||The diamond-shaped symbol, more commonly referred to as the lozenge symbol, occurs frequently on the carved stones, metalwork and manuscript pages of the Early Christian period in Ireland. Some scholars have seen the lozenge symbol as deriving from the lozenge ornament of the Bronze Age in Ireland (Streit 1977, 117). However, it is clear that the Early Christian art of the Mediterranean has a greater claim to be the inspiration behind the motif in Early Christian Ireland.|
The Kilbroney Cross is remarkable for a number of reasons, not least of which is the appearance of a lozenge symbol filled with key ornament in low relief at the centre of the cross- head (pic.1; Harbison 1992, 113 (no.130), fig.364)).
Dorothy Kelly has suggested that the granite cross should be placed at the very beginning of the development of the high cross in Ireland (Kelly 1991, 109). The form of the cross may owe much to earlier wooden prototypes, and the decoration is not as ambitious as later high crosses. Nevertheless, it may be argued that the lozenge in the centre was not added as mere decoration, but had Christian significance for the patron of the work, and very probably for the sculptor who carved it (1).
The Christian significance of the lozenge
The lozenge has long been recognised as a Christian symbol, although no scholar has yet been able to argue the case conclusively. Cabrol and Leclercq (1907-53, 2520-1, 'losange') identified an example of the symbol in the Crypt of Lucina and another in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, both in Rome, but found the origin of the symbol enigmatic. Francoise Henry was of the opinion that 'the lozenge was certainly an Early Christian symbol, though its significance is unknown' (Henry 1940, 49). Werckmeister (1964, 693) suggested that the lozenge symbolised the fourfold unity of the earth, the mundus tetragonus, although such an explanation could hardly account for the frequency and dominance of the symbol in the Book of Kells. More recently, Hilary Richardson has argued, from the occurrences of the lozenge symbol in the Book of Kells and other associations, that it represents the Logos Incarnate, the Word made Flesh, that is the second person of the Trinity - Christ himself (Richardson 1984, 45; 1989,376).
Fig. 1 : Lozenge decorated book on f.291v of the Book of Kells.
||Hilary Richardson has supported her argument that the lozenge represents Christ with a number of examples from the Book of Kells. On f.34r of theBook of Kells, the complex Chi Rho page, a lozenge forms the centre of the 'Chi', the X-shaped cross which forms the first letter of the name of Christ in Greek. The lozenge is similarly situated in the centre of a Chi cross on the page showing the symbols of the evangelists in St John's Gospel on f.290v. In the portrait of St John opposite the symbols page (f.291v), the evangelist holds up a Gospel book that has a lozenge on the cover (fig.1). From this, Richardson deduces that the lozenge is the visual emblem that specifically symbolises the 'Word' (Richardson 1996, 24-5). |
Examples of lozenge decoration are to be found on some of the finest brooches of the 'Golden Age' of Irish art. Stevenson pointed out the central amber lozenge in the cruciform panel of ornament on the Tara brooch, and indicated the Christian significance of this arrangement in his discussion of the Hunterston brooch (Stevenson 1974, 38-40). Richardson has drawn attention to examples of lozenge ornament on other brooches from Tipperary, Cavan, Roscrea and Killamery, and has interpreted the lozenge as an alternative motif for the cross in this context (Richardson 1984, figs 9 and 10). She finds support for her argument in the occurrence of the lozenge in patterns on marble slabs and screens in Byzantine churches, interchanging with patterns of crosses and other Christian symbols (Richardson 1996, 24-5). Fine sixth century examples of interchanging lozenge ornament and encircled Chi crosses (resembling the hosts seen in the Book of Kells) can be found in mosaics in the galleries of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. Lozenges also alternate in the same context with octagonal motifs, which are symbolic of the Resurrection of
Christ on the eighth day (Durand 1999, 25).
The symbolic decoration of robes with lozenge ornament can be seen in the mosaics of the sixth century churches of Ravenna. For example, lozenges appear on the robes of the Virgins in procession on the north wall of the nave in StApollinare Nuovo, and on the clothing of members of the retinue of Justinian and Theodora on the north wall of the presbyterium in St Vitale (Durand 1999,30-3) (2). This type of decoration can be traced back to earlier portraits, such as those found on a small gilded glass medallion with a Greek inscription in the Museo Civico, Brescia. Decorated in the court style of about AD 400, this medallion is adorned with the portraits of a noblewoman and her son and daughter, the latter's robes being decorated with large lozenges and circular
motifs (Hutter 1988, 38-9) (3).
The widespread use of the symbol at this time is demonstrated by a number of fifth century lamps made in central Tunisia, bearing lozenge ornament, which have been preserved in the collections of the British Museum (Bailey 1988, 194-7). One lamp (Q1755) is decorated with the Christian Chi Rho monogram in the centre, with alternate lozenge and star motifs around the border. Another (Q1786) bears an ornate central lozenge with semi-circular projections centred on the flat sides of the ornament, and alternate flowers and ivy leaves (symbolic of immortality) around the border. The same type of lozenge is seen in some of the mosaics of Hagia Sophia mentioned above and on a stone trial-piece from Nendrum monastery on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough (O'Meadhra 1979, no.145).
Fig. 2: Detail of mosaic at El-Tabgha
||Some occurrences of the lozenge symbol on Byzantine mosaics appear to reinforce the association of the symbol with Christ and 7 Eucharistic imagery. For example, large lozenges appear either side of a basket of loaves flanked by two fishes on a mosaic at Et-Tabgha, the site of a late fourth century church at the base of the Mount of the Sermon or Beatitudes, on the south-west shore of the Sea of Galilee (fig. 2). The mosaic itself can be dated to the second half of the sixth century by a dedicatory inscription recording a pious grant for the decoration of the church (Ronan 1939, 21). |
Irish connections with the Holy Land
Significantly, a lozenge symbol occurs on several late sixth century silver ampullae, or holy oil flasks, one in the Treasury at Monza, near Milan (fig. 3a) and another in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in Washington D.C. (Biddle 1999, fig. 18). Such flasks were probably brought from the Holy Land by pilgrims, and frequently show a minute stylised image of the rotunda or Edicule constructed between AD 325 and 335 by the Emperor Constantine to contain the Holy Sepulchre, suggesting an origin for the pieces in Jerusalem itself. It has been suggested that it is coincidental that the surviving items with such iconography only date to the sixth century, and that the souvenir industry of the holy places started much earlier (Kuhnel 1987,151). Ampulla No.5 in the Monza collection clearly shows a lozenge in the centre of the representation of the Edicule, in Constantine's Church of the Anastasis, or Resurrection, where one would expect to see the Holy Sepulchre itself (Grabar 1958, 22-3; plate 11).
Fig. 3a: Detail from Ampulla No.5, Monza Cathedral
||The ampulla is one of a collection which was gifted to Queen Theodolinda, wife of Agilulf, King of the Lombards, by Pope Gregory the Great. Agilulf gave protection to St Columbanus, a monk of Bangor, and the founder of the monastery of Bobbio, where a separate collection of related flasks still survives (Henderson 1987, 87). No. 5, Monza St Columbanus, his companions, and those Irish monks who followed in his Cathedral, footsteps, probably saw such flasks from the Holy Land, and transmitted knowledge of their iconography, if not examples of the flasks themselves, back to Irish monastic centres The discovery of a sixth century earthenware pilgrim flask of St Menas from Alexandria, found at Meols in Cheshire, provides evidence that actual pilgrim flasks found their way to sites bordering the Irish Sea in this period (Thompson 1956, 48-9). |
The transmission of Christian symbolism from the Holy Land to Ireland would explain the appearance of lozenge ornament on items associated with the early Irish liturgy, such as the stem of the Derrynaflan Chalice (Ryan 1997). In addition to the return of pilgrims from the Holy Land to Ireland bearing eye-witness accounts and souvenirs, another possible mechanism for the transmission of Christian symbols was manuscript exchange. Michael Richter has emphasised the continuing links between Bangor and Bobbio in the seventh century, suggested for example by some impressive connections between Irish hymns and those from Bobbio at this time (Richter 1999 200).
Although it is difficult to date the first usage of the lozenge symbol in Early Christian Irish art, it is significant that it features in the sumptuous illuminations of the Lindisfarne Gospels. This manuscript was penned shortly before AD 698 at the island monastery of Lindisfarne, which was founded by Irish monks from lona in about AD 635 (Backhouse 1981, 52 & 57). The use of the
lozenge in this manuscript, for example on the cross -carpet' page introducing St Luke's Gospel (f 138b) and in the major decorated initial page introducing St John's Gospel (f.211), presages its appearance a century later in the Book of Kells, a manuscript generally recognised as being a product of lona itself (Henderson 1987, 55; Meyvaert 1989).
An examination of a particular example of the lozenge symbol in the Book of Kells suggests the probable use of Byzantine models. In the same way that a lozenge decorates St John's Gospel book in the Book of Kells (f.291v), St Paul carries a book decorated with a large lozenge in a late ninth century copy of a sixth century codex of the Cosmography of Cosmas Indicopleustes in the Vatican Library, Rome (Hutter 1988, 110). The Ezra-Cassiodorus miniature from the early eighth century Codex Amiatinus, written at the monastery of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow as a gift for the Pope includes a cupboard containing the nine books of the Bible, of which five have covers decorated with large lozenges. This particular feature is consistent with the availability of Mediterranean models, which we know that the painters of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow strove to reproduce in the manuscript (Bruce-Mitford 1969, fig.1) (4). The appearance of the lozenge on the books of the Bible indicates the universal recognition of the lozenge as a symbol for Christ.
|The meaning of the lozenge
The tantalising question still remains as to the precise meaning of the lozenge symbol. The answer may lie in the Dumbarton Oaks Library and Collection in Washington D.C. A late sixth to seventh century marble relief plaque in this collection, probably a fragment of a chancel screen from Syria shows a stylised view of the Edicule containing the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, its roof supported by four columns which frame the interior (fig. 3b; Underwood 1985, 91-2; plates 39-40). In the centre, a cross is carved in relief which stands on a trilobed representation of Golgotha. Directly above it there is a small rectangular hollow in the plaque. Just below the hole and to the left of the cross, there is an elongated lozenge carved in relief, in the context of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the rectangular hole clearly represents the entrance to the empty tomb of Christ, and the lozenge represents the stone, which was, according to the Gospels, removed from the tomb by an angel at the Resurrection. As in the depiction of the Holy Sepulchre on ampulla no.5 preserved in Monza, the stone is lozenge-shaped because it is seen in perspective.
Fig. 3b: Syrian chancel screen fragment, Dumbarton Oaks Collection
Fig. 3c: Details of the Edicule on a mosaic in Sst Apollinare Nouvo, Ravenna
||The same symbolic treatment of the Holy Sepulchre is found on the screen fragment, mosaic depiction of the Resurrection in the church of St Apollinare Nuovo in Dumbarton Oaks Ravenna (fig. 3c; Underwood 1985, plate 41). Inside the Constantinian Collection. Edicule flanked by the angel and the two Maries, can be seen the open tomb and the lozenge-shaped slab raised at an angle of 45 degrees to show that the Resurrection of Christ had taken place. This mosaic dates to the period AD 493-526, and points to the wide dissemination of the symbolism of the opened tomb of Christ by this time.|
Although it has often been assumed that the stone which sealed the entrance of the tomb of Christ was round, this is implied only by the use of the Greek verb 'to roll' in three of the Gospels, and none of the Gospels describe the stone as round. The use of roughly dressed stones to seal tomb entrances was far more common at this time, and it is likely that such a stone was rolled up to the entrance of the Holy Sepulchre itself (Biddle 1999, 110).
The use of an elongated lozenge to represent the dressed slab removed from the Fig. 3c: Detail entrance to Christ's tomb suggests that the lozenge symbol could easily have onTmos'ai'cin been used on its own as an abbreviated reference to the Resurrection itself. This SstApollinare would have been an extremely useful symbol for artists, as the physical Resurrection of Christ is not described in any of the four Gospels, and it was therefore a problematic event to depict. The use of the lozenge removed the necessity of depicting Christ emerging from the tomb, and instead referred to the mystery of the stone being miraculously removed, as described in St Matthew's Gospel (28.2):
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.' The appearance of an angel within a lozenge-shaped 0-initial on f.48r of the Book of Kells may suggest that this is a representation of the angel at the Sepulchre referred to in the Gospels (Meehan 1994, pl.34). The angel depicted on f.183r of the Book of Kells appears to be sitting on a lozenge contained in the border decoration of the page, and may perhaps lay a stronger claim to being the angel in question. There is no doubt about the identity of the angel who greets the two Maries at the open entrance to the Sepulchre on the Resurrection Panel of the ninth century Quedlinburg Casket (Hawkes 1993, 256; fig. 31.5). Although the angel appears to be seated on a high-backed throne, the reference in St Matthew's Gospel to the angel sitting on the stone from the Sepulchre suggests that the lozenge-shaped seat is the rectangular stone seen in perspective, miraculously transformed into a throne by the presence of the angel (5).
The lozenge as a protective symbol
As a simple and easily recognisable geometric shape, the lozenge quickly became a popular Christian symbol with innumerable decorative possibilities, and achieved a certain apotropaic significance in the same manner as the cross itself. Hence, the appearance of the lozenge on clothing, on portable objects such as lamps, and on items of personal jewellery such as the splendid Irish brooches mentioned above. The lozenge symbol may have been deliberately incorporated into letter forms, such as the Greek alpha. This letter form became fashionable in Gaul and the Rhineland before AD 500, and occurs, for example, on the sixth century inscribed stone commemorating Mavorius and Viventius at Kirkmadrine in Galloway, Scotland (Thomas 1998,115). The incorporation of the lozenge in the 'A signifying the alpha symbol on this stone may have imbued it with a special significance in relation to the anticipated resurrection of Mavorius and Viventius on the Day of Judgement. The Greek alpha is ingeniously used within a lozenge containing the alpha and omega symbols on
f.188r of the Book of Kells, at the opening of St. Luke's Gospel (Meehan 1994, pl.95). Lozenge ornament continued to be used in church mosaics, where it served a similar function to interlace ornament. For example, both types of ornament were used in a floor mosaic in the late seventh or early eighth century church at Shunat Nimrin in Jordan, where the accompanying formula 'God (be) with us' shows the apotropaic significance of the decorative devices. The proximity of the mosaic to the entrance at the west end of the nave suggests that it was attributed with a protective significance by the church builders (Kitzinger 1993, 4). The protective nature of the lozenge symbol may well explain the appearance of a sunken lozenge, noted by Francoise Henry, carved on the left-hand jamb of the doorway of the church of the monastery at Fore, County Westmeath. The monastery was founded by St Feichin in about AD 630, and the entrance carvings in the stone church are likely to be somewhat later in date, bearing in mind the destruction caused by three Viking raids in AD 771, 830 and 870 (Harbison 1970, 241). Nevertheless, the location of the lozenge in the church is especially significant, since it is situated at the entrance in the same way that the dressed slab it symbolises was situated at the entrance to Christ's tomb. The symbolism of the Resurrection as represented by the lozenge complements the symbolism of the Crucifixion as represented by a ringed cross above the same church doorway.
Later use of the lozenge symbol
If a study of lozenge ornament were extended to the medieval period, a variety of personal artefacts bearing the lozenge device could be considered, such as pilgrim badges and keys (London Museum 1940, pl.73, no.56; pl.30, no.30). The decorative use of lozenges and circles around the mitred head of St Thomas Becket on a circular pilgrim badge from the Thames at Dowgate is reminiscent of the use of lozenges and other motifs around the borders of the Early Christian lamps mentioned above (London Museum 1940, pl.67, no. 11). Given the medieval revival of pilgrim souvenirs, drawing on traditions stretching back to the sixth century flasks in the collections at Monza and Bobbio, it should not surprise us to find the Resurrection symbolism of the lozenge serving much the same decorative purpose in fifth century Tunisia and thirteenth century Canterbury. Many aspects of Christian symbolism have proved themselves to be remarkably tenacious, even if today their significance is no longer generally appreciated. It is quite possible, for example, that the multiple lozenges used in the designs of St Brigid Crosses, such as those currently displayed in Armagh County Museum, imbued them with the same protective qualities as the lozenge-adorned Tara Brooch. The symbolic meaning of the lozenge was certainly known to Ferdomnach, the scribe of the Book of Armagh in AD 807, as he wrote the closing verses of St John's Gospel in a lozenge shape in the centre of the page
(Richardson 1996, 25). The symbol was also known to the carver of Armagh's Market Cross, now preserved in Armagh Cathedral, though the lozenge-decorated under rings of the Cross did not survive the damage done to the monument in the early nineteenth century.
The Book of Kells: new interpretations
The appearance of the lozenge in the Book of Kells in all its manifestations opens up the possibility of new interpretations, once it is recognised that it is a symbol of the Resurrection. For example, the half-length figure in the doorway of the Temple in the Temptation scene on f.202v could possibly represent the risen Christ in the doorway of his tomb, given the frieze of lozenge decoration either side of the doorway (Meehan 1994, fig.7).
The depiction of two tiny moths biting a lozenge, on the Chi Rho page (f.34r) of the Book of Kells, takes on a new significance if one views the lozenge both as a chrysalis, as suggested by Suzanne Lewis, and as the slab which was removed from the tomb of Christ (fig. 4). Clearly, the lozenge represents a double
reference to the Resurrection of Christ in this case, through use of the analogy of the moth emerging from the chrysalis after the apparent 'death' of the caterpillar, and the emergence of Christ from the tomb after his apparent death on the cross (Lewis 1980, 150).
Fig. 4: Two moths on the Chi Rho page (f.34r) of the Book of Kells
The evidence of Adomnan and Bede
Confirmation that the monks of lona knew the shape of the stone removed from Christ's tomb at the Resurrection, is to be found in Adomnan's De Locis Sanctis, a work probably written between AD 683 and 686 (Meehan 1958, 11). Adomnan's descriptions of the holy places relied heavily on eye-witness accounts given to him by Arculf, a Prankish bishop. Arculf had been shipwrecked on the west coast of Scotland after a visit to the Holy Land, and had made his way to the safety of the monastery of lona, where he recounted details of his travels to Adomnan.
In Chapter 3 of De Locis Sanctis, Adomnan gives the following description of the stone which was rolled to the door of the Lord's tomb with the assistance of many men after his crucifixion and
'According to Arculf it is split and divided into two parts. The smaller portion, dressed by tools and set up as a square altar, can be seen standing in the round church mentioned above; the larger portion of the stone, similarly dressed on all sides, forms another quadrangular altar covered by linens in the eastern part of the same church' (Meehan 1958, 47).
The information provided by Arculf was that the stone had been broken to form two straight- sided dressed slabs, one square ('quadratus') and one quadrangular ('quadrangulus'). Although it is not indicated how these two slabs may have fitted together to form the original stone, they could once have formed a single rectangular slab, discovered at the site of the Holy Sepulchre
during Bishop Makarios of Jerusalem's excavation of the tomb in AD 325-6 (Biddle 1999, 65).
When Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem from circa AD 351 -386, gave his Catechetical Lectures in 348 or 350, the stone that had closed the tomb of Christ was still lying before the entrance (Biddle 1999, 65-6). It was no doubt accorded special veneration at the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre in Constantine's new Church of the Anastasis. It is possible that the slab was damaged when the Persians attacked the church and burnt the roof of the Edicule in AD 614, when they also carried off the relic of the True Cross (fortunately to be recovered thirteen years later). However, the full explanation for the slab being in two pieces in the late seventh century may always elude us.
Bede clearly refers to Adomnan's work when he describes the Anastasis, the Church of the Lord's Resurrection, in Chapter V.16 of his Historia Ecclesiastica, written in about AD 730 (Colgrave and Mynors 1969). Bede describes the Lord's sepulchre as seven feet in length and raised three palm's breadth above the pavement. The stone which once formed the door of the tomb had been broken, according to Bede, with the smaller portion standing as a small square altar in front of the tomb, while the larger portion formed another altar at the eastern end of the church.
A square altar of the 'rolling stone' still stands today in the Chapel of the Angel in front of the entrance to the tomb within the Edicule of the Holy Sepulchre, despite the demolition of Constantine's Church of the Resurrection, and the removal of all its symbolic furnishings on the orders of Caliph AI-Hakim in AD 1009 (Biddle 1999, 72). The altar is shown in a number of illustrations and plans of the Edicule, including a woodcut showing the plan of the building in Santo Brasca's Viaggio in Terrasanta, printed in Milan in 1481 (fig. 5,after Biddle 1999, fig.35).
Fig. 5: Woodcut plan of the Edicule, 1481 (after Biddle 1999, fig. 35)
There is therefore a verifiable tradition, known certainly to Adomnan and Bede, that the surviving two pieces of the slab were 'square' and 'quadrangular', and that they had probably formed a rectangular whole with dressed sides. From this, it is possible to see how the lozenge shape, representing the stone after it had been miraculously removed from the tomb, might have come to symbolise the mystery of the Resurrection itself. The testimony of Arculf and the wide dissemination of the works of Adomnan and Bede could well have aroused or re-kindled interest in the Byzantine symbolism of the lozenge in Insular monastic circles, resulting in the widespread use of the motif to represent the Resurrection in manuscripts, metalwork and stone carvings on the north-western fringes of Christendom.
Virgin and Child iconography and lozenge insignia
|Niamh Whittield has argued that the miniature of the Virgin and Child in the Book of Kells (f.7v), where a lozenge appears on the Virgin's right breast (fig. 6), derives from an Early Christian source influenced by the Byzantine East. She cites the sixth century ivory binding of the Gospel of Lupicin from France, where a lozenge appears on the brow and right shoulder of the Virgin, as an example of the models that would have been available.
Ross Trench-JelIicoe has drawn attention to a group of Scottish 'Columban' crosses either slightly earlier in date or roughly contemporary with the production of the Book of Kells, which include representations of the Virgin and Child with a lozenge device depicted on the right-hand shoulder of the Virgin. He points to the similarity between the Kells Virgin and Child and carved representations on St Orans Cross, lona, the Kildalton Cross, Islay, and St Martin's Cross, lona, where the lozenge has a long vertical axis.
Fig. 6: Miniature of the Virgin and Child on f.7v of the Book of Kells - Courtesy of Ross Trench-JelIicoe
Fig. 7: Details of the Virgin's lozenge insignia: a St Oran's Cross, Iona, b Kildalton Cross, Islay, c, St Martin's Cross, Iona. - Courtesy of Ross Trench-JelIicoe
||Trench-Jellicoe has also revealed for the first time a later group of related carvings of the Virgin and Child at a'Chill on the Isle of Canna, and at Monifieth, Kirriemuir and Brechin in Angus, in which the lozenge on the Virgin's right shoulder has a long horizontal axis (fig. 8a-d). He concludes that the lozenge insignia, deriving ultimately from a Byzantine prototype, had long been attached to the Columban Virgin and Child by the time it was imported into Pictland and the Isle of Canna (Trench-Jellicoe 2000, 613).|
If it is the case that the inspiration behind all the Scottish and Pictish depictions of the Virgin and Child with lozenge insignia can be traced ultimately to lona, then the significance of the lozenge symbolism, as discussed above, becomes clearer. Each representation of the Virgin and Child includes not only an overt pictorial reminder that Christ was born in the flesh to but also through the lozenge or tombstone, a symbolic reminder that he was divine and rose from his tomb after the Crucifixion, later ascending to reign forever in Heaven.
Fig. 8: Details of the Virgin's lozenge insignia: a a'Chill Cross, Canna, b Monifeih 2C, Angus, c Kirriemuir 1C, Angus, d St Mary slab fragment, Brechin Cathedral Angus. Courtesy of Ross Trench-JelIicoe
The contemporary importance of Resurrection symbolism
The Columban depiction of the Virgin and Child focused attention on Christ's Resurrection at a time when churches and monasteries in Ireland, Scotland and England were being targeted by Viking attacks, and Christian monks were being martyred by heathen marauders. Trench-Jellicoe has remarked that 'the Viking incursions of the ninth century, perhaps rather than inhibiting iconic development, seem to have provided new impetus for experimentation' (Trench-Jellicoe 2000, 615). It is possible that the lozenge, as a symbol of Christ's Resurrection, was propagated from lona as a sign of Christian faith and hope in the face of Viking attacks on the island in AD 795 802 and 806, and the withdrawal of the community to Kells between AD 807 and 814. The lozenge symbolism which appears in the Book of Kells and on the high crosses of the Columban school may reflect not only Christian belief in the Resurrection of Christ, but also the belief in the Resurrection of Christian martyrs and the faithful on the Day of Judgement.
In the context of Viking raids on Christendom, it is not surprising to find Carolingian manuscript paintings of Christ enthroned for the Second Coming within a lozenge frame. One striking example is to be seen on the frontispiece to the Gospels in the Vivian Bible painted at Tours in about AD 845-6, only seven years prior to the inevitable Viking raid on Tours in AD 853 (Richardson 1984, fig.6a) (6). Jane Hawkes has drawn attention to the lozenge-shaped frames containing figures on the east face of the South Cross at Sandbach in Cheshire, and has pointed out the affinities of the design with ninth century Insular metalwork (Hawkes 1993, 218). The use of the lozenge in this context may also represent another example of Judgement-Resurrection symbolism at about the time of the production of the Book of Kells. The lozenge on the Irish high crosses An explanation for the lozenge symbol on the Irish high crosses therefore emerges from obscurity. Whether the lozenge appears below the cross-head on the west face of the Cross of Moone (Richardson 1984, fig. 9c), on the under rings of the West Cross at Monasterboice (Roe 1981, 58) or in the centre of the cross-head on the Kilbroney Cross (Harbison 1992, fig.364), it encapsulates the Christian message of the Resurrection in a simple geometric form.
The lozenge on the cross reminds the informed viewer that the Resurrection of Christ is implied within the symbolism of the cross. It is a reminder that, through his martyrdom on the cross, Christ was triumphant, rising again after three days, when an angel descended from Heaven and rolled back the stone from the door to Christ's tomb. In this respect, it is significant that the portrait of St John holding the lozenge-decorated Gospel book in the Book of Kells (f.291v) is set against an image of the crucified Christ, whose feet, hands and neck protrude from behind the decorative scheme of the portrait (Meehan 1994, pl.37).
The special association of St John with lozenge symbolism, in both the Book of Kells and the Book of Armagh, may be explained by his full account of the events surrounding the Resurrection of Christ in his Gospel, and his account of the Day of Judgement and the Resurrection of the dead in the Book of Revelation. Even St John, however, failed to provide the detail which artists needed to depict the Resurrection of Christ accurately. The lozenge provided a solution to the age-old problem of how to portray an event which is alluded to, rather than described, in the Gospels. As Peter Harbison has remarked:
'Even up to the Carolingian period, artists found it difficult to come to terms with illustrating that incredible moment of the Resurrection, and on Irish crosses, the nearest approach to the subject is Christ lying in the tomb with a bird breathing into his mouth to signify the moment of his re-awakening to life' (Harbison 1999, 157).
Despite such imaginative efforts to depict the Resurrection of Christ, as for example on the west face of the Cross of the Scriptures at Clonmacnoise, it was perhaps easier not to attempt to depict it at all, but to use a short-hand device of Byzantine origin to represent a key artefact that encapsulated the event.
One only has to turn to Down Cathedral to find a local example of lozenge ornament. A twelfth century carved fragment bearing lozenge decoration has been recorded by Fred Rankin, built into the exterior wall at the north-west corner of the Cathedral (Rankin 1997, 15). It is perhaps appropriate that a medieval reminder of the stone which stood at the entrance to the Holy Sepulchre can still be seen on the Cathedral Hill where the grave of St Patrick is reputed to lie.
The use of the word lozenge to describe the stone removed from the tomb of Christ is quite appropriate when one realises that the word derives from the Middle French 'losenge', probably derived from the base of Spanish 'losa', or Portuguese 'lousa', meaning 'slab', ultimately derived from the late Latin 'lausiae' (lapides), meaning 'stone slabs' (Pearsall 1998, 1097).
1. A lozenge can also be seen in the centre of the cross carved on the cross slab at Benvie, Angus (Alien and Anderson 1993, 247-9; fig 260).
2. The lozenge symbol appears in a similar form to the St Vitale examples on the vestments of St Athanasius in a painting from the Monastery of St Anthony of the Desert, near the Gulf of
Suez, and on Coptic tunics in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris (Cannuyer 2001, 30;83).
3 In addition, a mosaic of the Virgin, Protectoress of Constantinople, in the south vestibule of Hagia Sophia, depicts the Emperors Constantine and Justinian wearing robes decorated with large lozenges, each containing a circular motif with a central cruciform design, which may represent the host (Durand 1999, 95; Grabar 1953, 95).
4 Various examples of the lozenge-decorated book which post-date the Book of Kells reinforce the Byzantine origin of the motif. For example, the Emperor Theodosius II is shown holding a book decorated with a central lozenge in the ninth century 'Canons of the Councils', now in the Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli (Cannuyer 2001, 43). On Emperor Leo Vl's votive crown, made in Constantinople in the period AD 886-912, each of the four evangelists holds a book decorated with a central lozenge (Durand 1999, 154). On an eleventh century gilded silver icon reliquary from the Zestafoni region of Georgia, the risen Christ, shown above an image of the Crucifixion, is flanked by two angels who fly towards Christ holding books containing a central lozenge device (Soltes 1999, 226).
5 The use of symbolic stones for the seats of thrones has a long pedigree, exemplified by the famous 'Stone of Destiny', once used for the coronation of Scottish kings at Scone.
6 Similarly the depiction of the Second Coming of Christ on f.2 of the eighth-ninth century Turin Gospels is surrounded by a decorative border filled with lozenge ornament (Henderson 1987, fig. 121).
I am indebted to Mark Hall and Ross Trench-Jellicoe for their encouragement and helpful comments on previous drafts of this paper, and particularly to Ross Trench-Jellicoe for his permission to use some of his drawings (figs.6-8) to illustrate the article.
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