Conference title


700x300 Monkhouse brooch

Moan brooch

Celtic cross

8mh Co-labhairt Eadar-Nàiseanta Ealain Éireann agus Bhreatainn nam Meadhan-Aoisean Tràtha

Glaschu agus Dùn Èideann, 11-14 an t-Iuchar 2017

The International Insular Art Conference, which has convened approximately every four years since 1985, is the established forum for international scholars of the visual and material culture (e.g. manuscript illumination, sculpture, metalwork, textiles, etc.) of early medieval Ireland and Britain. 

The theme of the 8th IIAC (Peopling Insular Art: Practice, Performance, Perception) takes its inspiration from Glasgow City’s slogan ‘People make Glasgow’ and is intended to direct focus on the those who commissioned, created, and engaged with Insular art objects, and how they conceptualised, fashioned, and experienced them. About 50 papers and posters will be presented at the conference ranging widely over diverse aspects of the visual and material culture of Ireland and Britain in all media in the period c.AD 400-1100. There is also a strand looking at the rebirth of interest in early medieval Insular art in the 19th century Celtic Revival.


Draft Programme (updated May 2017)

Mon 10 July: Pre-Conference tour of early medieval collections


Free, but ticketed, please register.

A chance to view the internationally significant collections at the NMS in the company of curator, Dr Martin Goldberg (the tour also includes time to explore on your own). The museum houses an unparalleled collection of Pictish, Gaelic, Anglian, British and Norse material from early medieval Scotland (together with extensive Roman and prehistoric collections, later medieval material and, amongst many other marvels, Dolly the Sheep). Highlights include: extensive collections of sculpture, including the Hilton of Cadboll cross, Pictish ‘Class I’ symbol stones, the Woodwrae cross-slab and Forteviot arch; metalwork including the Hunterston brooch, St Ninian’s Isle Hoard, Gaulcross and Norrie’s Law and Skaill silver hoards; the Monymusk reliquary; the Lewis Chessmen.

Participants should make their own way to the NMS and assemble in the main Entrance Hall (beside the information desk) for 14.00 prompt. Late-comers should join the tour in the Early Peoples Gallery (basement level of the Museum of Scotland). The museum closes at 17.00.

Getting there:

The National Museum of Scotland is situated on Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF (Tel: 0300 123 6789). The museum is a 10-15 minute walk (up a steep hill!) from the main train station (Waverley). Taxis are available outside the station.

Trains to Edinburgh depart from Glasgow Queens Street station every 15 mins and the journey takes approximately 50 mins. Off-peak day return tickets cost £12.60. By bus the journey takes c.90 minutes, with buses leaving Buchanan Street bus station at regular intervals. Ticket prices vary but advanced purchase tickets typically cost £4.50.

N.B. Train travel during the peak period (before 09.15; and after 16.30 but before 18.15) is substantially more expensive than at other times. For this reason (amongst others!) we propose to conclude our visit to the NMS with a drink in a favourite local hostelry to await the end of the peak travel period before returning to Glasgow.

Tues 11 July: Civic Reception, Glasgow City Chambers

Civic Reception, Glasgow City Chambers (18.30 – 19.30)

As guests of the Lord Provost, IIAC8 delegates and their accompanying persons are invited to attend a wine reception in the City Chambers. Situated in George Square, at the heart of the city, and still a centre of government, the City Chambers are a spectacular monument to 19th-century Glasgow’s wealth, power and confidence as ‘The second city of the Empire’. The ornately decorated interior contains the famous three-storey, ornate Carrera marble staircase, reputedly the largest marble staircase in the world. The city and its history are celebrated in a series of interior murals by the ‘Glasgow Boys’, Walton, Lavery, Henry and Roche.

Delegates and their accompanying persons are warmly invited to attend this reception: it is free but ticketed, so please register to attend. Admission is strictly by conference badge – make sure to wear yours!

Note: The City Chambers is readily accessible from the University by Subway and other forms of public transport. Detailed travel information will be supplied.

Wed 12 July: Reception in Govan Old Church

(18.30 – 20.00)

Once a separate settlement on the south of the Clyde, now absorbed into the city of Glasgow, Govan has enjoyed two periods of greatness (and, as locals are proud to point out, that is two more than most places!). Once the centre of the world-famous Clydeside ship-building industry, Govan’s earlier period of reknown was in the 9th–11th centuries when it was the royal power-centre of the British kingdom of Strathclyde. The architecturally distinguished setting of Govan Old church houses the remarkable collection of 31 surviving Viking Age sculptures, which includes crosses, slabs, five immense ‘hog-back’ stones, and the tomb-shrine sarcophagus of Constantine, Pictish royal martyr-saint (d.876). This well-connected king of Picts was the son of Cináed mac Alpín, and brother-in-law to High-kings of Ireland Aed Findliath and Flann Sinna (through his sister Máel Muire), and to king of Strathclyde Rhun ap Artgal. Thanks to the generosity of Glenmorangie, we can savour fine whisky while viewing the remarkable stones and enjoying one another’s company.

Delegates and their accompanying persons are warmly invited to attend this reception: it is free but ticketed, so please register to attend. Admission is strictly by conference badge – make sure to wear yours!

Note: Govan Old Church is readily accessible from the University by Subway and other forms of public transport. Detailed travel information will be supplied.

Thurs 13 July: Conference dinner

The conference dinner will take place at 19.30 at the celebrated Òran Mór, a short walk from the University. The menu features an ‘eclectic range of dishes using Scotland’s finest seasonal produce’ and the décor features murals by one of Scotland’s leading artists, Alasdair Gray.

Three course dinner including tea/coffee, wine and tips. Vegetarian option available. Please indicate any specific dietary requirements. The menu will be similar to the one given here (which is indicative only).

Price: £45.00

Sample menu

Fri 14 July: Field trip 'The Sculpture of Pictland'

The tour, which passes through some of Central Scotland’s most scenic areas, focuses on the artistic legacy of the Picts. You will have the opportunity to view over 40 pieces of early medieval sculpture form Perthshire and Angus, including some of the most iconic Pictish carved stones (Dupplin, Aberlemno, Meigle) and others which are less familiar, including the important collection, recently re-displayed at the royal centre of Forteviot.

Assemble 08.45, ready for departure from University at 09.00 sharp. Return to Glasgow by approx. 22.00

Travel will be in a luxury coach equipped with a toilet. We have striven to devise an itinerary which maximizes the opportunity to view sculpture, while still at a pleasant pace and at the lowest possible cost. The price includes all transport and admission fees, tips, and the following meals and other refreshments: morning coffee with home baking; packed lunch; two-course evening meal at The Red House, Coupar Angus.

Places are limited and we would strongly encourage you to book at the earliest opportunity to secure your place. N.B. While every effort will be made to run the tour as described, we reserve the right to alter details if necessary.

Price: £55

Thanks to the generosity of donors to the Isabel Henderson 80th Birthday fund, it is possible to offer subsidized places to registered students at a special price of £15.00.


An hour’s drive from the city brings us to Dunning, Perthshire, a focus of the cult of St Serf. We will visit the site of the early medieval monastery, now occupied by St Serf’s church, with its early 12th-century tower and rare Romanesque doorway. Our focus, however, is the magnificent 9th-century Dupplin Cross with its inscription to King Constantine (d.820). We then travel the short distance to Forteviot, royal centre of the kings of Fortriu, where king Cináed mac Alpín died in a palacio (AU 858) which may be reflected in the unique monolithic Forteviot arch, now in the NMS in Edinburgh. The highly fragmentary remains of 4 major monuments from Forteviot and others from nearby Invermay have recently been redisplayed in the church, together with a bronze hand-bell.

After coffee we travel on to Meigle Museum which houses ‘one of the most important collections of early medieval sculpture in Western Europe’, comprising 26 stone sculptures of the 8th-10th centuries, including cross slabs, recumbent gravestones, a ‘hogback’ stone and rare architectural fragments. Meigle’s Arthurian associations are documented from at least the 15th century and we will visit the nearby Grave of ‘Queen Vanora’ (Guinevere). After a packed lunch, we visit the nearby ruined parish church of Eassie with its symbol-inscribed cross-slab depicting mysterious cloaked figures. We travel through beautiful Strathmore to Brechin with its intact round-tower (one of only two in Scotland) which bears Romanesque carving. In the adjacent cathedral are the remains of an inscribed cross-slab depicting Virgin and Child; a unique recumbent body cover of 10th/11th century date; and an upright cross-slab from nearby Aldbar depicting David. Turning back towards Glasgow, we end on a sculptural high-point with a visit to Aberlemno, Angus, with its four magnificent Pictish stones. Arranged along the roadside are two ‘Class 1’ pillars inscribed with mysterious Pictish symbols, and a magnificent cross-slab carved with a hunting scene and book-wielding angels. In the churchyard is one of the finest of all Pictish cross-slabs with its famous depiction of a battle, thought by some to depict the Pictish defeat of the Northumbrian army at Nechtanesmere/Llyn Garan in 685.

Continuing back to Glasgow, we stop at Coupar Angus where we will enjoy a two-course meal with tea/coffee, before completing our journey and arriving back at the University by approximately 10pm (N.B. Every effort will be made to return by this time but it cannot be guaranteed).

Although the majority of sites are indoors, the tour includes some short periods of time in the open and you are advised to come prepared for the full gamut of Scottish summer weather: sunscreen, waterproof jackets and appropriate footwear are advised. Access is by pavement or path. The visit to Aberlemno includes a short walk (approx. ½ mile in total).