The project mainly deals with subjects in which I specialize as an archaeologist, a religious studies scholar and art historian. Therefore, these subject matters are related to early Christianity with ancient heritage, especially studied in terms of relations between the Middle East, Africa, and the British Isles, in the context of Judeo-Christian theology, beliefs, and religious art. We focus here on an iconographic and iconological context encoded in the monuments of Insular art from the time of the emergence of Christianity on the islands until the Synod of Cashel in the twelfth century, when the Roman Catholic Church ultimately took over the control over the Celtic Church, having been founded in present-day Ireland and Scotland, with its ideology spread more or less beyond.

Main characters of our accounts given in the project are particularly heavenly messengers. In addition to archangels of the highest rank, typical of our culture, who have been commonly accepted by the Church in Rome, with Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael, we will learn about various names of other archangels, whose invocation was forbidden by the same Church in the eighth century. Not without reason. Since the fourth century on, the cult of archangels and angels had reached its highest peak and slowly slipped out of the control of the Church patriarchs. Its forms often turned into repeating magical rituals and wearing amulets containing names that did not necessarily invoke good forces …

Let’s travel with us on roads of Christianity. We are guided by archangels … Copyright©Archaeotravel.

In Eastern – African and Insular Christian traditions canonical and non-canonical archangels are richly described in writing by means of multiple legends and hagiographies. Their pictorial representations, in turn,  have been frequently painted and carved throughout centuries. Some of them remain now the exemplum of ancient Christian devotion. Due to the fact that the Oriental and Celtic Churches retained an essential independence from the Catholic Church – the Non-Chalcedonian Churches since the fifth century till now and the Celtic Church till the Synod of Whitby in the seventh century – their Christian lore is outstanding and unique on its own. It speaks out through illuminated manuscripts, carved and painted biblical, apocryphal and hagiographic scenes, which fully illustrate Judeo-Christian orthopraxy and orthodoxy (belief and practice) with a pinch of ancient paganism.

Our journey will guide you to more or less known monuments of Christianity, on the British Isles, Continental Europe, in the Middle East and Africa, in order to show you how rich the Christian faith can be and how many diverse faces it can show to pilgrims looking for a protection by their guardian angels.

Featured image: Two angels on the CHI-RHO page 34r in the Book of Kells. The scene of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace with the Guardian Angel on the High Cross of Moone, Co. Kildare. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Joanna Pyrgies