Friday, August 29, 2008

Unearthing Orthodox Scotland

Archeologists are analyzing a dig of Portmahomack, a pre-Schism monastery in Scotland possibly founded by St. Columba. The British media has reported a number of their surprised findings, including the realization that the Picts were not exactly vicious savages:

A study of one the most important archaeological discoveries in Scotland for 30 years, a Pictish monastery at Portmahomack on the Tarbat peninsula in Easter Ross, has found that they were capable of great art, learning and the use of complex architectural principles.

The monastery – an enclosure centred on a church thought to have housed about 150 monks and workers – was similar to St Columba's religious centre at Iona and there is evidence they would have made gospel books similar to the Book of Kells and religious artefacts such as chalices to supply numerous "daughter monasteries".

And, in a discovery described as "astonishing, mind-blowing" by architectural historians, it appears that the people who built the monastery did so using the proportions of "the Golden Section", or "Divine Proportion" as it became known during the Renaissance hundreds of years later. This ratio of dimensions, 1.618 to one, appears in nature, such as in the spiral of seashells, and the faces of people considered beautiful, such as Marilyn Monroe. It can be seen in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Alhambra palace of Granada in Spain, the Acropolis in Athens and the Egyptian Pyramids, but was thought to have been too advanced for the Picts.

Martin Carver, Archeology professor at York University, adds, "They were the most extraordinary artists....Even the Anglo-Saxons didn't do stone-carving as well as the Picts did...The most important piece had a Latin inscription. That's as common as muck in the Mediterranean, but extremely rare in Scotland."

The story continues:
The monastery at Portmahomack suffered a major fire in the ninth century and several stone sculptures were smashed, suggesting it was sacked by an invading force, likely to be Vikings intent on expanding their territories in northern Scotland. The site continued to be occupied but at this point evidence of a monastic settlement disappears.
So, sculptures were an Orthodox part of the Pictish Church and the pagan Viking iconoclasts did the work of Satan by smashing them.

Carver adds, "Portmahomack got burnt down pretty definitively round about 820. The idea is they were under new masters. It could be the Norse or the Men of Moray, MacBeth and his family. I think Portmahomack was captured by the Men of Moray. The Norse wanted it badly but they didn't get it. There is no Norse material there. There was no more vellum-making and sculpture and it stopped being a monastery. In the ninth to 11th centuries, they are making metal work, but that's the real Dark Age."

Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts is published by Edinburgh University Press.

A highly interesting report.

Labels: , , ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home