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“To me, one of the most marvelous things one the page is the Druid. The C of Christos now becomes the headdress on the Druid. He has two big circles for eyes which have trinity knots in them, and the bridge of his nose is made up of ibis. Two big ones and two small ones. The tip of his nose is below the small ones, and his nostrils flare out into circles. Below the nose he has a moustache which also flares out in circles. His mouth is below the moustache, and is made up partly by two cranes whose beaks run down into his beard. His beard is mostly curly but the centre bottom part is divided and turned into knot work, which has been made into three diamonds inside one another with two parallel lines crossing two parallel lines woven into the diamonds, and they make up the symbol for the hidden secret.
"This book contains the harmony of the four Evangelists according to St. Jerome, where for almost every page there are different designs, distinguished by varied colors. Here you may see the face of majesty, divinely drawn, here the mystic symbols of the Evangelists, each with wings, now six, now four, now two; here the Eagle, there the Calf, here the Man, and there the Lion, and other forms almost infinite. Look at them superficially with the ordinary casual glance, and you would think it an erasure, and not tracery. Fine craftsmanship is all about you, but you might not notice it. Look more keenly at it, and you will penetrate to the very shrine of art. You will make out intricacies, so delicate and subtle, so exact and compact, so full of knots and links, with colors so fresh and vivid, that you might say that all this was the work of an angel, and not of a man. For my part the oftener I see the book, and the more carefully I study it, the more I am lost in ever fresh amazement, and I see more and more wonders in the book." Gerald of Canterbury (Topographia Hiberniae (1185)
originally posted by: beansidhe
You can look through all of the folios here (680 pages in total) - Trinity College Dublin Digital Collections -and start to appreciate the time and incredible skill that went into making this beautiful book. In some instances, the knot work is so intricate that it can only be seen clearly with a magnifying glass - a tool unavailable to its author.
Only fragments of the original wooden dagger handle survive intact, but originally it was decorated with 140,000 tiny studs, each almost as fine as a human hair and set into the wood at more than 1000 to the square centimetre. The price of such extraordinary work would have been painfully high, leaving some of the young craft workers very short sighted by the age of 15 and partially blind by the age of 20.
Ronald Rabbetts, an expert on the optics of the human eye, believes that only children and young teenagers would have had sharp enough eyesight for the most detailed work more than a thousand years before the invention of any form of magnifying glass.
Why? These were not the bored scribblings of bored churchmen.
There is a head at the top too, you're right. Is there something about the story of John that would explain him being there?