Airports are packed full of aspirational public art attempting to link aviation to the human spirit and human past.

Many celebrate history and art, and attempt to route the technology and history of commercial airlines to deeper stories of nationhood and identity. Yet Ronaldsway airport on the Isle of Man takes the links between the island’s early past, the history of aviation, and present-day international air travel in a distinctive direction.

Situated on the front of the airport, and more than slightly ruined by the bench and no smoking sign, is a fabulous conceit of artistic fenestration. Planes of all ages fly out of early medieval interlace! In doing so, we see the metaphoric binding of early medieval Insular art, as found on some of Man’s famous early medieval stone sculpture, with modern aviation history and travel. I guess the artist would say something like:

the long-distance connections between Man, Ireland, Britain and beyond are revealed in the early medieval sculpture across the Isle. Modern air travel is all about the same: journeys make us and connect us. From early Christians and Vikings, to modern holiday makers and business travelers, we’re always on the move to trade and connect, grow and learn….

Whatever!

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Cross-slab with interlace – Braddan old church

The Isle of Man has long re-deployed its medieval art. It is found on 19th-century gravestones, 20th-century war memorials and gravestones, and finds itself into all manner of public art and logos for businesses. Oh yes, and of course, its flag! Combined with the treskilion art at the airport, this window shows the Early Middle Ages, its peoples, institutions, structures, languages and art, as the progenitor of the modern world.

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Cross with interlace: Lonan old church

Now the well-arranged interlace portrayed in the airport window is actually very rare on the Isle of Man, but the idea of a uniform interlace pattern as something primordial, Christian and Manx, as well as displaying widespread international connections, seems explicit.

An early medieval cross from Maughold bearing a range of interlace designs, scrollwork and zoomorphic ornamentation.
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