The most richly decorated medieval manuscript on the planet, The Book of Kells remains one of Ireland's most popular attractions. Housed at Trinity College in Dublin, people willingly stand in long queues just to glimpse a portion of this masterpiece from the early medieval Celtic world. The Book of Kells is named for the town where it was discovered in Kells, a town in County Meath, northeast of Dublin. It was here that Saint Columba established a monastery sometime during the sixth century. Three hundred or so years later, a group of monks arrived from Iona in Scotland, seeking a safe place to reside after being routed by the Danes. They remained at the monastery at Kells, where they are said to have completed and illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels in Latin. It was discovered, hidden in a local bog, and removed to Trinity College during the 17th century.
The Book of Kells - Why it Compels
- The manuscript of the Book of Kells is filled with intricately detailed medieval art.
- The text is written in flowing Celtic script filled with skilled calligraphy and embellished with human and animal characters.
- The drawings are rich in symbolism, which scholars have spent years interpreting.
- Portraits of each of the evangelists precede their gospels.
- Analysis of the dyes used to add colour to these impressive works of art has determined that they came from as far away as the Middle East.
- The Book of Kells can be found at the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin, where visitors can examine the original pages, on display in groups of just a few at a time.
Do I have to Stand in Line?
The Book of Kells is a masterpiece worth waiting for -- during peak tourist times, long queues are inevitable, but they move quickly. A half-hour wait is quite typical in summer months. The video captures the visitor experience.
Stuck for Time? See a Replica
If you don't want to queue, or want see more than the couple of pages on display at Trinity, consider the Drury Court Hotel, located at 28 - 30 Lower Stephen St. This city centre hotel, about a ten minute walk from Trinity College, has a high-fidelity replica of the Book of Kells on display in its lobby. Other copies are on display at various locations at the original find site of Kells, co. Meath.
Image by Piero Fissore