschatz, Cod. 61, f. 1v


Plate 2   Book of Kells, Dublin, Trinity College Lib, A.1.6(58)                             f.27v


Plate 3   Vivian Bibl, Paris, B.N. lat. 1, f. 329v


Plate 4   'Byrhtferth's Diagram', Oxford, St John's Coll.

                              Lib. Ms 17, f7v


Plate 5   Book of Kells, Dublin, Trinity College Lib, A.1.6(58),





























































[1].    For full citation and bibliography of manuscripts and reproductions of folios cited see the standard catalogue, J.J.G. Alexander, Insular manuscripts 6th to 9th century (London 1978).  Catalogue no. 6, pl 14-17; cat. 11, pl 54-6, 59; Cat. 12, pl 57-8.


[2].  Alexander, Insular MSS, cat. 36, pl 174, 176-8; cat. 45, pl 210-212; cat. 48, pl 222, 224; cat. 49, pl 228.

[3].  Alexander, Insular Mss, cat. 9, pl 28-31; cat. 21, pl 80, 82; cat. 44, pl 204-205, 207-208; cat. 54, pl 263-4.

[4].  Alexander, Insular MSS, cat. 6, pl 13; cat. 26, pl 114; cat. 70, pl 325.

[5].  Folios 1r-4r, 5r, 27v, 28v, 129v, 290v.  Alexander, cat. 58, pl 251, 241; 232, 234-39; 231, 246, 250.  Reproduced in colour in Françoise Henry, The Book of Kells (London 1974) and in the facsimile, Peter Fox (ed), The Book of Kells (Lucerne 1990).

[6].  Paul Underwood, `The Fountain of Life in manuscripts of the gospels', Dunbarton Oaks Papers 5 (1950) 43-138; Herbert Kessler, The illustrated bibles from Tours (Princeton 1977) 36-58; Robert M. Walker, `Illustrations to the Priscillian Prologues in the gospel manuscripts of the Carolingian Ada school', Art Bulletin (1948), 1-10.

[7].  Robert McNally, 'The Evangelists in the Hiberno-Latin tradition', Festschrift Bernhard Bischoff, (ed.), A. Hiergemann (Stuttgart (1971) 111-122.

[8].  Bernard Bischoff, `Turning-points in the history of Latin exegesis in the early Irish church: AD 650-800' in Biblical studies: the medieval Irish contribution, (ed.) Martin McNamara (Dublin 1976), 74-160; J.F. Kelly, `A catalogue of early medieval Hiberno-Latin biblical commentaries' (I) Traditio 44 (1988), 537-71; (II) Traditio 45 (1989-90), 393-434.  C.D. Wright, `Hiberno-Latin and Irish-influenced biblical commentaries, florilegia and homily collections' in The sources of Anglo-Saxon literary culture: a trial version, (ed.), F.M. Biggs, T.D. Hill, P.E. Szarmach (Binghampton, N.Y. 1990) 87-123.

[9].  Helmut Merkel, Die Widerspruche zwischen den Evangelien: Ihre polemische und apologetische Behandlung in der Alten Kirche bis zu Augustin (Tübingen 1971), reviewed by

Bruce M. Metzer in Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973), 132-4.

[10].  Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, 3.8.11; 4.20, 10-11.,

ed. F. Saguard, Sources chretiennes 34 (Paris 1952). 

W. Neuss, Das Buch Ezechiel in Theologie und Kunst bis zum Ende des 12. Jrhs. (Munster i. W. 1912); F. van der Meer, Maiestas Domini. Théophanies de l'Apocalypse dans l'art chretien (Rome-Paris 1938).

[11].  Commentariorum in Matheum CCSL 77 (1964), 1-4.

[12].  Commentariorum in Hiezechielem CCSL (1964), Hom. IV, 1-3.

[13].  Homiliae in Hiezechielem prophetam CCSL 142 (1971), Homilia IV, 47.

[14].  Martin Werner, `The four Evangelist symbols in the Book of Durrow', Gesta 8 (1969), 3-17, n.7; Patrick McGurk, `The Irish pocket gospel book', Sacris Erudiri 8 (1956), 249-70, 253 n.1; Lawrence Nees, `The colophon drawing in the Book of Mulling: a supposed Irish monastery plan and the tradition of terminal illustration in early medieval manuscripts' Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 5 (1983), 67-91, 84, pl VII.

[15].  Bede, In Lucae Evangelium expositio CCSL 120 (1960), 10.  Robert McNally (ed.), Scriptores Hibernaei minores, I, CCSL 108 B (1973), 139 for named quotation from Augustine in Angers Ms 55; Orléans 65(2) is unpublished.

[16].  Denis Meehan (ed.), Adamnan's De locis sanctis (Dublin 1958) 14.

[17].  G.S.M. Walker (ed.), Sancti Columbani opera.  Scriptores latini hiberniae 2 (Dublin 1970), Ep. I, 10.

[18].  J.N. Hillgarth, `Ireland and Spain in the seventh

centur­y', Peritia 3 (1984), 1-16, 8.

[19].  P.L. XIX, 591, J. Huemer (ed.), Sedulii opera omnia CSEL 10; Carl Springer, The Gospel as epic in late antiquity.  The Carmen Paschale of Sedulius (Leiden, N.Y. 1988) 128-35 for its early influence.  Alexander, Insular MSS cat. 65, pl. 290 for Antwerp illustration.  Francis Wormald, The miniatures in the Gospels of St Augustine, Cambridge Corpus Christi Coll. MS 286 (Cambridge 1954) 3-5, pl XIVa; Carol Levine, `Vulpes fossa habent or the miracle of the bent woman in the Gospels of

St Augustine, CCCC MS 286', Art Bulletin 56 (1974), 488-504, 503-504 for early transmission.  I am grateful to James Cronin for a photograph of the Antwerp folio.

[20].  Patrick McGurk, Latin Gospel books from A.D. 400 to A.D. 800 (Paris-Brussels 1961) for contents of individual insular manuscripts; P. McGurk, `The texts at the opening of the book' in Fox (ed.), The Book of Kells, 37-58, gospel prefaces 40-41.

[21].  Pierre de Puniet, `Apertio aurium' DACL I, pt. 2, (1924) cols. 2523-37.  E.A. Lowe (ed.), Bobbio Missal HBS 58 (London 1920), 175-82; D. Hurst (ed.), De tabernaculo II and

In Ezram et Neemian II, Bedae opera exegetica CCSL 119 A (1969) 89, 310-11; A.C. Holder (tr), Bede, On the Tabernacle (Liverpool 1994) 101;  E.C. Whitaker, Documents of the

baptis­mal liturgy 2nd ed. (London 1970) for translations of the ceremony 172-4, 199-201, 204-06 (Bobbio Missal). 

Patrick Sims-Williams, Religion and literature in western England, 600-800 (Cambridge 1990) 293-95;  Éamonn Ó Carragáin, `Traditio evangeliorum and sustentatio: the relevance of liturgical ceremonies to the Book of Kells' in

Felicity O'Mahony (ed.), The Book of Kells (Aldershot 1994) 398-436, 400-06 and notes.

[22].  'Traditio evangeliorum and sustentatio' 403-406.



[23].  Hippolytus's commentary on the Book of Daniel, cited by H. Kessler, The illustrated bibles from Tours 50; 40-53 for association of the four Evangelists and four rivers by Cyprian and Ambrose; cf. P. Underwood, `The fountain of life', 72-3, 106-131 for the image in exegesis and early medieval gospel books.  E.C. Whitaker, Documents of the baptismal liturgy, 187, 210, 217-219 (Stowe Missal) for rivers of paradise recalled in the blessing of the font before baptism.  Hugo Rahner, `Flumina de ventre Christi - die patristiche Auslegung von Joh. 7:37-8', Biblica 22 (1941) 269-302, 362-403.

[24].  Robert McNally (ed.), Scriptore hiberniae minores pars I CCSL 108B (1973) Document I, 133-149, 135.



[25].  Scriptores Hiberniae minores pars I, 145-6.  B. Bischoff. `Turning-points in the history of Latin exegesis in the early Irish church AD 650-800', cat. 14.1, 111-112.



[26].  Bede, De templo, (ed.), D. Hurst CCSL 119A, 209-210.



[27].  R. McNally, `The Evangelists in the Hiberno-Latin

tradit­ion' 113.



[28].  Scriptores hiberniae minores pars I, 127-132.

[29].  R. McNally, 'The Evangelists in the Hiberno-Latin

tradit­ion' 115-116; Scriptores hiberniae minores pars I, 134 n.7.  Walter Berschin, 'Why did the Venerable Bede write a second prose Life of Cuthbert?' in G. Bonner, D. Rollason,

C. Stancl­iffe (ed), St Cuthbert, his cult and his community to AD 1200 (Woodbridge 1989), 95-102 at 99-100.

[30].  Scriptores hiberniae minores pars I 213-219, preface 209-211.


[31].  Paris, B.N. lat. 11561, ff.126-137r.  Unpublished.  C.D. Wright, `Hiberno-Latin and Irish-influenced biblical

commenta­ries' cat. 1, 90-92.

[32].  London, B.L. Cotton Nero C. IV, J.J.G. Alexander, Insular manuscripts 6th to 9th century cat. 9, pl 32, 36-7, 40-1.  For the importance of the numerical texts in canon tables as evidence for identifying links between particular groups of insular gospel books see Patrick McGurk, `The disposition of numbers in Latin Eusebian canon tables' in R. Gryson (ed.), Philologia sacra. Biblische und partistische Studien für H.J. Frede und W. Thiele (Frieburg 1993) 242-58:  I am grateful to the author for this reference.

[33].  Alexander, Insular MSS, cat. 52, pl 232-, 234-7. 

Franço­ise Henry, The Book of Kells colour plates 2-5, 9.  Discussed by George Henderson, From Durrow to Kells.  The insular gospel books 650-800 (London 1987) 131-141; P. McGurk, `The texts at the beginning of the book' in Fox (ed.),

The Book of Kells, 53, 57.  The canon table numbers were never inserted in the margins of the gospel texts alongside the appropriate passages in the Book of Kells.

[34].  Aileranus Canon evangeliorum, D. de Bruyne, Prefaces de la bible latine (Namur 1920) 185-6; Wright, `Hiberno-Latin and Irish-influenced biblical commentaries' cat. 19, 101-102.  Text of the poem in the Augsburg Gospels (Augsburg,

Universit­atsbibl. Cod. 1.2.4°.2 olim Maihingen) published with full discussion of the canon tables in the Echternach mss: Nancy Netzer, Cultural interplay in the eighth century.  The Trier Gospels and the making of a scriptorium at Echternach (Cam­bridge 1994) 205-6, 55-83, 226 n. 52 and plates.  Alexander, Insular MSS, cat. 23, 24.

[35].  `The origin of the beast canons reconsidered' in

F. O'Mahoney (ed.), The Book of Kells, 322-32, 328.

[36].  B. Bischoff, `Turning-points' cat. 23, 126-7; C. Wright, `Hiberno-Latin and Irish-influenced biblical commentaries' cat. 26, 105.  The manuscript is being prepared for publica­tion by Denis Brearley and Seán Connolly: I am most grateful to Dr Connolly for generously letting me use his transcript.

[37].  P.L. 30, 531-34.  Bischoff, `Turning-points' cat. 11A, 108-109; Wright, `Hiberno-Latin and Irish-influenced biblical commentaries' cat. 18, 100-101.

[38].  The Book of Secrets of Enoch in R.H. Charles (ed),

Apoc­rypha and pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford 1913), ii 448; Visio Pauli in M.R. James (ed.), The apocryphal New Testament (Oxford 1924) 538; M. McNamara, The apocrypha in the Irish church (Dublin 1975, repr 1984) no. 91.  For other examples of the association of the four Evangelists and the four liquids see R. McNally, 'The Evangelists in the Hiberno-Latin tradition' 116-119 and J. O'Reilly, 'The Hiberno-Latin tradition of the Evangelists and the Gospels of Mael Brigte' Peritia 9 (1995) 290-309.

[39]. Otto-Karl Werckmeister, Irisch-northumbrische Buchmalerei des 8 Jahrhunderts und monastische Spiritualität (Berlin 1967) 153-67 pl 41-43a, 45b, 48; cf. Hans Meyer, ‘Zur Symbolik Frühmittelalterlicher Majestasbilder’, Das Munster, Zeitschri­ft für christliche Kunst und Kunstwissenschaft 14 (1961) 73088, 74.  Werckmeister's work reviewed with reservations by Paul Meyvaert, Speculum 46 (1971) 408-11; referring to Meyer and Werckmeister, H. Kessler notes ‘whether the central loz­enge of the John frontispiece in the Book of Kells (f. 290v) has cosmic meaning is also questionable.  No doubt can exist, however, that in Carolingian art, the lozenge had symbolic meaning’, The illustrated bibles from Tours 52.

[40].  The illustrated bibles from Tours 51-53, pl. 75, 64 (Nancy, Cathédrale, Gospels f. 3v).



[41].  Illustrated bibles from Tours, 51-2, notes 109, 110.

Ulrich Ernst, Carmen figuratum. Geschich­te des Figurengedicts von den antiken Ursprüngen bis zum Ausgagng des Mittelalters (Cologne 1991) for examples of figured texts highlighting the lozenge shape: 168-77 for Alcuin.


[42].  Alexander, Insular mss, cat. 24, pl 115, Ernst, Carmen figuratum, 403-404, pl. 125.

[43].  M. Smyth, 'The physical world in seventh-century Irish Hiberno-Latin texts', Peritia 5 (1986) 201-34, 229.

[44].  Paris, B.N. lat. 11561, f. 132r, note 31 above. 

[45].  D. Ó Cróinín, 'The Irish provenance of Bede's computus', Peritia 2 (1983) 229-47; M. Walsh and D. Ó Cróinín (ed), Cummian's letter De controversia paschali, together with a related Irish computistical tract De ratione computandi (Toronto 1988).

[46].  O.K. Werckmeister, ‘Three problems of tradition in pre-Carolingian figure style: from Visigothic to insular illumina­tion', Proceedings of Royal Irish Academy, 63 C 5 (1963) 167-89, at 167-75, pl 21, 22, 25; Harry Bober, ‘An illustrated medieval school-book of Bede's De natura rerumJnl of Walkers Art Gallery, 19-20 (1956-57) 65-97, 74-7.

[47].  Madeline Caviness, 'Images of divine order and the third mode of seeing' Gesta 22 (1983), 99-121 at 108, notes 48, 50-1, p. 119, 20; Oxford, St John's College Library MS 17, f. 7v, M.R. Evans, Medieval drawings (London-Toronto 1969) pl 66. 

C. and D. Singer, 'Byrhtferth's diagram', Bodleian Quaterly Record 2 (1917) 47-51; P.S. Baker, 'Byrhtferth's Enchiridion and the computus in Oxford, St John's College 17', Anglo-Saxon England, 10 (1982), 123-142.

[48].  S.J. Crawford (ed), Byrhtferth's Manual edited from Bodl. Ms Ashmole 328, Early English Text Society O.S. 177 1929, vol. 1, 198-204. 

[49].  By R.W. Southern, Medieval Humanism and other studies (Oxford 1970), in his caption to pl IV, another version of Byrhtferth's diagram in London, BL Harley Ms 3667 from

Peterb­orough Abbey c. 1100.

[50].  Trier, Domschatz, Codex 61, f.1v, Alexander, cat. 26, pl 114, f. 5v (Tetramorph) pl 110; N. Netzer, Cultural interplay in the eighth century.  The Trier Gospels, 103-111, pl 1-4.

[51].  Turin, Biblioteca Nazionale, Cod. O.IV.20, f.2ª Alexander Insular mss, cat. 61, pl 280; London, B.L., Cotton, Galba A. XVIII, f. 21v in E. Temple, Anglo-Saxon manuscripts 900-1066 (London 1976) cat. 5, pl 33; J. O'Reilly, ‘Early medieval text and image: the wounded and exalted Christ’, Peritia 6-7 (1987-88), 72-118, at 84, 92-3, pl 8.

[52].  M.W. Evans, Medieval Drawings, pl. 80.

[53].  S. Lewis, 'Sacred calligraphy: the chi-rho page in the Book of Kells', Traditio 36 (2980), 139-59 at 142-3; cf.

Werck­meister, Irisch-northumbrische Buchmalerei, 147-170, citing Irenaeus Adversus haerese 5. 18.3; 4.17.6.

[54].   Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 3.11.8.  For the patristic idea of the numerical and geometric plan of creation as ‘the first and highest knowable expression of the Divine Majesty’ see Harry Bober, ‘In principio.  Creation before time’ in M. Meiss (ed.), De artibus opuscula XL.  Essays in honour of Erwin Panofsky (New York 1961), 13-28. Augustine, In Johannis evangelium, ed. R. Willems, CCSL 36 (1954), Tractatus I, 13.  James McEvoy, ‘Biblical and Platonic measure in John Scottus Eriugena’ in B. McGinn and W. Otten (ed.), Eriugena (Notre Dame and London 1994), 153-77.

[55].  A. Esmeijer, Divina quaternitas.  A preliminary study in the method and application of visual exegesis (Amsterdam 1978), 97-9, 97-104, pl 80-1; O. Werckmeister, Irisch-

northum­brische Buchmalerei, 143-46, pl 26, pl 34a-35b.

[56].  Fifth-century mosaic in catacomb of S. Gennaro, Naples cited by Lawrence Nees, ‘A fifth-century book cover and the origin of the four Evangelist symbols page in the Book of Durrow’, Gesta 17 (1978) 308, 4 figs 2-3.  A twelfth-century Byzantine example, Paris, B.N., suppl. gr. 1335, f.75, with full-length wingless sym­bols, a quadripartite design and a cross meeting the frame is the closest parallel to the insular type though it has a portrait bust of Christ at its centre.