My Pretty “Little” Book of Kells

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“She played the fiddle in an Irish band / but she fell in love with … the Book of Kells”: today we fly to Dublin to meet Ireland’s finest national treasure.

When in Dublin, do as the Dubliners do. After a few pints of Guinness and a stroll around Temple Bar, we decided it was high time to give our trip a cultural twist. Mandatory stop when venturing into the very heart of Dublin: Trinity College Library.

 

Here we are!

The tall ceilings and the austere look are overwhelming for the visitor, and as we try to get over the amazement at the thousands and thousands of books around us (not gonna lie, we would flick through every single one of them if only we could), we aimed straight for the Book of Kells exhibition.

One of the most spectacular examples of medieval Christian art in the world. Its fame rests principally on the impact of its lavish decoration, the extent and artistry of which are incomparable

The Book of Kells contains the four Gospels written in Latin, based on the Vulgate text completed by St. Jerome in 384 AD. It is composed of 340 folios (330x255mm) and written on vellum (prepared calfskin) in Insular Majuscule. As we wander through the exhibition, we come across a 10th-century riddle about the manufacturing of the material from a singular point of view: that of the vellum itself.

 

 

Here is also a bit of background for the history geeks reading this (we also fall into this category): the majority of the academics studying the Book of Kells attribute its place of origin to the Scriptorium of Iona, in Argyllshire, but the debate is still on. It is believed a number of artists were involved in the decorative process (at least three), and four major scribes took care of the transcription. The process of transcribing the gospels was pretty careless, which leads to believe that the book itself was mainly used for special liturgical occasions rather than for daily services.

 

 

After a troubled rescue story, the Book of Kells is now safe and sound and on display at the Trinity College Library, where we had the chance to admire it in all its glory. With us, a full crowd of people was also queuing to see it, which left us completely speechless.

 

 

It would be great, though, to be able to actually leaf through the manuscript, wouldn’t it? Well, in case you’re wondering, you can get the chance to do so with the facsimile edition of the Book of Kells: to get the idea, check out our video gallery. Rumor has it flicking through it can actually make a professional ceili dancer out of you.