Imaging The Exotic: Evidence for Contact between Britain, Ireland and the Near East during the Anglo-Saxon Age

Imaging The Exotic:  Evidence for Contact between Britain, Ireland and the Near East during the Anglo-Saxon Age
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 11th October, 2014,
with Professor Michelle Brown

Brown image

We will examine the concept of links between the Far West and Near East during the period c.550-1050, including new evidence from St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15: Coffee on arrival
10.15 – 11.15: The Historical and Visual Evidence for Early Contact Between Insular Culture and that of the Near East (1)
11.15 – 11.45: Coffee break
11.45 – 12.45: The Historical and Visual Evidence for Early Contact Between Insular Culture and that of the Near East (2)
12.45 – 14.00: Lunch break
14.00 – 15.00: The Historical Sources
15.00 – 15.20: Tea break
15.20 – 16.20: The Latin Manuscripts at St Catherine’s, Sinai – new research
c.16.20:           Thanks and Close

About Professor Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown, FSA, is Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is also a Visiting Professor at University College London and at Baylor University, Texas. She was formerly the Curator of Medieval and Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library and has published, lectured and broadcast widely on the subject of medieval manuscripts and cultural history.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

New Research

M. P. Brown, “The Eastwardness of Things: Relationships between the Christian Cultures of the Middle East and the Insular World,” in The Genesis of Books: Studies in the Interactions of Words, Text, and Print in Honor of A.N. Doane, ed. M.T. Hussey & J.D. Niles (Turnhout, 2012).

M. P. Brown, ‘Imagining, Imaging and Experiencing the East in Insular and Anglo-Saxon Cultures: New Evidence for Contact’, in Proceedings of the ISAS conference, Madison, 2012, ed. J. D. Niles, et al. (Arizona Univ. Press 2014, forthcoming).

M. P. Brown, The Latin Manuscripts of the Holy Monastery of St Catherine’s, Sinai (forthcoming).

For Specific Perspectives, see

E.G. Bowen, Saints, Seaways and Settlements in the Celtic Lands (Cardiff, 1969).

Fr. Gregory Telepneff, The Egyptian Desert in the Irish Bogs: The Byzantine Character of Early Celtic Monasticism (Etna, CA, 1998), esp. 14–15.

R. K. Ritner Jnr, ”Egyptians in Ireland: A Question of Coptic Peregrinations,” Rice University Studies 62 (1976): 65-87. See also “Coptic and Irish Art” & “Coptic Influence in the British Isles” in The Coptic Encyclopedia, ed. Aziz S. Atiya, 8 vols. (New York, 1991). Telepneff & Atiya are inclined to overestimate the reliability and extent of the sources. More measured discussion occurs in John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades (Warminster, 1977).

J.M. Wooding, Communication and Commerce along the Western Sealanes AD 400–800, BAR International Series 654 (Oxford, 1996).

R. (Bob) Quinn, The Atlantean Irish: Ireland’s Oriental and Maritime Heritage (Dublin, 2005); E. Campbell, Continental and Mediterranean Imports to Atlantic Britain and Ireland, AD 400–800, CBA Research Report 157 (York, 2007).

R.K. Ritner Jr. & J. G. Ghazarian, The Mediterranean Legacy in Early Celtic Christianity: A Journey from Armenia to Ireland (London, 2006). For a readable general background, see W. Dalrymple, From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East (London, 1997).

Ecclesiastical Contexts

Frederick E. Warren, The Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church (Oxford, 1881); Frank E. Brightman, Liturgies, Eastern and Western (Oxford, 1896); Charles Plummer, Irish Litanies (London, 1925), 54–75.

For more recent historical overviews, see Nora Chadwick, The Age of the Saints in the Early Celtic Church (Oxford, 1961); Aziz S. Atiya, History of Eastern Christianity (South Bend, IN, 1967), 55 onwards; Kathleen Hughes & Ann Hamlin, Celtic Monasticism: The Modern Traveller to the Irish Church (New York, 1981).

A. King, Liturgies of the Past (London, 1959), 228–29; G. MacGinty, “The Influence of the Desert Fathers on Early Irish Monasticism,” Monastic Studies 14 (1983): 85–91. Note also the discussion of St. John the Almsgiver in Campbell, Continental and Mediterranean Imports, 131, & Wooding, Communication and Commerce, 46.

Art and Material Culture

Nils Åberg, The Occident and the Orient in the Art of the Seventh Century I (Stockholm, 1943); Françoise Henry, L’Art Irlandais (Yonne, 1964) & The Book of Kells (London, 1974); & Hilary Richardson, “Observations on Christian Art in Early Ireland, Georgia & Armenia,” in Ireland and Insular Art AD 500–1200, ed. Michael Herity (Dublin, 1987). For the Coptic origins of the “Celtic” wheel cross, for example, see W. Horn, “On the Origin of the Celtic Cross,” in The Forgotten Hermitage of Skellig Michael, ed. W. Horn, J. White Marshall, & G. D. Rourke (Berkeley, 1990), 89–93.

More recently, see M.P. Brown, The Lindisfarne Gospels: Society, Spirituality and the Scribe (London, 2003), esp. 28–32, & In the Beginning: Bibles before the Year 1000, ed. M.P. Brown (Washington DC, 2006).

M. P. Brown, The Book and the Transformation of Britain, c. 550–1050: A Study in Written and Visual Literacy and Orality, The Sandars Lectures in Bibliography, 2009 (London, 2011).


Campbell, Continental and Mediterranean Imports, & Wooding, Communication and Commerce. See also C. Thomas, “Imported Late-Roman Mediterranean Pottery in Ireland and Western Britain: Chronology and Implications,” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 76c (1979), 245–55, & C. Thomas, “The Context of Tintagel: A New Model for the Diffusion of Post-Roman Imports,” Cornish Archaeology 2 (1988): 7–26.

H. Leclercq, L’Afrique Chrétienne (Paris, 1904). For an overview of the archaeological evidence for early Christianity in Britain, see The Archaeology of Celtic Britain and Ireland c. AD 400–1200, ed. Lloyd Laing (Cambridge, 2006); The Early Church in Wales and the West, ed. Nancy Edwards & Alan Lane (Oxford, 1992); Glastonbury: Myth and Archaeology, ed. Philip Rahtz & Lorna Watts (Stroud, 2003); Sam Turner, Making a Christian Landscape: The Countryside in Early Medieval Cornwall, Devon and Wessex (Exeter, 2006); & Niall Finneran, “Extending the Christian Frontier in Late Antiquity: Monks, Mission, Monasteries and the Christianisation of Space,” in Missionary Landscapes, ed. Z. Crossland (London: University College London Monographs in Archaeology, forthcoming). For a review of the written evidence, see David N. Dumville, “Sub-Roman Britain: History and Legend,” History 62 (1977): 173–92.