The cobbled stones of Trinity College Dublin bring you into a seat of learning, and one of the world's greatest Medieval treasures, The Book of Kells.
The Book of Kells contains the Four Gospels and is the finest surviving illuminated manuscript from medieval Europe. Possibly started by monks on the Scottish island of Iona, it was moved to Kells, about 65 km from Dublin, to protect it from Viking raids sometime around 800AD. Irish and Scottish monks had strong connections and played an important role in the preservation and spread of Christianity during the Middle Ages.
Christianity not only brought a new religion to Ireland but also the written word in the form of the bible. Before that, Ireland depended on oral tradition to preserve its history and culture and, indeed, continued to do so for centuries as Latin was the language of the church. This oral tradition assumed new importance when the Irish language and the Catholic church itself were driven underground by English invaders and may well be the roots of the famous Irish gift for talking.
The book is displayed in Trinity College Dublin where it attracts more than 500,000 visitors every year. It is written on calfskin vellum in a bold version of the calligraphic script known as insular majuscule. Its fame, however, is perhaps due more to the rich illustrations of plants, animals and humans – as well as more abstract designs – that ornament the text.
Two of its 340 pages are shown, one illuminated, one of text, and they are turned once every two weeks. Housed in a lovely 18th century building in the middle of the historic university campus, the exhibition is open seven days a week for visitors and is one of Dublin’s most popular sights.