The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art.

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The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art.

April 2 @ 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

This event has been postponed. Please see statement from the Society regarding the Coronavirus outbreak here.


The Early Medieval Eye and Insular Art. The Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Kells, and the scholarship of Jennifer O’Reilly

Lecture by Dr Carol Farr FSA

Codex Amiatinus Esra Portrait

Codex Amiatinus – portrait of Esra

Recent archaeological discoveries have contributed much to our understanding of the visual art created in Britain and Ireland during the seventh to ninth centuries AD, known as ‘Insular art’. The scholarship of the late Dr Jennifer O’Reilly, a historian of Insular culture, complemented the archaeological advances by articulating with precision, imagination and profound knowledge the context of Insular manuscript art, which was rooted in the Christianity of late antiquity and the early middle ages.

Focusing on two famous manuscripts, the Codex Amiatinus and the Book of Kells, I will explore connections between the new picture of Insular art that modern archaeology has provided and the early medieval eyes through which Dr O’Reilly’s scholarship enable us to see this material culture. My talk accompanies the publication in 2019 of her collected art historical essays, which I have edited with Dr Elizabeth Mullins of University College Dublin: Volume 1: The Insular Gospel Books, and Text and Image, Volume 2: The Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Kells and Anglo-Saxon Art (London, Routledge).



Jennifer OreillyRemembered as a gifted lecturer and writer by her colleagues and her students, Dr Jennifer O’Reilly played a key role in establishing the degree programme in History of Art at University College Cork, where she lectured on medieval history between 1975 and her retirement in 2008. When she died in 2016, Jennifer O’Reilly left behind a body of published work in three areas of medieval studies: the iconography of the manuscript art produced in early medieval Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England; the writings of Bede and his older Irish contemporary, Adomnán of Iona; and the early lives of Thomas Becket. In these three areas she explored the connections between historical texts, artistic images and biblical exegesis shaped by the Church Fathers. Her teaching inspired generations of students, many of whom went on to complete doctorates under her supervision. In retirement she continued to write extensively, and she gave numerous public lectures, including the Jarrow Lecture and the Brixworth Lecture. She was a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.


***Copies of Volume 1: The Insular Gospel Books, and Text and Image, Volume 2: The Codex Amiatinus, the Book of Kells and Anglo-Saxon Art (London, Routledge) will be available to purchase after the lecture. 

Our Ordinary Meeting/Evening Lectures are Free for Fellows & their guests to attend but are £5 for non-Fellows. There are 20 places available at each lecture for non-fellows to book. 

Schedule for the evening detailed below: 

  • Refreshments are served from 4.20pm in the council room.
  • The meeting begins at 5pm with the lecture starting at approximately 5.10pm.
  • Lectures run for approximately 45min and are followed by a short Q&A.
  • Sherry is served in the Foyer following the lecture.

If you have any questions please contact our Communications Manager on [email protected]


April 2
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Categories:


Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
020 7479 7080


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080