Based on archaeological and fragmentary documentary evidence, the Irish Sea was a significant superhighway during prehistory, right through to the medieval period, and beyond. The Isle of Man appears to have been a significant stepping stone for adopting art and architecture, especially during the early Christian period, when 200 or more carved stone crosses occupied many of the churchyards on the island.
In his book, David Wilson discusses the emergence, zenith, and decline of Manx crosses in six stimulating chapters, supported by a comprehensive list of sites and that all-important index. He clearly shows that major influences were brought to bear over the 600-year period, initially by early Christian missionaries, followed by Picts, and finally Vikings. His book is the first comprehensive survey to be undertaken for over a century, and provides invaluable context to their origins and use at a time when, politically, the Irish Sea (province) was experiencing great upheaval. This is a must-read for scholars interested in the religious iconography of the early medieval period.
This review appeared in CA 339.