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Autumn 2016 Travels in Europe: The Book of Kells

Thursday, October 27, 2016 – Dublin, Ireland

We were mesmerized by the Book of Kells at Trinity University in Dublin. It was easy to see why it is acclaimed as the most precious cultural treasure of Ireland holding the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books in Ireland. First, the university itself is impressive, with massive columned buildings surrounding a huge courtyard. The Book is housed in a pavilion next to the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library on campus. Well over a thousand years old, the Book of Kells is an illustrated Book of the Gospels of the New Testament. Produced by three or four artists/scribes working together, the illustrations in the text are intricate and full of imagery depicting the majesty of Christ and His life. Nothing, but nothing, in the imagery is without meaning. It was obvious the artists were steeped in Christian knowledge and Biblical thought. The Book is made of vellum (calfskin) and the inks were dyed with natural ingredients and applied with stylus and quill. The Latin text is done in calligraphy, amazing in itself, but the art of the illustrations of the text on each page is what makes the eye dance. “Wow” is the best word. Obviously, because of the importance of the Book, we were able to view pages under thick protective glass, but the information in the archives gallery with blown-up facsimiles of the actual book was most informative. The Book survived the Viking invasions, many fires, thievery, and war until it was safely removed from Kells to Trinity University. Once finished, we were able to walk through the Long Room, a dramatic scene lined with marble busts placed down either side of the room. Two stories high with vaulted ceiling, over 200,000 of the ancient leather books reached heavenward in stack upon stack for over 200 feet.

Our evening was full of Irish entertainment at a local theatre. We sang and clapped along to familiar Irish tunes and unfamiliar ones as well. The band was excellent, playing traditional Irish instruments. The dancers were energetic and tapped quite well. Now I will sleep with the Irish music beat playing in my head. WEG