Monday, March 16, 2009
The Book of Kells
And yet, I'm fully aware that, but for the Irish monks who followed St. Columba into Europe, I would still be illiterate and eating raw meat off a sword like my Frankish and Teutonic ancestors.
The Book of Kells is the finest and most famous of the tiny handful of surviving Celtic Gospel books from Ireland and the north of Britain. There were once scores of these, and now I can only think of about 6 that survive. The Book most certainly did not come from the small impoverished monastery at Kells where it was found. It probably came from one of the great centers of Celtic Christianity like Iona or Armagh, and was sent to Kells for safe keeping when Goran's people raided the monasteries and founded Dublin, laying the foundations for the future Guiness Brewery on the Liffey.
I fought my way through a mob (and I mean a mob) of elderly German tourists to see the Book of Kells at the library of Trinity College in Dublin (our very clever young guide reminded us of what Samuel Beckett said about the students of Trinity; the cream of Ireland and like all cream they're rich and thick). I finally fought my way through to get a glimpse of the opening pages of the Gospel of Luke. The Book was much smaller than I expected, about the same dimensions as a National Geographic magazine.
So here are some sample pages from one of the most beautiful books ever made.
Posted by Counterlight at Monday, March 16, 2009