The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Early Medieval Art from Northern Europe

What is the Book of Durrow?

The Book of Durrow is a seventh-century Christian Gospel book, most likely made at a monastery on the island of Iona in Scotland. The beautifully decorated Book of Durrow includes the text of the four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each section begins with a carpet page, or a full page illustration, representing each saint’s symbol. For example, the carpet page of the Gospel of Saint Matthew is decorated with the symbol of the man. In this illumination, the figure is covered in a colorful, yet flat, checkered cloak that completely obscures any sense of a three-dimensional body underneath. Rather sullen, the figure has no visible arms, and seems to float in the center of page, surrounded by an interlaced, ribbon-like design which forms a frame around the page. Not particularly life-like, the representation of the St. Matthew’s symbol in the Book of Durrow is characteristic of much medieval art from this time period: simple, flat, and colorful.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Art History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App