I recently traveled to Ireland, and one place in particular I had on my agenda for visiting was Trinity College, Dublin. The Treasury in the Long Room of Trinity Library contains, The Book of Kells. The Book of Kells, also known as The Book of Columba is a priceless illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables. It is the oldest Celtic manuscript in the world and has long been associated with St. Columba (c. 521 – 597 AD) who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in about 561 AD. The Book of Kells was probably produced early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona, working wholly or partially at Iona or at Kells, county Meath, Ireland. The monks moved to Ireland after 806 AD when Vikings attacked Iona and killed sixty-eight of their brothers. The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellan period. It came to Trinity College through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661.
Over 1000 years ago, when The Book of Kells was written, Ireland had a population of less than a half million people living in fortified homesteads along its coasts and inland waterways. The Irish church was largely monastic in organization. Monks lived in communities devoted to the study of God’s word, fasts, and manual labor. The message of the life of Christ was spread primarily through gospel books, and scribes and artists who produced them held an honored place in Irish society. The monks of Ireland were instrumental in preserving the Bible during the European Dark Ages (c. 500 – 1000 AD), after the fall of Rome when Germanic tribes swept through western Europe and Africa destroying towns and villages.
Photos of The Book of Kells are not allowed, so the follow photographs are taken from the publication, The Book of Kells, an Illustrated Introduction to the Manuscript in Trinity College Dublin, by Bernard Meehan and published by Thames & Hudson, 1994. Hover your mouse or pointer over the photos for a caption.