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Catholic Dictionary




An art in which pages of handwriting are covered with painted ornaments in initial letters, borders, marginal decorations, and even full page paintings. The most ancient examples are found on papyruses of Greek and Macedonian artists. In the fifth century a certain style of illumination spread from the Eastern Christian convents to Armenia. Byzantine illumination reached its golden age in the ninth century, with all the Slavic countries showing its influence. The Book of Kells is a famous example of the perfection of the art in Ireland. The Irish monks brought their art to England and the Continent, where it flourished in the medieval monasteries. Flemish painters used real landscapes as backgrounds, and the human figure was faithfully portrayed. The invention of printing marked the end of this art.