Book of Kells & Old Library Exhibition

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About Book of Kells & Old Library Exhibition

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells in Trinity College Dublin is one of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The 9th century book contains a lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels.

It has long been associated with St Colum Cille (c 521 – 597) who founded his principal monastery on the island of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland, in about 561.

In 806, following a Viking raid on the island which left 68 of the community dead, the monks of Iona took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. It must have been close to the year 800 that the Book of Kells was written by the monks of Iona, although there is no way of knowing if the book was produced wholly at Iona or at Kells, or partially at each location.

The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security during the Cromwellian period. It came to Trinity College Dublin through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661.

This major exhibition, which features large-scale details from the manuscripts, not only explains the background of the Book of Kells but also includes related manuscripts such as the Book of Kells but also includes related manuscripts such as the Book of Armagh, the Book of Durrow, the Book of Mulling and the Book of Dimma.

The Book of Kells has been on display in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin from the mid19th century, and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year. Since 1953 it has been bound in four volumes. Two volumes are on public view, one opened to display a major decorated page, and one to show two pages of script. The volumes are changed at regular intervals.

The Old Library

The main chamber of the Old Library is the Long Room. At 65 metres long, it contains 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books in oak bookcases.

There are temporary exhibitions held in the Long Room which display the rich holdings of the Library and encourage further research.