Celtic art is the art created by the peoples of Northern and Central Europe from the 5 th century B.C and up until the very beginning of medieval times. They were called keltoi' by the Greeks and Galli' [barbarians] by the Romans. They were called this because they worshipped gods unfamiliar to the Romans and spoke no civilized' tongue. The Celts were essentially pagans that settled in Europe well before the Roman Empire reached its peak and very many of their art work exists until today. They came to populate North Italy, France, Spain and other parts of the Empire, and these Celts, or 'Galls' integrated somewhat with the Roman culture. Historically, with the rise of Christianity the Celts were pushed farther and farther away from central Europe , until finally they settled only in the British Isles . It is these Celtic descendents that continued the Celtic culture, while those that remained on the mainland suffered the same turmoil as the rest of Europe with the disintegration of the Empire and the first sign of the abysmal Dark Ages.
The Celts are best known for their fine metal-working and distinctly geometric, circular designs. There used both figurative and abstract images. Almost every household item is decorated in some way, from urns and bowls to weapons, helms, jewelry, harnesses, saddles and fabrics. There is a recurring motif of animal figures and human figures. They drew their influences from the many different cultures around them- Greek and Italian influences are easily recognizable, as well as other European influences. Over the centuries the amount of such artifacts that are found lessens greatly, and many believe that artistic creation was culturally neglected somewhat.
The style did remain consistently decorative and the later Celtic period would result in a wonderful new innovation as the culture was taken over by Christianity and the combination of these both brought about the art of manuscript illustration. Monasteries all across Ireland and North Britain would produce highly stylized Celtic patterns and designs, faithfully repeating the geometric, swirling compositions and complex combinations of patterns. Pagan design was now being used to praise and worship Christian values. The great masterpieces of the culture are giant bare pillars of stone that stand solitary or in patterned group along the Northern landscapes of Great Britain, the brightly illustrated holy manuscripts in Ireland and intricate, swirling patterned paintings that would reach almost all of Central and Northern Europe ..