Fenella Bazin gave an excellent presentation, questioning the way in which the words of Petrarch had been seized upon as a description of a 500 year period of history from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the Renaissance. She showed how, rather than it being a period of intellectual and cultural decline or inactivity, there were artefacts of astonishing beauty produced. It was a period in which ideas were exchanged over wide areas, and the Isle of Man, for which the sea was a great highway rather than a barrier, was involved in this. Christianity in the Island could be seen to take ideas from the Coptic church, with its practice in solitude, as can be seen in the Island’s keeills, and the idea of a live Christ on the cross, eyes open, as in the Coptic tradition, found in the Island in the Calf Crucifixion stone.

Noting the variety of influences on the carved stone crosses of the Island found in and around Maughold, which forms the Island’s single biggest collection, Fenella also wondered about other aspects of the religious life in the monastery. Having shown some wonderful examples of the work of the scriptoria of other monasteries in areas where the Celtic church flourished – areas which are represented in the styles and languages of the Maughold carved crosses – she wondered about what books they may have had, and what became of them. Had there been a scriptorium? Fenella mentioned the work of Ian Faulds which showed that the influence of Maughold had extended far wider than the Island.

We’re very grateful to Fenella for such an interesting and thought-provoking presentation which it was a pleasure to see and hear.