Thursday, September 9, 2010

Trinity College & The Book of Kells

Trinity College is famed for its great treasures including the Book of Kells, a 9th Century illuminated manuscript, the Books of Durrow and Armagh and an early Irish harp.

The 690 page Book of Kells is the centerpiece of the “Turning Darkness into Light” exhibition which attracts over 500,000 visitors to Trinity College every year. Written around 800 AD, the Book of Kells contains a richly decorated copy of the four gospels in a latin text, written on vellum (prepared calfskin). The script is embellished by the elaboration of key words and phrases and by an endlessly inventive range of decorated initials and interlinear drawings. This massive book was originally a single volume, but was rebounded into four volumes in 1953 for conservation reasons.

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the manuscript's pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasise the themes of the major illustrations.

The origin of the Book of Kells is generally attributed to the scriptorium of the monastery founded around 561 on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. In 806, following a Viking raid on the island, the Columban monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. The Book of Kells has been on display at Trinity College in Dublin from the mid 19th century.

Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth and today is recognized internationally as Ireland’s premier university and is 43rd position in the top 100 world universities. The College builds on its 400 year old tradition of scholarship to confirm its position as one the great universities of the world, producing many famous graduates over the centuries such as Edmund Burke and Oliver Goldsmith. Located in the heart of Ireland’s capital on its 40-acre site, Trinity College retains some of its ancient seclusion of cobbled squares, gardens and parks.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells is a featured stop on Celtic Tours Celtic Dream Premier Escorted Motorcoach Tour of Ireland. Learn More

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